Easy Sub Plans for Teachers to Save Time and Engage Students

Do you remember those never-ending lesson plans from college? Ah, the horror! I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about them. But you know what? I get a similar vibe when it comes to writing sub plans. If you can relate, you’re in the right place! Let’s chat about making sub plans simple and easy to put in place!

This image says, "Easy Sub Plans for Teachers to Save Time and Engage Students" and includes a photo of a student completing a low-prep STEM themed worksheet.

Drop the Dread with Sub Plans

So, about those sub plans… is it just me who dreads making them?! They can be daunting, especially if you’re not feeling the best. I know many a teacher who say it is easier to work when not feeling well than it is to make sub plans.

Why is this? Leaving sub plans is not just leaving lessons and activities. There’s classroom management and daily routines that we know will help the day go more smoothly. And. . . if you are an enrichment teacher, like me, that means you have multiple grade levels to leave plans for. It’s a lot!

Over time, I’ve realized that simplicity and fun are the keys to surviving sub days. So, today, I’m sharing my go-to easy sub plans where all you need to do is hit print and go. Trust me, these will have you breezing through sub plans! You’ll be able to focus on feeling better, tending to family, or treating yourself to a personal day with no worries about school.

What Are Sub Plans?

Before we dive in, let’s define sub plans. Picture this, you wake up feeling under the weather, and there’s no way you can make it to school. Or maybe your child wakes up with a fever and other symptoms, and your spouse has a meeting they can’t miss. What about all those appointments that go unscheduled because the offices don’t stay open late enough on a school day? Oh! Your cousin who you see every few years comes into town. What do you do? That’s where sub plans come to the rescue! A sub plan is a game plan for your classroom when you are not there. It’s a well-thought-out document that outlines the entire day for a substitute teacher.

In this photo a stressed teacher is completing sub plans.

Think of it as your secret to maintaining the rhythm of learning even when you’re not there. A good sub plan is a roadmap that guides the substitute through each lesson, activity, and quirky classroom routine. Honestly, writing sub plans is one of those wake-up calls of how many bits of information we have to keep track of daily. We forget about them because they come second nature to us, or maybe the 25 alarms on our phones help remind us!

A sub plan is your ticket to a stress-free day off. It’s a document that turns a potentially chaotic substitute situation into a seamless and enjoyable learning experience for both the sub and your students.

Engaging Activities for Easy Sub Plans

It’s time to explore interactive activities that will make the day a breeze for your substitute teacher or guest teacher. The goal is to plan activities that have your students so excited and engaged that they don’t miss you.

These tasks are designed for your students to tackle independently, requiring minimal assistance. They can work together with partners or small groups on activities that will have them reviewing or practicing key skills. The key here is simplicity and ease, making the day a smooth and enjoyable experience for everyone involved!

1. Makerspace Word Searches

Who doesn’t love a good word search? When I have the time, I love sitting down with one. The sense of accomplishment I feel after finding a word and how that feeling grows after finishing the entire thing? Love it! I can tell my kiddos feel the same way by their squeals of excitement and how their eyes light up when they spot a word!

In this photo, a student is completing a technology themed word search using highlighters. This activity is engaging to students, but simple to to prepare, making it perfect for your sub plans!

I also love word searches due to their simplicity while also exposing my kiddos to vocabulary words we have been using in class. Inside this Makerspace Word Search resource, your kiddos will have a chance to complete a technology, STEM, or Computer Science word search. Depending on the spot where this activity is going in my sub plans determines if I just print one off or print all 3 to have options.

I have created an easy version of each one with only 10 words, while the difficult-level version has 20. This allows you to have some flexibility in differentiating for your kiddos. Most importantly, there are answer keys! I always make sure to leave answer keys for everything I have planned for my substitute teacher. It gives them a safety net, and they feel less pressure when they have access to them.

If my kiddos finish with some time left, I encourage them to turn the page over and use those vocabulary words in a sentence. It’s a great way to give a word search a more academic focus and reinforces the vocabulary from class. And. . . students love to finish by coloring their word search page.

2. STEAM Bookmarks

Who doesn’t need a personalized bookmark for their latest read? I always have a stash of the colored version of these bookmarks on hand to give out as prizes for games or competitions we may have in class. They also lend their service on days when I am out as a creative activity to promote STEAM.

In this engaging activity, students can design their own bookmarks. Use it in your sub plans for a simple, low-prep activity that your students will enjoy!

I print out the black and white version of each bookmark. Sometimes, I copy them on light-colored paper, but my students prefer white paper. That way, their carefully chosen colors can pop off the bookmark! While they color, they see the possibilities of being a future scientist, coder, engineer, artist, and a mathematician. I make sure to have several sets of each version of the bookmarks for them to choose from.

In every group of kiddos, there are always a few who may not like coloring. Sometimes, I give them a heads-up if I can or write in the sub plans that there might be a prize for different bookmarks. I might look for the most colorful or the neatest bookmark. Prizes can be simple, like a sticker, a fun eraser, or a Jolly Rancher (if allowed).

I have found that leaving an activity like these bookmarks is a great way for the substitute to fill extra time. And. . . since I always try to leave the sub more than enough, these bookmarks make the sub plans quite often!

3. Technology Activity Sheets

These technology activity sheets are literal lifesavers, especially for younger students! There are multiple activities, so you can choose a few to make it into a small packet. My students love working on these pages while I’m out of the classroom. They feel confident in following the directions on each page to complete the task, and it’s low maintenance for my substitute teacher!

This image shows a simple activity that is perfect to use in your sub plans! Students can connect the dots to make outlines for technology like cell phones, light bulbs and laptops.

The first few activity pages have students identifying the digital items or robots in a group of items. Once they find the digital item or robot, they color them in using any color they desire! Keeping their coloring supplies out, your students have a chance to read a color word on a tablet, mouse, or smartwatch. They will then color in the item with the color that matches the word.

To build off the coloring, there are activities inside that have images of devices where they draw a picture on the screen. Below their illustration, they have space to describe what is happening in their picture. My students are so excited when they have a chance to draw anything they want and be able to share what’s going on within it. There are also writing pages that have your students practicing their tracing skills of technology words, devices, and some connecting the dots!

Another favorite activity within these sheets is the seek and find. For these activities, students are shown different tech symbols that are mixed in multiple times with other symbols. They have to search and color the symbols, but they also have to count how many of each symbol they find. For example, say the symbol is the mouse cursor. They would go to the mixed-up symbols and count how many mouse cursors they could find!

4. Spark Cards for Spring and Summer

Whenever I pull out the Spark Cards, the excitement level in the room skyrockets! It’s like a writing prompt but for STEM skills! Sometimes, our students have roadblocks when it comes to what they want to build. Spark Cards help them overcome those by giving them ideas that are open enough to allow for their creativity and imagination to take over!

This image shows a spring task card activity that is perfect to use in your  lessons for teachers in STEM classrooms. Students can use legos or other blocks to build the image on the task card. In the example, a student is building a unicorn using legos.

I make sure to have the Spark Cards printed, cut, and laminated to have on hand to pull for sub plans. I have my sets of Spark Cards hole-punched and hanging on a binder ring for easy access. My kiddos know to come up and choose the one that sparks their interest! In this particular Spring Spark Cards set, your kiddos will have the chance to build a bird, an umbrella, a rain cloud, a unicorn, and much more.

Besides having the cards ready to go, I make sure there are plenty of response sheets available. There are different levels of the response sheets. There is one for just illustrating their creation that is perfect for younger students. Another one has multiple prompts asking about the design’s height, length, and width, how many blocks were used in the design, and creating an equation using the different colored blocks used. While still another page has students reflecting on how to improve their design and the challenges they had to overcome. These are perfect for older students.

These building activities with differentiated response sheets allow me to leave one activity for the day and meet the needs of different grade levels by changing out the response sheet. It’s a sub plan WIN!

Looking for a summer-themed set of Spark cards? Dreaming of warmer weather and sunnier days? Bring a taste of summer into your classroom with these Summer Building Spark Cards that will have your students building summer creations! You can also grab the full year bundle and make Spark Cards part of your classroom routine.

Sub Plans Made Easy

Crafting those sub plans doesn’t have to feel like navigating a labyrinth of stress. From Makerspace Word Searches to STEAM Bookmarks, and the ever-exciting Spark Cards, these easy sub plans are your golden ticket to a stress-free day off. So go ahead, hit print, and relax, knowing that your kiddos will be in good hands. Happy planning, and here’s to stress-free sub days ahead!

Looking for More?

Check out these posts for more activities to use in your STEM and STEAM lessons!

Save for Later

Remember to save this post to your favorite teacher Pinterest board to help plan your next round of sub plans!

Need some easy sub plans that will help you to both save time and engage students? Find ideas like word searches, and print and go worksheets that are perfect for quick and easy sub plans! They are especially great if you are looking for STEM lessons or are teaching in a STEM classroom!

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