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How to Prepare for a Virtual Substitute

Inside: Tips to prepare your virtual emergency sub plans!

I remember the first time I went to work sick. After waking up later than usual and not being prepared for a substitute, I convinced myself I didn’t feel “that bad,” “other teachers do it,” and “it’ll just be easier.” 

By the time I made it to my classroom, I felt terrible. I took the easy route- I found a movie that loosely related to our current content in the library. Then I sat in the room with the lights off,  counting down the hours until I could go home and sleep. It was an awful day for me and a waste of a learning day for my students.  

I should have gotten a substitute that day, but I wasn’t prepared. In any classroom setting, traditional or virtual, being prepared for a substitute is KEY. If you are ready beforehand, you will feel more confident in leaving your classroom to a substitute, your sub will be prepared to jump right in, and your students won’t miss a beat.  

Today, many teachers are teaching virtually. If you fall into that category, it may be easy to convince yourself, like I did that day, that it is best to just tough it out because you are working from home.  That is simply not true! We know that it is important to take care of ourselves and use our sick days (find out why you need to take your sick days ).

Get ready now! Prepare for a day off by getting your virtual emergency sub plans made!  

Looking to prepare for a virtual snow day? Head over to this post.

What do I need to leave in my virtual emergency sub plans? Start with a sub binder!

Start preparing your virtual emergency sub plans with your sub binder. Create an editable digital sub binder using Google Slides that you can send your substitute. Ask yourself these questions: 

  • What is your schedule? Is your whole day synchronous, or are parts of your day asynchronous? 
  • How do transitions work on your platform?
  • Do you allow students to chat with one another during class? 
  • Should students’ cameras be on or off? Do you have on-camera rules?
  • When should students’ microphones be muted? How can your sub mute a microphone?
  • Who are the teachers and staff your substitute can reach out to if there is a problem? How can your sub contact them? 
  • Do you have breakout groups? How do those work?

Be detailed in your answers. You want your substitute to be confident in knowing how to run your virtual or 1:1 classroom.

Need a way to get all this info organized? We’ve got you covered with several Google Slides Digital Sub Binder options in fun themes to match your classroom!

In addition to everything in your digital Wife Teacher Mommy Substitute Binder, extra information will be vital to prepare for virtual emergency sub plans.

Step-by-Step Troubleshooting Instructions

Prepare your virtual emergency sub plans with troubleshooting instructions in case things go wrong. Leave them a list of common issues that you or students may run into and how you solve them.

Make sure to leave the contact information for who to reach out to if things go wrong and the usual troubleshooting steps don’t work.

Website Passwords & Login Instructions

The next thing you should leave in your virtual emergency sub plans to help your virtual substitute is all the necessary (and correct!) login and password information they may need that day.

You should leave not only login info they may need for themselves but also for students because we all have that one student who can never remember for themselves. 😉

In addition to the login info, I suggest assuming that your virtual substitute doesn’t know how to use the websites and online systems that you use (especially if it is a random sub that you don’t know). Leave them detailed instructions, and think of things as simple as how to mute a student’s microphone.

If you want to go a step further, you can take screenshots or videos of the process. Prepare these in advance, like at the beginning of the year, and put the instructions in your virtual sub binder so that they are always ready for you!

Contact Info & Communication Plan

Sometimes the best-laid plans can go awry. In case of a website outage or issue, it is best to have a communication plan in place.

Leave your contact information or better, the information of other teachers or support staff at your school that they can reach out to, in case they have any questions.

Then, tell your sub how to reach out to students and parents in case of such an occasion. It may also be nice to leave a form letter they can send out. 

Write simple, engaging lesson plans

Believe it or not, your sub plans do NOT have to be what you would have taught that day.

Instead, take some time to create quality lessons for each subject that can be plugged in any time of the year. And keep them in a folder (a virtual “sub tub”) that you can easily send to your substitute teacher when you need them!

This way, when you need a day off for whatever reason your lessons are already prepared! You can rest easy knowing that your students are engaged in real learning activities while you are out.

If you want help with your substitute lesson plans, we’ve got you covered with our Ready to Go Sub Plans for grades Pre-K through 6th Grade! Or join Wife Teacher Mommy Club and get access to our FULL LIBRARY of resources, including digital sub binders and virtual emergency sub plans, by clicking here.

Tips from other teachers to prepare your virtual emergency sub plans

*Disclaimer- quotes have been edited for length and/or clarity

“I wrote out a daily routine guide for the sub (laying out the daily schedule, pick-up routines, lunch tables, what kids are hybrid on which days, and which are fully virtual). Then I created the sub plans, the actual lessons, in Google Slides. 

I also would give the sub a rough time plan for how long those activities typically take. That one Slide presentation housed the entire day, some parts of the day would only be one slide (like reminders for lunch, snack, dismissal) and others would be more than 10 slides (like for a math or reading lesson).

As much as possible, I try to keep the daily routine in place, for the benefit of the sub and students. Digital activities might include BOOM cards, Google Slide activities, work on paper, and then take a picture and upload for the sub to see. All of these routines/activities students are very familiar with.

A helpful school initiative is that we have a shared Google drive, where each teacher has their own folder. In that folder is where we place our sub plans, class lists, fire drill procedure, nurse procedure, and anything else we might need a sub to have access to. 

-Jennie H, Teacher

Teacher tip for virtual substitute

Some good asynchronous materials that my students could do fairly independently (tough with first grade, but levels of parental involvement vary), something that would be new and exciting for my class to do.

-Michelle B, Teacher

Tips from teacher about preparing for a virtual substitute

Make sure you share your access code to your classroom with them and if using Microsoft Teams, change the meeting settings to allow them access.

-Sarah P, Teacher

Teacher tip for preparing for a virtual sub

Additional Tips from Virtual Substitutes

*Disclaimer- quotes have been edited for length and/or clarity

1) Reading passages from the science text and answering a google form with comprehension questions.

2) Using virtual field trip/lesson (I used a lot of mystery science) and turned the assignments into Google Slides they could answer and turn in.

All students, in-person and virtual did the same assignments. Everything was turned in on Google Classroom. I would also have paper copies for students in person. 

-Emily M, Long-term Substitute Teacher

Teacher tip for preparing for a virtual substitute

First – add me to your Google Classroom because it is hard for me to troubleshoot without it.  Let me know if you hide your Google Meet link (do not make it visible to students).  It freaks me out when no one shows up to the meet.  

If you use Edpuzzle or other tools in your school day – let me know your login or common issues and how to resolve them.  I am not intimate with all virtual/hybrid teaching tools.  I do know they exist and I am happy to help your students with them.  

Provide me an answer sheet or an idea of what you are looking for…I substitute teach 4th to 9th grade…that is a broad range to be an expert in.

-Amy W, Substitute Teacher

Teacher tips for a virtual substitute
checklist 5 things you need to prepare virtual emergency sub plans

Check out some of our digital resources to help prepare for your virtual emergency sub plans!

What are you waiting for? Prepare your virtual emergency sub plans today!

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Hey there, new teacher bestie! I’m Kelsey, and I created Wife Teacher Mommy just for YOU! I blog about teaching and create elementary school and homeschooling resources to make your life easier. Be sure to sign up for my FREE email newsletter!

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