What To Pack In Your Substitute Bag

When I began substitute teaching I brought 1 thing with me, my lunch. I believed that every teacher would have a plan for me to follow. Well, I quickly learned that was not always the case. Sometimes the teacher did not have time to prepare a plan and you have to improvise. Also in many cases they did leave a plan, but you finish early and have to fill time.

I learned from a fellow substitute teacher that she dealt with this problem by carrying a “sub bag” to every job she went to. So I began to put together my own “sub bag.” I chose contents that would work in many different situations and were educational. I also learned that because I worked in classrooms from kindergarten to 12th grade, that I needed variety. This is a list of things that I put in my “sub bag.”

  • Flash cards; everything from letters and numbers to vocab words and math problems.
  • Stickers; usually any child in grades 5 or below appreciate earning stickers.
  • Small prizes; pencils, erasers, cute novelty items, just remember no candy!
  • Worksheets; I keep about 25 copies of worksheets that would be relevant to each age group (k-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12).
  • Color sheets and crayons; no matter the age, surprisingly most kids enjoy coloring. I keep more intricate color sheets for middle and high school students.
  • Substitute report form; I don’t want to forget important details to report to the teacher, so I keep a form to fill out for all teachers. It has a space for absences, kids that were helpful, kids who were a problem, and a general notes section.
  • Books; I keep a couple children’s books, a chapter book that could be completed in one day, and a few articles that I can give to older students to read and write a summary about.
  • Items for myself; when you are substitute teaching in multiple places, you don’t always know your schedule ahead of time. Your lunch break could be anytime between 10am and 2pm. I keep a water bottle, a couple small snacks, kleenex, and a book for myself just in case I have long breaks.

Preparing a “sub bag” and bringing it with me to every job has helped me to quickly improvise in many situations. I always leave a detailed description or copy of anything I do that is outside the teachers plans. I only use my own materials if I have to, when a teacher has left detailed plans and there is no extra time I always follow their plan. My bag is “in case of emergency” only. For more information on this topic, please contact us

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