Emergency Sub Plans: Print & go plans to save you time

Preparing for a substitute is stressful and time-consuming. I’ve worked hard to simplify and streamline the process of writing emergency sub plans. As I mentioned in my 30-minute sub plans post, these days I can complete my plans much more quickly…that includes all the printing, copying, and prep work.

Engaging substitute plans for elementary students - emergency sub plans
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What’s included in the Emergency Sub Plans?

These engaging substitute lessons for elementary students are print-and-go and are available for 1st-5th grades. The emergency sub plans are available monthly and follow a predictable sub plans template, making them quick and easy to prep for sub tubs or your substitute binder.

These printable sub plans for elementary classrooms are perfect for any substitute teacher – from novice to expert. Each month’s pack includes:

  • Step-by-step lesson plans for a full day of instruction
  • Links to videos, digital read alouds, and supplemental supports
  • Activities and printables coordinating with each lesson
  • Tips for theme-based learning activities across the curriculum
  • Access to a fillable free sub binder template for those just getting organized for the school year
emergency substitute plans

Here’s what you get with Printable Sub Plans for Elementary Classrooms

Each of these monthly sets of emergency sub plans includes enough activities and worksheets for a 1-2 day absence. This makes them ideal for sick days or when you are out for professional development.

Here’s a bit more about each part:

Engaging Substitute Lessons for Elementary Students

For most teachers, these are the biggest time saver and make the bundle worth it’s weight in gold.

Let’s be honest — It isn’t finding the activities for your sub to do with your students that takes so long. It is the process of writing everything out in clear, easy-to-understand language so that someone else can teach using your emergency sub plans. This is especially true when you aren’t sure WHO that substitute teacher will be.

Engaging Substitute Lessons for Elementary Classrooms emergency sub plans
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Since I know this can be time-consuming, I’ve done the hard part for you!

Each lesson plan is written in a simple step-by-step format that is clearly numbered and easily implemented, even for an inexperienced substitute teacher.

The goal is to make the lessons approachable. Even first-time subs report that these lesson plans make the day flow more smoothly.

Lesson Plans for Substitute Teacher
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To simplify things, each printable sub plan is provided in a cut-and-paste format.  This means you can put sections word-for-word into your template, saving you time.

Add important notes directly related to your learners, and you’re all set!

More Teacher Tools for your Sub Folder or Binder

In addition to the lesson plans, each month’s plans include all the related printables and answer keys for the activities.

Grab my free sub-binder templates if you’re just starting out and still need things like a class list or transportation information to provide your guest teacher.

These free, fillable templates cover all administrative-type paperwork you need for a sub beyond the lesson plans and worksheets.

Free Sub Binder

Reading Lesson Plans for the Guest Teacher

The emergency sub plans for reading include a read-aloud with companion comprehension activities. Each month’s book is carefully selected to align with a holiday or seasonal theme, and a digital read-aloud link is included in the directions.

This makes it easy for a team member to set up in case you are unexpectedly absent or the book is unavailable in your school library.

Reading Lesson Plan for a Substitute Teacher
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To keep students engaged and meet the needs of diverse learners, the comprehension activity in these printable sub plans for elementary classrooms is a story-based foldable or flipbook.

These focus on the elements of fiction related to the story. For younger learners, the comprehension activities target three skills related to the text:

  • Identify and describe characters or setting.
  • Retell the big events in the plot.
  • Review & recommend to synthesize and connect.

When you get to the lesson plans for 2nd-4th graders, students complete five short responses related to the text. As you read through these, you’ll notice they just expand on the skills expected in first grade but still align with the comprehension expected at grade level.

In these lesson plans, students are asked to:

  • record the main characters and identify their traits
  • identify and describe (or sketch) the setting
  • identify problem and solution
  • write a 3-sentence summary of the story
  • rate & recommend

Writing Lesson Plans for Your Substitute

To keep things simple, the writing sub plans in each set of printable sub plans for elementary classrooms coordinate with the day’s reading. I’ve found this helps keep the day flowing smoothly for the substitute.

Depending on the month, students either generate a narrative or expository writing piece. After you return, they can revise and publish it.

The complexity of the prompts also varies based on grade. For example, the excerpt below comes from a 2nd-grade level activity related to the book “The Day the Crayons Quit.” In this case, students wrote about their favorite colors.

Writing Sub plan
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The step-by-step lesson plans included in the printable sub plans for elementary classrooms guide your guest teacher through the writing process, including:

  • brainstorming
  • organizing
  • drafting
  • editing and revising

As is best practice, these engaging substitute lesson plans for elementary students include opportunities for whole group, small groups, and partner discussions to get students comfortable with the writing topic before starting.

I include graphic organizers and draft papers to help facilitate the process.

First graders, on the other hand, are provided with a shorter writing composition activity and several word work tasks that focus on syllables, alphabetizing, and similar foundational skills.

Printable Sub Plans for Elementary Classrooms with a space theme
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Math Sub Plans

Many subs do not feel confident teaching math lessons. It can also be difficult to “unteach” a poorly taught math lesson. Therefore, these printable sub plans for elementary classrooms target review rather than introducing new material.

Engaging printables are included with each month. These focus on seasonal and holiday themes. The image below shows an example of the math practice from my Sub Plans for 1st grade.

Math Activities emergency sub plans
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While many skills are worked into the packs, many printables focus on computation and place value. These are foundational skills at these grade levels and are easy for a substitute to support.

Story problem practice is also offered and can be included as a “must do” or enrichment opportunity.

Math Activities
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Special early finisher tasks are also included in these low-prep and engaging substitute lessons for elementary students. These vary by month and can include games, logic puzzles, and other enrichment opportunities.

Science & Social Studies Sub Plans

The science and social studies plans use original nonfiction passages related to seasonal topics. This can be holidays, special events, or commonly taught units during specific times of the year (like government and elections in November).

For first graders, these are provided as mini-books. The text is short, and activities on each page keep learners actively engaged with the text.

The Sub Minibook
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The lesson plan guides your guest teacher through the natural process of introducing the topic, activating prior knowledge, reading to learn, and demonstrating understanding. In addition, opportunities for discussion and partner work are included.

The emergency sub plans for grades 2-4 use a reading passage format. Like the first-grade plans, students are encouraged to discuss their prior knowledge and work with partners during this time.

The example below is from the 2nd grade plans for September and focuses on the fall harvest.

Science and Social Studies Passage
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The passages are accompanied by multiple-choice and free-response questions. These align with CCSS informational reading standards and the TEKS. In addition, they use question stems commonly seen in standardized testing to give your students additional practice with this format.

Two passages are provided in each month’s plans to allow you to select which is best for your students or to use across two days.

Engaging, yet simple, STEM Challenge

Students often struggle with sub days because they end up being a full day of boring worksheets. To avoid this, I’ve added a simple STEM challenge to every set of printable sub plans for elementary classrooms I create. Students love STEM activities, like seasonally-themed STEM challenges or stations, so this can be a fun way to keep students actively engaged on a day you’re out.

Most of these challenges were designed to be done with items you likely have lying around your classroom or campus. However, the details are provided in the teacher’s directions so you can easily gather what you need in advance and keep them in an emergency sub box in your closet.

Before engaging in the STEM challenge, students create a STEM Journal to record their thoughts and learning process.

engaging substitute lessons for elementary students

These are simple to create and help keep students’ thinking in one place for easy access later when you debrief.

Using the simple step-by-step lesson script, your sub will introduce the STEM challenge question and have students explore the materials they’ll use.

Stem Journal

Then students will work in small groups or partners to complete the challenge, recording their work in their journal.

The STEM journal includes brainstorming opportunities, sketching models, and synthesizing learning. Students easily create these books in just minutes with the directions from the lesson.

STEM sub plans

Need to organize your substitute binder?

Enter your information to get a free copy of my fillable sub binder delivered to your inbox. Organize your year with this ready-to-use binder template.

Free Sub Binder Template

    Purchase the Emergency Sub Plans

    These sub plan sets are currently available for grades 2-4. To accommodate year-round schools and summer school programs, monthly sub plan sets were created for all 12 months of the year.

    You can purchase these Emergency Sub Plans here.

    1st grade sub plans
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    2nd grade sub plans
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    3rd-4th grade sub plans
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    5th Grade Sub Plans
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