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The Sub Binder: Why It's Important & How to Set One Up

A great blog post that walks you through how to set up an emergency sub binder for your classroom! This one includes emergency substitute lesson plans for your ELA (english, reading, and writing) classroom!

Something that’s proven invaluable for us in our ELA classrooms time and time again has been the emergency sub binder we have sitting on our desks. Even though emergencies are highly unlikely, and we're generally able to get some sort of relevant sub plans together when calling in sick, it's always better to be prepared!


Having a sub binder in an easily accessible and visible place is a key element to helping you run your classroom smoothly. Every year that we've both been teaching, we've always had a sub binder that includes all of the elements below. Just this year, I (Caitlin) had to use mine twice! And I'm so thankful I had the sub binder to rely on. It's easy. It's effective. It's necessary in your classroom.

Here's what we include and how we organize ours. Feel free to steal some of these ideas to help you get your sub binder together and in place!

A great blog post that walks you through how to set up an emergency sub binder for your classroom! This one includes emergency substitute lesson plans for your ELA (english, reading, and writing) classroom!

A great blog post that walks you through how to set up an emergency sub binder for your classroom! This one includes emergency substitute lesson plans for your ELA (english, reading, and writing) classroom!

1. List of helpful students' names.
We always like to put 2-3 students in charge of being the "go-to" for any substitute. We may change these students throughout the year, but generally, it's the same students for the duration. We like to include their names at the very front of our binder (along with a quick thank you note for the sub) to let them know exactly which students they can rely on should any questions come up!

2. A class roster/seating chart/line order list. 
This roster is useful not only for roll call, but in case of an emergency. The sub can simply grab the binder if a fire drill is called and have access to the list of all students who should be present. The seating chart and line order list prevent students from sneakily changing spots when the teacher is away! (We totally remember doing that ourselves in 7th grade!)

3. A class schedule.
We have our schedules color coded, which you can read about here, so everything is clear (every day the rotation is different for several of our classes). It might also be helpful to include the teacher's names, as well as the building and/or room number where each class is located.

A great blog post that walks you through how to set up an emergency sub binder for your classroom! This one includes emergency substitute lesson plans for your ELA (english, reading, and writing) classroom!

4. List of daily responsibilities.
This includes all of those little details we might otherwise forget to tell a substitute. For instance, when and where you have yard duty, do you have clean-up duty in the faculty lounge, meetings that you're in charge of (i.e., Yearbook, Student Council, etc.). 

5. List of logistics.
All of those minute details we take for granted just knowing how to do, a sub might not have a clue about! For instance, does your class line up outside your classroom each morning when the bell rings? Do you have to walk them to their specials? Do they walk in a specific line order? Where do your students eat lunch? How does the end of the day go? Is there a carpool line that you're responsible for? Do students have class jobs that they complete? Etc. 

6. Emergency lesson plans.
While it’s rare that we don’t know in advance when we’re going to be out, it has happened, so we include print-and-go lessons. (Last year, Jessica was unexpectedly out the first two days after Christmas break and these emergency plans were a lifesaver!) We created these emergency ELA sub lesson plans that are not simply boring "filler" activities. The worst is when students sit there reading a passage and answering questions - how boring for them! And what a bummer for you to have to come back from being sick and have a huge pile of busy work to grade.

A great blog post that walks you through how to set up an emergency sub binder for your classroom! This one includes emergency substitute lesson plans for your ELA (english, reading, and writing) classroom!

A great blog post that walks you through how to set up an emergency sub binder for your classroom! This one includes emergency substitute lesson plans for your ELA (english, reading, and writing) classroom!
We like to have a class set of each of these activities (labeled behind binder tabs) with the substitute instructions for each activity all ready to go. That way, if an emergency does come up, no one would technically need to be able to contact you in order for your sub to teach your students for the day. The lesson plans are all set and ready to go!

What are some must-have's that you'd put in your substitute binder that we missed? Please share with us in the comments below or send us an email at ebacademiccamps@gmail.com!


Looking for Emergency ELA Sub Plans to add to your own binder? 
Check out what we use here!

A great blog post that walks you through how to set up an emergency sub binder for your classroom! This one includes emergency substitute lesson plans for your ELA (english, reading, and writing) classroom!

These plans are challenging, yet engaging ELA lessons that are NOT those boring filler activities we were talking about earlier. Your students will be analyzing and reviewing all while having fun! We all know teachers can be control freaks and even our most detailed lessons don’t get done exactly the way we want them to with a sub. Then we have to end up reteaching the content and lose even more class time. These emergency plans solve that problem :)

Our subs have all told us how helpful it was to have these easily accessible, and we felt more at ease knowing our kids were in good hands!



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A great blog post that walks you through how to set up an emergency sub binder for your classroom! This one includes emergency substitute lesson plans for your ELA (english, reading, and writing) classroom!

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