In the beginning of the school year, our main focus is on creating procedures and designing curriculum for our students’ needs. One of the items on our set-up list is our plan in case of absence; in case you get sick, or get called to a meeting during school hours, or use a professional development day, even if you take a long term leave due to family/health reasons. It is important to have a back up plan prepared in case you are not available for your students because most substitutes, while walking in blind, may not understand what your individual classroom procedures are. To start this, you need to create a plan for a substitute teacher to utilize.
Start by deciding on your sub packet storage, like a tub, folder, or file system. Your sub packet should be simple enough for a substitute to locate and utilize when first walking into your classroom. When I taught from a cart, I had a tub of materials that was clearly identified in my work closet and easy to carry from room to room. In my current classroom, I have a full file drawer clearly identified with bold letters for my sub plans for each class every day of the week. You should design your sub storage to fit your needs, but make sure you label it clearly for substitutes to find once they walk into your space.
Details are important. Your school or district may have mandatory information packets to add into your sub materials, such as floor plans, emergency procedures, forms, and school mission/rules. Additional materials that are essential for a substitute are your daily schedule, class lists, seating charts, typed out classroom rules/procedures, nearest classroom contact information, and information regarding students (504 plans, IEPs, etc.). Substitute teachers should always have student information handy in case of emergencies, especially when it comes to medical concerns or student adaptations.
Decide on what materials you want the substitute to work with. In my elementary classroom, the crayons, colored pencils, and markers are the main materials used in my art library, and I clearly mark which materials to use with each grade level in my plans. I prefer to stay away from scissors and glue because there is extra care involved with prepping and drying. Using simpler materials does make it more manageable for the substitute and it’s easier for you when you get back to your classroom. For middle and high school, projects are more detailed and may require more advanced materials to work with.
Be sure to prepare for emergencies. It is always best to plan sub lessons in advance when you know you’ll be out of school for a period of time, but it’s not always easy to plan for the last minute call-ins. I remember the day I had to rush my daughter to the ER in the morning instead of heading to work! When events like this happen, your first priority is yourself and your family, but planning ahead makes these hiccups more manageable. Within your sub file, create “emergency” lessons that are simple and easy to execute. There are different types of easy activities that require little material usage. In many art supply catalogs, there are books available within the resource section that contain simple art activities, such as “creating a city with simple shapes,” or designing a drawing using words.” There are also fine art-themed coloring books that have descriptions about the artworks. If you struggle trying to find additional activities, you can browse the Teachers Pay Teachers site, which offers many activities you can either pay or find for free.
Prepare lessons for pre-planned off days. If you know you will be out of the classroom in advance, it doesn’t hurt to pre-plan a lesson that any substitute can work with. The best pre-planned lessons I’ve used were simple directions with pictures to follow along. I also had a finished product created as an example for students to see. Make sure the project size is manageable and easy to store away in your sub plans. Ideas for sub projects have been shared by multiple art bloggers and found on Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and in the art education social media groups.