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Why Centers Make the Perfect Sub Plans

Center Materials

Yep, I’ve done it. I’ve come back into school to prep and write sub plans in the midst of a stomach flu. After that debacle, I decided I needed something in place for emergency sub days (duh, right?). So now, in addition to my general handouts about routines and art room technology, I also include general plans for implementing centers, including where to find materials.

I have a “Read This First” binder that includes these handouts, as well as a room map with photos showing where the sub can find the materials for centers if I’m not able to set them out myself.

Here are 4 compelling reasons to try centers for subs in your room. 

  1. There are limited materials making clean-up easy.
  2. The kiddos are moving roughly every 12-15 minutes, which prevents boredom, fills the entire hour, and therefore, leads to less behavior issues.
  3. Centers promote collaboration and interaction.
  4. The sub doesn’t need any artistic experience to facilitate the activities.

I generally include a couple drawing games (depending on the age), a free draw station using How To Draw books, an art book reading station, and a station or two that uses a special material or activity.  It really depends on the age, so the sub may have to change out the stations depending which grades have art throughout the day. Centers


Here is a list of games and products that I’ve found work well for centers.

Whatchamadrawit (learn more here)

Luck of the Draw

Hue Knew

-Orb Factory Activity Tins (Color Cubes, Mosaica, Chroma)

Texture Rubbing Plates and Stencils

-Special markers and crayons like Construction Paper Crayons, Gel FX markers, Over/Under markers

Moon Dough (it’s not as messy as Play-Doh or modeling dough

-Art Memory Games and Go Fish

Zolotopia Building Set (or any Zolo sets)

I feel confident about classroom management, mess, and materials when I leave emergency centers because they’re already prepared and easy to implement!

In addition to centers, I have started by very own Sub Tub inspired by Jen from the blog Draw the Line At and even had a lesson swap with the other elementary art teachers in our district at our most recent collaboration meeting.  Everyone brought at least one lesson (and plenty of copies) to share, beefing up our Sub Binders and Sub Tubs!

What do you have in place for emergency sub plans?

What would you suggest as an emergency art center?

Alecia Eggers Kaczmarek


Alecia is an elementary art teacher in central Iowa who is passionate about teaching and reaching her students with an innovative and meaningful arts education.