10.9 C
New York
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Buy now


How to Make a Substitute Binder


Substitute Binder

Listen to the Podcast Episode

Being able to duplicate the process of  making a substitute binder will allow you to deliver on your organizational teacher aspirations. 

Have you ever been caught off-guard with school life and you find yourself in a surprise bind? All of a sudden you have to take a few days off of work due to a broken down car or the kids have come down with a case of the chicken pox. Or even worse you get an unexpected illness and there is a death in the family.

All of these scenarios would have panned out better if there had already been a plan in place in the event you had to take time off of work. 

Simply put, the better organized you are the better outcome you can expect from your substitute and students.

The Substitute Binder

What exactly is the substitute binder? 
To be put simply, it is a clear plan for your substitute to follow while you are gone. It includes all of the lesson plans, processes, procedures, communications and logistical nuances required for your students to have a successful day in your class.
Ultimately, every teacher’s sub plans are based on content, philosophies and criteria specific to your class. Today I am going to recommend a big picture plan that you may choose to use if you wish. Disclaimer! This post is not about providing lessons plans since most readers are not middle school band directors teaching in the Northern Virginia region like I do.
Consequently, the focus of this discussion is on the big picture concepts. More specifically, when you are creating a plan for your future substitutes. You may choose to deliver these plans digitally or make a nice physical binder that is easy to read and follow. Best of all you can make your binder using programs that you already own, such as PowerPoint or Google Slides.
Let’s get started! 

Binder Cover

As previously mentioned, you will probably want to use Google Slides or PowerPoint to create your Substitute Binder. Do this by first creating a new product or file. My recommendation is to save early and often with PowerPoint. The beauty of Google Slides is that you never need to “save” (if you are on the internet) because this is done automatically.
Let’s begin by customizing the size of the slide that we will continue to use throughout our project’s duration. Let’s customize the size of the slide to measure 8.5″ x 11″. This way we can later print all slides in the “letter” size and we can easily insert them into a physical binder.
It is important that we consider how our first slide looks. This should be our binder cover. Binder considerations should include:
  • Binder Color
  • Printer Ink Availability
  • The subject being covered
  • The white space on the cover

In this example, I want to print the cover only using black ink. My reasoning behind this includes the fact that I only have a black ink copier. It saves money and I have chosen to eventually print and insert my collection of .pdfs into a black binder. I want to make sure that I have a clean and customized look to my cover. In addition, I feel it is important to include white space in order to keep everything looking simple, easy to follow and effortless to implement. Ultimately, I want the substitute’s attention on my students rather than having them struggle to decipher my plans. 

Binder Cover
Binder Cover

Teacher Contact Info

Secondly, I would recommend inserting a “teacher contact info” form. This form would be a simple and friendly form with your teacher name, phone number and email address on it. It is certainly understandable that many times you will not be reached however, this provides provides a potentially young and inexperienced substitute the resource – you – if all plans start go awry.   
Teacher Contact Info Form
Teacher Contact Info Form

Welcome Page

Next, include a warm and inviting welcome letter for your substitute. This should not be long. Briefly include how much you love your students. Be sure to point out what students should understand in regards to the plan of action when you are not in the physical classroom.
This “welcome” page should sound like it is coming from you. Not formatted like it is a “one size fits all” sort of message.
Welcome Page

Welcome Page

Substitute Report

For me, the “substitute report” is one of the most important forms the sub fills out. You should place this form in the front half of the binder because you want the sub to see and think about how he or she will provide feedback on the the form while class is going on. It is my belief that the “substitute report” is not only feedback about your students but also on you. This report includes how well you prepared your plans, how well you prepared students for a substitute and provides an honest reflection on the general culture of your program. 
The most important information needing to be included on this feedback:
  • Substitute contact info
  • Class(es) covered
  • Overall Behavior
  • Reports on the extremely good and bad students (by name)
  • Additional comments and notes
Substitute Report
Substitute Report

General Contact Information

The general contact information form should contain the most commonly required phone numbers for your substitute. These phone numbers could include:
  • Front office
  • fellow department members
  • Nurse
  • Dean
  • Principals
  • Security
  • Counselors
  • and even your own phone number
  • etc.
I try to envision who I could possibly need to contact if an unexpected scenario were to play out in my room. Having this available for whomever covers my class helps put my mind at ease.
General Contact Info


Schedules often confuse substitutes. Many times these “edu-heroes” travel from class to class, school to school and sometimes even school system to school system. Consequently they encounter many different types of schedules. Depending on if it is a short day, field trip day or an assembly day, schedules can be baffling.
Be sure that all possible schedules are clearly documented and that, in your plans, you highlight what type of schedule is to be followed.

Class Roster

Taking attendance is crucial whether or not you are at school. Students need to be held accountable and in some cases your attendance will be used as legal documentation. Consequently, recording attendance may look different depending on what and where you teach. Sometimes attendance is taken online and other times on paper. 
As long as my attendance is not mandated to be put into a software program while class is taking place  I prefer to have the sub record attendance in paper form. When I return to school I plan to input the attendance into the computer system myself. I certainly know there are teachers entitled to more freedoms than others, in regards to taking attendance, however below are a few examples of formats that you may choose to use. Most include a brief introduction, phonetic pronunciations of students names, and a list of students to check off.
Class Roster Examples
Class Roster Examples

Seating Assignments

In addition to a class roster list you may choose to use a more visually appealing means for taking attendance. A seating chart might be an excellent way for taking attendance quickly. While some may enjoy seating their students in a more traditional row and column format, I prefer to use performance arcs. My recommendation for creating a great seating chart is to visit https://www.bgreco.net/band/. This free website allows you to make to make a variety of seating charts quickly. It focuses on a more music class oriented set-up however, can really be used for any class.

Student Info

Having accurate information about students is a huge advantage for a substitute who is trying to meet your expectations with little to no prep time. I would recommend having a “student info” section that covers topics such as:
  • Helpful and reliable students
  • Students with Allergies
  • Students with special needs
  • And students with specific behavioral, physical or learning oriented challenges
Student Info Example 1
Student Info Example 1
Student Info Example 2
Student Info Example 2


Other than the actual lesson plan and attendance, I feel the “procedures” form is the most important information you should have in your sub binder. In the procedures portion of the binder all the processes of the day should be clearly outlined. Examples of procedures should include:
  • Classroom Rules
  • Classroom Management
  • Classroom Rewards and Consequences
  • Before / After School Time
  • Arriving to Class
  • Dismissing from Class
  • Lunch
  • Inside Recess
  • Outside Recess
  • During School Snack
  • After School Snack
  • Assemblies
  • Field Trips
  • Equipment Usage
  • And More…
Procedure Example Form

You may want to have a procedure for everything that occurs at school however, be careful not to make these processes too complex. Keep things simple and students will have more success executing them.

Other Forms…

The process of creating a quality sub binder depends on its clear structure and simplicity. The remainder of the binder is essentially created the same way as previously mentioned. In addition to the actual “lesson plan” for the day be sure to also include:
  • Class Behavior Form
  • Class Management Form
  • Dismissal Form
  • Emergency Information Form
  • Referral Form
  • Needed Materials Form
  • Technology Information Form
  • and any other helpful bit of information for your substitute…


In conclusion, I hope this guide will provide you a simple roadmap into how to construct your own “Substitute Binder.” Remember that a quality binder will pay off ten fold in positive reports and saved time in the long run. If you find that you don’t have time to piece together just the most perfect binder – its ok. There are plenty of educational stores that sell them for reasonable prices that you can customize. 
If you have questions about substitute binders or other resources please feel free to email me at 4themusiceducator@gmail.com. 
Happy creating and good luck in the upcoming school year!

Check Out My Store

One last thing! Feel free to check out The Music EducatorEditable Music Substitute Binder Template” in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. It is a great resource for giving you a strong jumping off point and maximize your organizational prowess. For this and more great downloadable educational products go to https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/The-Music-Educator

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest Articles