Use Formatting to Create Easy to Read Sub Plans!

Subbing the semester after I graduated (I was a Decemeber grad) gave me a chance to experience lots of different classrooms and see lots of different sub plans.   I was able to find my love of middle schoolers! Yes, I said it, I love those middle years

Throughout my time subbing I noticed what a difference the layout made.  Some sub plans were much easier to read then others and I noticed that it was all about formatting! It was my morning sub routine to read through the plans upon arrival and locate the necessary materials for the day.   I felt prepared and ready for those little cherubs to walk in.  This confidence quickly faded when a student had a question in which I had to refer back to the sub plans for and I could not find what I needed quickly.   I started to see the difference formatting made in that moment.


Use Formatting to Create Easy to Read Sub Plans with these 5 Simple Steps 


1)      Bold and Underline the Key Points

This helps the information to stand out for when your sub needs to check what time class ends or important information that they need to remember.  Always bold any information that you think your sub might need to refer back to your notes for.

2)      Use Bullets

Bullets are a great way to keep each step separate from the next.  This is especially important in the art room when managing supplies.

3)      Use Numbers

Place what you would like the students to do in order of 1,2, & 3. This is used as a quick reference guide for your sub.  Then include further details below.

  1. Sketchbook Entry #3
  2. Finish sharing about My Brother’s Keeper & Voice to Vision observations
  3. Use Sketchbook App to create 3 rough draft plans for your final Voice to Vision piece of artwork.

4)      Chunk out your class periods

It helps subs to know approximately how long an activity might take the students.  Let them know what is expected the first five minutes of class, what happens once they have gotten started, and how to end class with cleanup.  Here is an example of the headings to use.

First 5 min of class:

Once they have settled in:

With the remaining class time:

5)      USE CAPS when necessary

If it means that students MUST WRAP UP THEIR CLAY so that it doesn’t dry out, sometimes caps helps to send the importance of your message.

I hope these formatting tips help your next sub find your information in a jiffy!

What tips have you used when writing and formatting sub plans?

Chelsie Meyer

This article was written by former AOE writer and technology guru Chelsie Meyer.


  • Ronda Sternhagen

    I had the “pleasure” of having bilateral carpal tunnel surgery last January and had four school days notice to be gone from my 6-12 graders for two weeks. I have been using a Lumens Ladibug projector/document camera/recorder for a few years and slowly making demonstration videos for projects. I crammed as many instructional video making hours as possible into those four days. I also have come to the habit of recording my computer screen if I am teaching them some tool or technique of the computer. It was the best investment of my time ever! Not only did things do relatively flawlessly, but I now have those videos “forever.” (To see what I’m talking about, you can visit my youtube channel…rsternhagen.) These videos are far from perfect, but they work! 

    As a one-to-one laptop school, I have also found that videos like this help students to become independent learners. I use them regularly when using technology in a lesson. They can individually watch the video demonstration, and I can be around to answer questions. There are inevitably 18 hands in the air at one time if you have 19 students in your class (OK…slight exaggeration), but you know the feeling of being stretched to the point of no return and the sense of frustration from your students as you can only help one at a time. The video allows them the ability to watch, rewatch (and reteach themselves) and often answer their own questions before you can get to them. It really is a beautiful thing when they figure it out themselves. What a sense of accomplishment, and it builds confidence. The videos are also great for a student who may have missed class for one reason or another.

    Thankfully, I have amazing substitutes who are technology savvy (or the teacher next door can pop in and help set things up at a moment’s notice). 

    • Ronda,
      I love how you are using technology to relay your sub plans. It works out perfectly for your laptop school AND, as you mentioned, is great for students who missed it. You are moving them away from dependency and helping them find things out for themselves, which is such an important life skill. Amazing! 

    • It sounds like the Lumens Ladibug should be on my wish list! We have a document camera but it does not record video just takes snap shots as a camera which is a nice feature for StopMotion Video “ish” play back.

      What a great way to use classtime demos to benefit your students and help out your subs!
      Love that you created YouTube videos! Thanks for sharing Ronda! You are SO wonderful!

    • Kellie Determan

      Ronda, what a great idea to make the videos for future use. I have a question about how the sub actually can access it while in your room? At my school the subs do not have computer access while in the building. What do you do?

  • I often use the “highlighter” tool in Word to highlight really important things. It works really well! 

    • Thanks for sharing that tip Amanda! Does it work ok when printing in Black and White?

      • Hmmm…. I don’t know! I guess I just electronically send it that way to the sub or print it out at school on the color printer. If it doesn’t work in black and white, you could always just print it out and highlight with a marker.

        • Great ideas! I normally email mine in and I know we print in black and white but I’m sure I could change it to be “Gray” highlighted.   We will be Happy Highlighting! :)

  • Kellie Determan

    Thanks for the great tips Chelsie. I am just getting to this on the start of the 3rd week of school and want each sub to feel they can come in and work comfortably in my space. The formatting makes sense!

    • Such a simple thing that makes a HUGE difference! Best of luck to you as you start your school year! Thanks Kellie

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