How to Make a Sub Tub for Stress-Free Sick Days

“I would rather come to school not feeling well than have to plan for a sub.”

I’ve heard more than one teacher tell me that exact same statement. So many other professionals out there can simply make a phone call when they are ill and their jobs are literally put on hold until they start feeling better. However, things don’t ever stop when you are a teacher. When you are not feeling well, the very last thing you want to do is put together sub plans.

Awhile back, when I was feeling particularly healthy, I decided to create a Sub Tub that would literally save my life if I contracted whatever illness was spreading around school like wildfire. The Sub Tub takes some time to put together, but once it is in place, it will keep you from worrying if you need to call in a substitute.

Today I’m sharing a step-by-step guide so you can make one of your very own!

Sub Tub

Step 1: Gather Your Sub Tub Supplies

To create your own Sub Tub, you will need…

  • A large plastic container with a lid
  • File folders
  • Several typed-up lessons for each grade level
  • Laminated construction paper
  • Cardboard
  • A binder
  • Plastic sheet protectors
  • A computer, a camera, and printer access

Step 2: Put the Sub Tub Together


  1. After you’ve found or purchased a plastic container with a lid, add some bright signage to it so the substitute will easily be able to locate it.
  2. Use the laminated construction paper and cardboard pieces to create dividers. For each divider, make a tent with the laminated construction paper, write the grade level on it and put it on top of a piece of cardboard. Then slide it into the box. (Tip: Color coding makes it much easier to find what you are looking for.)
  3. Spend some time collecting, typing out, and printing several sub lesson plans for each grade level. It is helpful to include teacher examples. Each lesson gets its own file folder which is labeled with the grade level and lesson title. (Tip: Need help finding sub plans? Pinterest is a great place to start. Search for “Art Sub Plans” to find some great boards.)
  4. After adding all the file folders to the correct sections it is time to start on your binder. The binder should be labeled in such a way that the sub knows to read it first.

Step 3: Add a Binder


  1. Take pictures of your room and load them onto the computer. Using the pictures as visuals, type up exactly what you want your sub to know about your room and the way you run it. Make sure your information is organized and labeled. Some other great things to include in the binder are:
    • A welcome letter
    • Seating Charts
    • Crisis Management plans, maps, and procedures
    • Weekly schedule including your duty schedule
    • Technology Instructions

Place all these items into sheet protectors and put them in the binder. Your binder then gets put in the Sub Tub.

Step 4: Create a Folder to Leave with Your Secretary

It is a good idea to leave a bonus folder with your secretary that directs your substitute to the location of your sub tub and explains how it works. The substitute can easily navigate your classroom and procedures simply by looking through the binder and can choose whichever lessons he or she feels the most comfortable with. All the while you can cozy up in your bed and know the only thing you have to do is to start feeling better.

How do you prepare for a substitute coming into your room?

What’s your plan of action for your classroom when you wake up feeling sick?

Jennifer is an middle school art teacher in Kansas who is passionate about creating an organized, well-managed environment where students feel comfortable to learn and explore.


  • Stephanie

    I took photos of my room too and how it is run with my classroom management. It doesn’t help with the lessons though. I always always always hate leaving the class where the kids CAN’T work on the assignment they have been working on, for several reasons. #1, because I only see them one day a week, it puts them a week behind. #2, I have to start a new lesson in written format for someone else to try to teach. #3, It doesn’t matter what I leave, it still isn’t done correctly….. #4, if I let the kids continue to work on their original assignment, something always turns up wrong with using wrong supplies, trying to get away with shortcuts, etc…. I hope your tub works well for you because it IS the one thing I dread more than gradebook!!! :D

    • I understand, I’ve had some of those same hang-ups with calling in a sub. Sometimes though if we really are sick we just have no other choice. :( At least with the sub tub though we can have some meaningful (and short) lessons that we can use and reuse! And I agree, subs and grading…such hard stuff!

    • Lauren Snider

      I understand what you mean. Art teachers would only leave me their art projects if they are able to talk to me about what they are doing. Just make sure you update your sub lessons. There was one art teacher who I sub for who only has 2 sub lessons and the kids easily got tired of those lessons cause they would do the same 2 lessons every year.

  • Heather

    I have had so many awful things happen when a sub was in my room! I wrote notebooks for K-5 Art teachers to leave on their desks year round. “The Art Teacher’s Substitute Notebook: Basics, K-2 Lessons, & 3-5 Lessons” are available in my TPT store. I know, I’m hijacking the post, but they are so easy and at times a lifesaver. Each year I just fill them out, print, and leave on my desks. 24 curriculum based original lessons that only require pencils, paper, colors, and occasionally scissors and glue.

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  • Lauren Snider

    I am currently an art sub and this would be so helpful. So many times I walk into the art room and the teacher doesn’t have sub plans left so I have learned to have one or two plans per grade level in my back pocket whenever I sub. It would be really nice if this idea was incorporated in all art classrooms because it takes the question and worry out of subbing. Especially for non-art subs.

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