Savvy Substitute Teachers Are Always Prepared!

Before you leave for an elementary substitute teaching job, it’s a good idea to have a sub bag ready to grab as you go out the door. What is a sub bag? It’s a tote of your choice filled with supplies to help you survive your day with your students. Here are some great ideas to help you create your own bag.

A very important item in your bag will be a three ring notebook. You need to fill it with ideas for time-filling activities. Divide your notebook into three or more sections. Some examples for your sections might be Activities, Writing Prompts, and Brainteasers/Riddles.  Following are some ideas for each section. Print them out for your use in the classroom. 

Brainteasers and Riddles

Something that kids absolutely love are riddles and brainteasers. In fact, if you sub at a school enough, it is practically guaranteed a child will ask if you are going to give them some. Be prepared and have them in the brainteaser/riddle section so they will be available at a moment’s notice. Here is a website that will help you get started – Brainteasers and Riddles

Writing Prompts

Students sometimes don’t enjoy writing, but you can make it fun and help them think creatively. Here’s an idea for you to use. Hand out paper, and write on the board these fill in the blank statements. “If I was the teacher, I would teach _______. If the students weren’t paying attention, I would ______. To have fun, I would let them ________. Encourage the kids to creatively use their thinking skills, and then let them share with the class when they are finished. There will be lots of giggles! An excellent website for ideas is Story Starters and Writing Ideas .


There are also many small activities that can be used as time fillers, such as “Simon Says” or “Seven Up”. A game children enjoy is this number guessing activity. Tell them you are thinking of a number between one and one hundred. Raise or lower the range based on the age of your students. Tell them to raise their hand when they think of a number. When they guess, tell them your number is “higher” or “lower”, until they narrow it down to the correct number. Another activity involves them listening very carefully. Give each child a piece of paper. Tell them you are going to instruct them to draw items, and you won’t repeat a direction. An example would be:

  1. Draw a large circle in the middle of your paper.
  2. Draw a square in the upper right hand corner.
  3. Draw a star in the middle of the circle.
  4. On the left hand side of the circle, draw three small circles.

Have the students hold up their drawings to see who was able to correctly follow directions. More activities can be found at the Substitute Mini Lessons website.    

Your notebook should be put in your sub bag. Other items to add to the bag are: some tissues, dry erase markers, money for snacks, your cell phone, a small notebook to record problems in case of future questions, hand sanitizer, lotion, a highlighter, a red pen, pencils, flash cards, a whistle for recess duty, stickers for rewards, and last, but not least, books to read for time fillers. Keep a selection at home for different grades and choose which books would be appropriate for that day’s grade level. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us .  

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Next ArticlePros and Cons of Preferred Substitutes in Schools