It’s 5:00 on a weekday, and your phone is ringing. You know, the local school is calling. They need a substitute teacher. You didn’t have time to write lesson plans for the day, but there is no need to panic. You know that you have your substitute teacher bag packed with everything you need. Now, you can entirely focus on your substitute teaching.
As a substitute teacher, it is essential to know what to have in a substitute teacher bag. A sub teacher has little time to get ready for a day of subbing. Teachers rarely leave lesson plans for the sub teacher. Therefore, you should always have your own bag of tricks packed to guarantee a great day for you and the students. Having a bag of tricks already packed and ready to go is one way to help make your time in the morning go a little more smoothly. The list of items in the sub bag could go on and on. However, we have narrowed it down to essential things to have in a sub bag and added a checklist. The following items should always be in every sub bag of tricks you can use for any grade level.
Sub Bag Shopping List
View the complete substitute teacher bag shopping list here. All items are available on Amazon.
Sub Bag Items Reviewed
Sub teaching can be very stressful, so it is important to be organized at all times. Besides pre-written lesson plans and classroom management activities, you need a pre-packed teacher bag. If you carry many heavy items with you, you may want to consider rolling totes for teachers. If you carry smaller items, we found two great options to hold all the things you need to make your day a substitute teacher effective and organized. Should the two bags below not be your style, we have another list with the best teacher bags and best teacher backpacks for you if you don’t know which one to get.
Teacher Tote Bag
Offered in two different styles, premium and basic, the large teacher tote bag by Brooke and Jess Designs is very functional and versatile. The premium is slightly bigger and offers more pockets. Available in more styles, the basic style has two zippered pockets. Each of these bags has teacher graphics printed on the front that is encouraging to the carrier. It will also help keep the teacher bag organized, and we know how important that is when teachers carry so many small items every time in their bag.
Pursetti Teacher Bag
This bag is perfect for all sub teachers who like to be organized. The ziptop bag is easy to clean and has six exterior pockets. Available in seven designs and two sizes, the Pursetti Teacher Bag is a multi-purpose tote with two mesh bottle pockets and five interior pockets. If you prefer not to carry your items over the shoulder, you may want to consider a teacher backpack.
The Pursetti Teacher Bag with Pockets is our top pick for a sub bag. With the numerous pockets, organization is easy. The bag is stylish and made of good quality, durable material. The handles are perfect to fit on your shoulders to carry from classroom to classroom. The mesh pockets will hold a water bottle without falling out. This bag is useful for other things besides a sub bag.
Now that you have a teacher bag picked out, it is time to look at what to have in a sub bag.
The first item to put in a sub bag is an organizer of some sort. Organization is vital for success as a substitute teacher. You can start by having an organized bag, but it goes much further. Understanding the teacher’s lesson plans and ensuring the organization will help your day go by much smoothly. The teacher bag you choose to purchase should have more than one large pocket, but if it doesn’t, here are some choices for organizing inserts that will keep you from turning your sub bag into a Mary Poppins bag.
Having an organizer is a great way to keep class items in your large bag organized. Available in three sizes, this Vercord Purse Organizer Insert has 13 pockets. There are six mesh pockets, four insert pockets, two zipper pockets, and one large pocket that keep your items separate. You can leave the organizer in the bag or take it out. Available in 27 designs and colors, it is water-resistant and easy to clean. Two handles make this insert transferable. It will consolidate to a smaller size for packing away and stands on its own. It is our top pick for an organizer to place inside your sub bag to help keep organized. This organizer will make it easier to reach the items you need quickly. It is high quality, highly rated, and simple, making it essential for an organized sub bag.
Bring enough pens to class. Holding between 40-50 pencils/pens at a time, this Big Capacity Pencil Case by Easthill can hold more than just pens and pencils. The main compartment can also hold other objects such as a small stapler, ink pads, and even a glue stick or two. The side pocket can hold post-its, dry eraser markers, stamps, or even stickers. There is a useful handful for carrying or hanging. This pencil case includes five elastic strap pen/pencil holders, thick mesh pockets, and a polyester lining.
If your chosen substitute bag has several large pockets but lacks small pockets, this pencil case could help you organize more. We love this pencil case’s large capacity, and it holds more than just pens and pencils. The handle makes this pouch easy to carry and transport. It is incredibly affordable and durable. The stitching and zippers are solid and flawless. We love the easy access that the side zipper gives teachers to look into the main compartment and find what they need more quickly.
Not all classroom teachers keep their rolling carts organized, so all sub teachers need to bring their own supplies. There is a wide range of supplies a substitute teacher may need for creative classroom management. From pencils to pens to personal supplies and more, there is a lot to consider when putting together a sub bag for class. We picked our top four favorite supplies for any sub teacher to have in a bag.
Every teacher’s favorite pen is the PaperMate Flair Pen. The assortment of colors is beautiful, and they write like a marker without bleeding through the paper. Leaving detailed notes on the teacher’s lesson plans is essential and will help you get called back for another substituting position. Using multiple colors can help keep things organized in class. PaperMate Flair Pens are perfect for the job. The smooth tip allows precision writing and delicate lines. Pens are a necessity for any substitute teacher.
Teachers often have office supplies in the classroom, such as paper clips, rubber bands, page markers, and push pins, but as you may know, they can be hard to find. There is often not much time after class, so having some in your sub bag is a good idea. This Office Supplies Kit comes in a hard plastic case with five compartments to leave things clean. This kit makes these supplies easily accessible and keeps everything neatly organized in class. It has 342 pieces consisting of binder clips, paper clips, three different size rubber bands, pushpins, and page markers. Every part of this kit is durable and will withstand multiple uses.
Post-It Super Sticky Notes
It is helpful for the classroom teacher to know what you did during the substitution lesson. Leave small information and notes on the desk, folders, or classroom mailboxes for the teacher. Similar to office supplies, sub teachers have sticky notes in their arsenal of supplies. However, it is nice to use your own after class. We like these sticky notes because they are super sticky and come in various sizes and colors. They are bright and easy to spot. The lined ones are nice for lengthier notes and to help stay organized. We would suggest putting them in a folder to keep them nice and to keep from wasting them. There are 13 pads in this pack with 45 sticky notes on each pad.
When teachers leave substitute lesson plans for the day, they often are printed in black ink on white paper. There are important tasks that need accomplishing during the day, and it may blend in with all the other words on the page. Having highlighters gives you the ability to make important information and tasks stand out on the plans. They can also be a communication tool for the teacher to highlight important information the teacher may need to see. We like the Sharpie Retractable Highlighters because they are narrower than the traditional wide highlighters meaning you can fit more in your sub bag. We like the chisel tip, which makes highlighting smooth and easy. The numerous colors are useful for the organization as well.
Name Tag Stickers
Substitute teachers meet different students in class every day, and for most of them, it is nearly impossible to remember all their names. Name Tag Stickers help a lot to call their students by name. The plain name tag stickers are easy to peel off and stay on all day. If the lesson plans have an activity outside of the classroom, the names stay on their clothes, which is an advantage compared to name tags, which are meant to stay in the classroom tables. The roll comes with 250 stickers, which makes the name tags more affordable than others.
The perfect classroom management lesson plans include fun activities. No sub bag would be complete without a few sponge activities and classroom games in addition to all lesson plans. Sponge activities are activities designed to soak up time. What are sub teachers going to do when the students have finished all the work from their teacher for the day? Keeping students busy is imperative, so they don’t get out of control. Sponge activities will help you keep order and keep every student engaged.
An activity that all sub teachers should have in their teacher bag are these Learning Conversation Cubes. They are great for teaching elementary and teaching middle school students. They will get the students carrying on conversations and allow you to get to know them. There are several ways to play with them, but our favorite is to get in a circle and have the student toss the cube to another student. Whichever side the left thumb touches is the question the student has to answer. You can play this several times and then move on to another activity. When you purchase the cubes, you get six soft foam cubes with a total of 36 questions. You don’t have to carry all six at once but change them out every day or weekly.
Flashcards are a great resource for good classroom management and easy to carry in your substitute bag. Students can learn math facts, and you play games like Around the World. These flashcards are a great addition and revision when teaching addition and subtraction in elementary students. There are also multiplication and division flashcards that are great for upper elementary and middle school students.
Positive reinforcement is a fancy name for rewards. Rewards work wonders and can be the best experience for a kid’s schoolday: early childhood and elementary students like stickers, erasers, pencils, and little trinkets for positive reinforcement. Middle school and high school are a little harder to please. One of the most desirable rewards is mechanical pencils. We suggest steering clear of candy as you don’t know allergies, and teachers often have different food policies in the classroom.
Scratch and Sniff Stickers
There are 828 Scratch and Sniff Stickers in 9 different scents for sub teachers to hand out. These stickers will entice students to follow the rules as they will want to scratch and sniff these stickers. They are of high quality, non-toxic, and have attractive designs.
Animal Puzzle Erasers
A toy and a school supply, these Animal Puzzle Erasers are a great reward for students doing the right thing and following rules and procedures. There are sixty high-quality, eco-friendly erasers that kids will love to take apart and put back together. There are safari animals, jungle animals, and even sea animals. Kids will be on their best behavior if they know this is the reward for a job well done. Alternatively, you can get some pencil grips.
Xtra Smooth Mechanical Pencil
For older students, Mechanical Pencils tend to be an appreciated reward. These particular mechanical pencils write smoothly and are very inexpensive. This package contains 40 pencils in five different colors. These pencils are so lovely that students will be willing to work hard if it means they don’t have to sharpen a pencil.
Some personal items should not be missing in any substitute bag. Being hydrated during the teaching day, emergency headache relief, and a fresh breath will help any substitute teacher throughout the day.
The Water Bottle by Iron Flask keeps cold drinks cold for a long time, up to 24 hours, and can keep hot drinks hot for 12 hours a day. We think that this bottle is ideal for any teacher bag as it does not sweat or leak and will not make any papers and books wet. The bottle comes with three different lids and fits in any cup holder.
A fresh breath during teaching is important, and sometimes there is no time for a teacher to brush their teeth in between classes. Mints are the best and quickest option to keep the breath fresh. Teachers can not chew gums. When the students are not allowed gums during class time, the teacher should not eat them themselves.
Headache Relief Essential Oil
This Headache Relief Essential Oil should also be in every sub bag for all headaches and migraine needs. Sub teachers often complain about headaches during teaching but taking the time for breaks is often not possible. Teachers have to function daily during school hours—the natural essential oil helps relieve pain fast.