While staffing shortages in schools across the U.S. are not a new phenomenon, this year has proven to be even more challenging than usual. According to an EdWeek Research Center survey, more than three-quarters of district leaders and principals say they’re experiencing at least moderate staffing shortages. 

Because of these shortages, educators are taking on extra responsibilities. Teachers are giving up their lunch and planning periods to substitute for classes that need coverage when their colleagues are unexpectedly absent. Substitutes are finding themselves covering more classes than ever before. And administrators are juggling finding substitutes for absent teachers while trying to fill open roles for full-time positions. 

For educators and substitute teachers that are already stretched thin, it can be overwhelming to face a class that needs last-minute coverage — especially in the event there are no sub plans. Thankfully, TpT has many resources to help educators feel prepared to cover any class. These ideas and activities for substitute teachers will help students stay on task and engage with their learning.

Substitute Teaching Activities for the Classroom

Substitute teachers know to prepare for the unexpected, including times when there’s not enough content in the sub plans to last the full class period or when the teacher hasn’t left any sub plans at all. Since a large part of a sub’s classroom management is helping students stay on task, it’s a good idea for substitute teachers to keep a repertoire of emergency activities. These are handy for those times when lesson plans run out and there is extra time to fill. 

Word puzzles and coloring sheets are great for students who finish their work early. For younger students, you can bring a book to read aloud together or play a game. Beyond these activities, students can still engage in learning without their regular classroom teacher. You can help facilitate student learning by finding educational resources for the subjects and grades you’ll be covering and adding them to your teacher bag.

If you’re a substitute teacher, covering another teacher’s class unexpectedly, or just teaching a class that you’ve never taught before, consider adding these academic resources to your survival kit of backup classroom activities.

Substitute Teacher Resources for Elementary School

Nursery Rhyme Bundle – Kindergarten Emergency Sub Plans by Keeping my Kinders Busy
Grades Pre-K and Kindergarten

Digital Poetry Fables Reading Comprehension Passages and Questions by The Little Ladybug Shop
Grades 2-5

Fourth Grade Interactive Emergency Sub Plans (Math, Science, Social Studies) by Chalk Box Tales
Grades 3-5

Science Sub Plans Bundle: National Parks by The Science Penguin
Grades 4-6

Emergency Substitute Plans (5th Grade Sub Plans for Math: Multiplication) by Jennifer Findley
Grades 5-6

Substitute Teacher Resources for Middle School and High School

ELA Emergency Sub Plans No-Prep Maternity Leave Lesson Plans by Read Relevant
Grades 6-8

Emergency Sub Plans for Social Studies (Google Drive + PDF) by Mr and Mrs Social Studies
Grades 6-8

“History Talk” Print & Go Emergency Lesson Plan by Language Arts Excellence
Grades 7-12

Education in Guatemala – Spanish Substitute Lesson Plan for Advanced Students by Speaking Latino
Grades 8-12

Amanda Gorman “The Hill We Climb” Analysis Questions and Answer Key by Yaddy’s Room
Grades 8-12

Find more classroom-ready substitute teacher activities on TpT to help you cover classes with ease.

A school-funded subscription can help support educators during staffing shortages. Share TpT School Access® with your principal to get ready-to-go TpT resources that save you time.