Emergency sub plans are an essential part of your ELA teacher toolbox. Each year I update my sub binder to include everything a substitute teacher needs to have a successful day. Here are the planning strategies and resources I use with my middle school language arts class.
What are Emergency Sub Plans?
When I think of “emergency” sub plans I expect the resource to be teachable right out of the box. This is an important attribute when you consider the difference in planning time. You can create lesson plans in advance for a planned personal day, but if your own kids wake up sick at 4am then you need an emergency resource that is ready to go.
The key to stress-free sick days is to prepare well in advance. Scrambling to create lesson plans after an emergency arises is going to make your situation much more stressful. Some school districts even require teachers to submit an emergency lesson plan file before the start of the school year.
In my district, the expectation is to have a file folder or sub binder in the classroom. I’ve also seen teachers create a sub tub using plastic bins.
One thing to keep in mind, as each quarter passes, there will likely be changes to your student roster and daily schedule. I prefer the binder approach since it makes it easy to replace outdated information quickly. Just make sure you review the classroom information each quarter to avoid confusion around outdated attendance lists and schedules.
10 Things To Include in Your ELA Sub Plans Binder:
- Welcome note with sub binder overview
- Classroom schedule
- Class lists for each period
- Seating charts for each period
- Details on students who require special accommodations
- Support duties and responsibilities such as recess and study hall
- Contact numbers for the office and helpful teammates
- Clear lesson plans for each class period
- Resources that are easy to implement and engaging for students
- Emergency procedures for fire drills, tornadoes, or lock downs
Here are 3 quick things you can do TODAY to start building your emergency sub plans binder…
Without seating charts, it is tricky to know students’ names and connect with them during the course of the school day. I also highlight students on the seating chart that will be particularly helpful if any questions arise. This is also a good place to identify any special needs a student may have.
Share your expectations of students, so that the substitute can use similar terminology to keep the class working effectively. It is also important to take stock of your morning routines and responsibilities. Attendance lists, lunch counts and specials periods can create confusion for your substitute. Break everything down in your classroom schedule to keep things running smoothly.
I assume this “emergency” person knows nothing about my classroom or my teaching style, so I want to make my plans as clear as possible. One way to check this is to someone outside of education read through the plans to see if they grasp the expectations.
How Long Should ELA Sub Plans Be?
In terms of length or instructional time, a lot of it depends on how long your class periods are. I teach two identical periods of college prep and another two periods of honors language arts. Our class periods are each one hour long. On sub days, I try to utilize the same lesson plans for all class periods. This allows the sub to build confidence and momentum throughout the day.
I structure all of my emergency lesson plans around reader’s theater scripts. These work well for my needs because the students get to interact and there are multiple comprehension activities to incorporate. I’ve found it is usually best to break students into a couple small groups to perform the script. From there, I create comprehension questions, word work, and journal prompts to complete back at their desks.
My goal is to make sure there is enough work for my students to do for the full hour. Ideally, a single lesson plan can be stretched into two days in case your absence requires more time. If you are using reader’s theater, you can break into different groups on the second day and ask everyone to take a new part. From there students can complete the activities left over from the day before.
ELA Sub Plan Ideas
Because I want my substitute to have the BEST day possible, I utilize high-interest lesson plans and resources that I know my middle school students find engaging. It is important for the substitute to feel prepared, effective, and successful if you want to maximize the day.
Whether or not you are a fan of reader’s theater, my template for engaging sub plans can be easily implemented with any interesting reading passage. Of course students will work through independent reading much faster than a group activity, so you will likely need a longer passage or more activities to fill the instructional time.
Beyond the standard reading comprehension questions and journal prompts, here are a few ideas I like to incorporate in my ELA sub plans…
- Context Clue Word Work
- Summary Strategy Organizers
- Compare and Contrast Writing
- DIY Word Search (partner activity)
- Story Maps
- Idioms and Figurative Language Activities
Easy ELA Sub Plans!
The good news is that an evergreen set of language arts sub plans can be used year after year. You’ll need to update class rosters and special instructions, but the bulk of the work is done on the front end. The bad news of course is that it can take A LOT of time to write and design your own resources. So while you can make free ELA sub plans yourself, my resources offer a time-saving shortcut.
If you are looking for printable pdf sub plans then I have created 6 different sets for sale on TPT. Like you, I am a teacher on a budget and I am proud to offer the full bundle for only $20.
Depending on the reading levels within your class, you can use this with grades 4 through 8. The most popular use case is with 5th grade and 6th grade. If you teach both prep and honors then 7th grade is likely the high end to use for both class periods.
Save time and get a head start on your ELA teacher toolbox with this exclusive sub plans bundle…
My emergency language arts sub plan bundle includes 6 sets of sub plans based on a unique and engaging reader’s theater script. Each set includes comprehension activities that can be extended into 2 days of substitute classroom instruction.
Here is an overview of what’s included in each volume of my ELA sub plans…
- A high-interest reader’s theater script
- Reader Response Questions
- Context Clue Word Work
- Summary Strategy Organizer
- Story Map
- Text-Based Journal Prompt
- Word Work Word Search
- Story Cover Makeover
- 3-High Interest Journal Prompts for Writing
- Post-Reading Project
Common Core Standards
My ELA sub plans are designed to cover the Common Core standards below.
Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Related standards: RL5.1 RL6.1 RL7.1 RL8.1
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
Related standards: RL5.2 RL6.2 RL7.2 RL8.2
Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
Related standards: RL5.3 RL6.3 RL7.3 RL8.3
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
Related standards: RL5.4 RL6.4 RL7.4 RL8.4
Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.
Related standards: RL5.5 RL6.5 RL7.5 RL8.5
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Related standards: W5.4 W6.4 W7.4 W8.4
Stress-Free Sick Days Start with ELA Sub Plans!
Life happens, so be prepared! Have your sub binder ready to go and lower the stress that comes with sick days. A little bit of advanced planning is guaranteed to pay off at some point. Get an easy start with my emergency sub plans resources and build your binder from there!
Fingers crossed we all stay in good health!