Tip #1: Give a lot of detail in your plansHere's a rule of thumb: Write your plans with enough detail that you think a toddler could understand it, and then double the amount of details you include. A lot of things that are obvious to you are not necessarily obvious to a substitute coming in. I once caused mass chaos because I was not informed that I should only allow two boys in the bathroom at a time on bathroom break. The younger your kids are, the more details need to be included in the plans.
Tip #2: Include your classroom rules and behavior expectations in your plansBehavioral expectations vary between age groups. I neither want to let things slide with a group of older kids nor be way too harsh with a group of kindergarteners. If you don't allow kids out of your classroom for anything less than an absolute emergency, say so. If you have a behavior chart system, five details on how that works. Are kids given warnings before being told to flip their card/move their pin/whatever?
Tip #3: Give details on how you expect discipline problems to be handledShould I leave a list of names for when you return? Should I call the teacher next door if I have a problem? What is the number for the main office and the name of the principal? Should I assign a detention that you will serve when you return?
Tip #4: Prepare your kids ahead of time for the sub and/or write a letter to be read to the classOne of the BEST sub days I had happened when the regular teacher gave me a letter to read to the class at the beginning of the day to remind them what the expectations were. Honestly, part of the reason this is effective is because it means the students know that I the sub know what the expectations are and they cannot take any advantage of my assumed ignorance. Tell the kids what will happen if they misbehave.
Tip #5: Leave more work than you think they will actually accomplishI've had teachers leave work and be fully convinced it would take the entire class...only to have all the kids finish with twenty minutes to spare. Leave an extra worksheet or a chapter to review or something to read or homework they can get started on. Also, leave a list of acceptable activities if they finish that. If the only thing you allow them to do is read, say so. If you really don't care what they do as long as they are silent, say so.
Tip #6: Leave the information you would want if you were working in an unfamiliar placeTell subs where the bathroom is, where the teacher's lounge is, and how much lunch costs. If you are lucky, you will have subs who have worked in the school a million times but sometimes you won't. If the sub is responsible for taking the kids to the gym, tell them how to get to the gym. When you only have twenty minutes for lunch, you don't want to spend five of them trying to figure out where the bathroom is.
These six will help your kids have a great day when you aren't able to be there. There are premade sub folders that have places to fill in all this information. I suggest filling in even the things you find painfully obvious.
I hope you enjoyed my series on substitute teaching. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I will be happy to answer as best as I am able. :)