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Try Task Cards for Your Substitute Teacher Plans

Substitute teacher planning is faster and easier with task cards. So next time you’re lesson planning for a sub, use these ideas and tips for simple, smooth, and engaging plans that teachers and students will love. Best of all, you can use and reuse plans like this.


Not too long ago, I felt absolutely awful and had to take an unexpected sick day. Unfortunately, I had no sub plans ready to go.

Yeah, I know you’re shaking your head at me right now in disbelief. 

My “Emergency” sub plans were too generic and uninspiring. They needed a major upgrade. So I grudgingly made a special trip to school at 9:30 at night. In the winter. In the dark. Feeling horrible.

That’s obviously not a recipe for creative and inspired sub plans.

Well, after an hour and a half of wracking my brain for solutions, I was still struggling to put decent plans together.

I was furious at myself for not planning ahead and crafting quality sub plans. I grew more frustrated by the minute.

I determined this would never, ever happen again.

image explaining that teaching is the onlyprofession where you have to do more work to call in sick than if you just suffered through it.

Task Cards to the Rescue!

I later realized that leaving plans centered around task cards was the answer.

Here are some basic guidelines for substitute teacher plans and task cards.

Decide on task card activities.

Think ahead about which activities will benefit your students and be effective with a sub. Do your students enjoy playing games? Should the sub work with a small group of students while others work independently? Plan the activity and provide a guideline for how long the activity will last. 

For help planning games and activities, check out  How to Energize Your Teaching with Task Cards for practical tips, ideas, and inspiration.

Use task cards frequently.

Plan to use task cards in your own lessons so students learn expectations and have experience with them. Because task cards are so versatile, you can use them in a variety of situations.

Remember to instruct students on using the answer recording sheets.

If your students are like mine, they’ll probably need to be explicitly taught how to fill in the answer recording sheets. Some students become confused and put answers in the wrong boxes or spaces. This is especially true if you plan to spread the task cards around the room and have students complete them in random order.

I used to add directions for one or two games and activities to do with the task cards in case the lesson ends early. Keep in mind that it’s often helpful to switch up lessons and activities midway through the class period to keep students focused.

Make sure you leave the answer key and (if needed) a quick tutorial on how to solve math problems. I’ve learned that math is sometimes intimidating for subs. 

Best of all, once you create sub-plans using task cards, you can switch out different types of task cards each time you need a sub. That way, you can reuse these lesson plans with only minor changes and tweaks.


Allow students to create some task cards


My students always loved making their own task cards. They love trying to stump their classmates, and it’s great learning for them to develop their own questions.

I have some blank task cards available in my TPT shop that your students will enjoy.

Here are ink-saving task cards:  Ink Saver Task Cards – Make Your Own  Great for exit tickets and reviewing.

Blank Task Cards for All subjects - students write their own questions

If you don’t mind printing in color, here are some colored ones:  Colored task cards – make your own.

Blank Task Cards - Make Your Own or allow students to write their own questions


If you’re looking for task cards to use with your class, be sure to check out the task card sets in my TPT shop.


For MORE task card ideas and tips 

You’ll want to check out  How to Energize Your Teaching with Task Cards for more tips, ideas, and inspiration.

One last piece of advice – plan ahead with emergency sub plans! You won’t be sorry.