Creating a Substitute Teacher Folder for Your Art Room

Do you have your substitute teacher plans ready to go this school year? Often times this job gets pushed aside until you really need it, which can leave you scrambling. This upcoming week we will be covering “Planning for a Substitute in the Art Room” all week long! Visit AOE each day for different ideas and things to consider when planning for a substitute teacher (and even some tricks you have never thought of before) specifically for the art room. You won’t want to miss it!

In the first article of the week we will talk about creating a folder for your substitute!

My teaching career began as a substitute teacher. The more information the teacher left me, the more comfortable I felt and coincidently the less behavior problems I had. As a teacher, I try to leave as much information for my substitute teachers as possible. I give them the tools they need and it’s up to them whether or not they use them.
Our school has building wide sub folders that our secretaries made. Inside the two pockets folder is three prongs where there are various pages containing information about my classroom and the school. The dividers inside include information about class Schedules/ seating charts, classroom management, early dismissal/late starts, and blood/body fluid exposure. One pocket has information regarding emergency and crisis procedures. There is a sticker with computer log in information. The second pocket has an art studio update form.
If your school doesn’t proved sub folders, I suggest you create your own and keep in your classroom. Each folder contains building wide information that is inside the folder when we receive them. Then, it’s up to each teacher to add information pertaining to our classroom.


How to Create Your Own Sub Folder

1. Label the Outside of Your Folder

On the outside of the folder is a sticker with my name on it, my room number and the main office phone number. Our secretaries are amazing. They are truly two of the nicest women I have ever met. They included the following note; “Thank you for providing Roosevelt Middle School with your subbing expertise. If there is anything we can do to assist you today, please don’t hesitate to call the Main Office.” How welcoming is that?


2. Include a Classroom Key

Our classroom keys are kept inside our folders in a small envelope. This way the substitute teachers can use the key and place them back inside the folder. (Your school probably has a policy on passing out keys; this is how our school chooses to pass them out.)

3. Include an Information Sheet

The information sheet is similar to the table of contents in a book. It provides the basic information such as my name, my home phone number and my cell phone number. (I added a note saying I will respond to text messages.)

Below the contact information is a section that titled “Where to find…” This tells where to find items such as lesson plans, seating charts, and crisis manual. All of these items can be found on my desk. If you aren’t sure of how to get your lesson plans to your substitute teacher, look for an article later this week where I will share my secret.  There is a “If you need help..” section that has other teacher’s names and phone numbers as well as a list of reliable students. There is also an “Attendance Procedure” section where I explained how they can take attendance. (Most of this information is included in detail in the following pages of the folder.)



Sections of my Sub Folder:

  1. On the left side of the photo are the Art Studio Update (see sample below) form and my classroom key.
  2. The center of the folder is the information sheet and on the far right is a crisis information sheet.
  3. The first page of this section is my daily schedule. 
  4. The second page is a list of reliable students. I choose two students per class. I will switch out this page next quarter and replace with new list. 
  5. The third page discusses my seating chart information. Here is what I wrote on this page. “See the clipboard on Mrs. Reinken’s desk for seating chart information. Students need to sit in their assigned seats. If you would like to make comments regarding the seating chart, please use the post it notes. Please don’t write on my seating chart.” Sometimes my students try to tell substitute teachers that they’re allowed to move seats, so this clears the confusion about that. I write on my seating chart in pencil to allow for changes to be made in seats. Last year I had a substitute teacher write on my seating chart in pen and it drove me crazy. The post it notes will allow them to make their own notes
  6. Classroom Management section: Inside this section I included information about attendance, chairs (my students take down and put up), where their artwork is stored, how I expect the floors and counters to look at the end of class, my policy on gum, my policy on talking, and how many minutes to give for cleanup. I also included information about my behavior expectations and included the dates I have morning and after school duty.
  7. Early Dismissal/Late Start Section: This section contains our early dismissal and late start schedules. You could include any other information that pertains to early dismissals or late starts in this section.
  8. Body/Blood Fluid Exposure: This section has a hand out summarizing the precautions when dealing with bodily fluids.

I created an Art Studio Update form that I leave for substitutes to fill out. It is a quick form so they can let me know where the students left off. This gives me an idea of how much progress my students made on their project or what activities they worked on.

Here is an example of my Art Studio Update form:

You can also include some lesson plans or one day projects that students can work on.

Do you have a substitute folder?

What else do you keep in your substitute folder?

Cassidy Reinken

This article was written by former AOE writer and life-long learner, Cassidy Reinken.


  • Love the art studio update form! I’m working on my sub folder today, so this is perfect :) 

  • Thanks for sharing all your great ideas! I did a complete re-do on my sub folder this year! last year our district starting using an outside company to hire our subs. We went on-line and posted the day we needed off and it went out to many subs, some we knew and loved and some who had never walked through the doors of our school! previous to this, one of our staff members would find a sub when it was called in to her sub answering machine. she knew who to to call for what. needless to say there were a few issues with some of the “unknown” subs last year.  this year I used an idea I saw somewhere on- line and sorry, I can’t remember where i saw it. I got a binder and filled it with every possible thing the sub would need for a successful day in my room complete with photos of where things are located. Its packed with lessons to pick from ,school procedures, art room procedures, schedules, seating charts, emergency procedures and a sheet to fill out with feedback for each class. My principal just finished reviewing it with my plan book and said she loved how organized it was! it took a lot of time this summer to set up but it was well worth it !

    • The Art Teacher

      I really hope you can find that source and share it! That will help many guest teachers.

  • Emily Ann Bakke

    Having first subbed, then taught, then subbed again, and now teaching again I think one of the nicest things I like to see in a sub folder is a map of the school and the room. The best one I saw was a map with important areas highlighted and labeled (I always appreciate knowing where the staff lounge and adult bathroom are). She marked everything on the building map a sub could possibly need.  Classrooms, office, special ed rooms, gym, cafeteria, emergency exit routes and safety areas for her room. And the room map was labeled also, general supplies, where artwork is stored, paint shirts, current lesson materials, etc. It was so nice to not feel lost in the building or room.

    I also subbed for a teacher who had a collection of simple one-day art projects gathered in a box. Each project was in a file folder that contained instructions, a finished example, and an example for each step. On the outside of the folder it said what age the project was good for. This would be great to have available for subs who are not as familiar with teaching art.

    Other teachers would leave me a binder with basic instructions for many simple lessons and let me pick one and figure out how to teach it myself. That worked as well. 

  • I made a “Sub Tub” which is in plain sight right behind my desk.  In the tub, are drawing handouts, emergency lesson plans, attendance rosters, hall passes, and a class set of Scholastic Art magazines.  If I know I’m going to be out, I leave specific instructions, but the Sub Tub is an emergency back up plus helpful information the subs can use.  

    I love the Art Studio update and am stealing it for my class!

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  • Theresa

    In my schools the office provided a binder and a list of information the substitute should have. Things like maps of the school, important names and phone numbers (office, counselor, nurse, next door neighbors), any behavior management programs, plans, or systems that we use and how they work. We also provide UPDATED class lists, seating charts, and 3 days worth of lesson plans. I also include a list of optional one day lessons, and a stack of art books and artist videos they can use as an option. Finally I tell them if they are not comfortable teaching a lesson, or have a plan they would like to do, they can do that.

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