What is in your Sub bag?

I have taken the leap into substitute teaching and the best way I found to prepare and ease my nerves was to plan and pack my sub bag.

I have a zip-top organizing utility tote that holds four water bottles, perfect for my water bottle, tea, coffee and smoothie (should I decide on a health kick ;). I have it packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice because calls come first thing in the morning when life is pretty crazy in my house. I don’t have time to run around packing a bag, I’m busy packing lunches and getting children out the door.

  • My Sub Bag Includes:
    • Sub Binder
    • Favourite picture books with corresponding activities
    • Story Sparkers
    • Pencils and colouring pencils
    • Stickers
    • Business cards
    • Yoga cards
    • Basic Supplies
    • Prize Bag

Sub Binder

I keep my division substitute handbook at the front, with a map of all the schools I may be travelling to. After that, everything is divided up into subject areas. Some are structured and others are open-ended tasks that work for a variety of abilities. They often begin structured and extend into more complex thinking.

Writing Process Magnets which allow students support through the 5 steps: prewrite, draft, revise, edit, publish. This helps to illustrate the writing process and have a visual reference on the whiteboard.

I also have back up white paper and lined paper should we need it.

My Favourite Picture Books with Corresponding Activities

Having a few favourite books on hand means I am ready to jump in with my story if a lesson runs short or we need a change of activity. I only bring a few as most classrooms have some good quality reading books.  

Story Sparkers

These 50 photos cards contain beautiful photos and stimulus for writing.

The preprinted sentence starters and open-ended questions encourage different types of writing. They can be used in conjunction with the Writing Process Magnets.

Pencils and Colouring Pencils

I expect to be able to find pencils and colouring pencils or crayons in the classroom but just in case have a class set of each.


These are a great way to say thank you to students for great work. I keep Everyday Favourites Stickers and Super Stars And Smiles Stickers handy.

As I move around the classroom I can also put a sticker on their work to show that I have discussed their work. It helps me keep track and can be used as a motivator. For the younger years they are a happy way to end the day.

Business Cards

Always good to have on hand. I leave a couple with the class teacher and make sure the secretary also gets one for future callbacks.

Yoga Cards

Yoga is a great way to refocus a class and teach breathing and calming techniques. I use a couple of resources and one of them is Body Poetry: Yoga Cards.

Basic Supplies

So this is quite a list but I won’t rummage through a teacher’s desk and don’t like to be caught short so I have:

  • Scissors (4 pairs students can use)
    • Mini whiteboard eraser
    • Tape
    • Mini stapler
    • Glue Stick
    • Post its
    • Eraser
    • Binder Clips
    • Paper Clips
    • Pens
    • Sharpie
    • Highlighter
    • Wet Erase Whiteboard markerĀ (to write student names)
    • Dry Erase Whiteboard marker

I know it is a long list but it all fits into 2 pencil cases.

I like to write a list of student names on the board and tick by their name when I catch them following the class rules and working well. This reminds me to focus on positive rather than negative behaviour.

Prize Bag

In a ziplock I have a selection of prizes:

Students can have their name in the prize draw by getting a certain number of ticks by their name. This encourages them to work and me to focus on praise.

Yes, my bag is a quite heavy! I am however, prepared for a wonderful sub plan or very little assistance. What is in your sub bag?

Storytelling with Puppets

Rose is at that great age where she is just beginning to tell stories. Her confidence is growing as she reads more books, telling the story with the help of pictures. The words may not match but she is so proud to be able to interact with a book in such a way.

Using the pictures as prompts encourages her to tell her the story with more detail. Using concrete things she can manipulate encourages even more interaction.

I modeled telling the story of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears using a Reversible Storytelling Puppet. Goldilocks is visible and then if you turn the puppets upside down you have Papa Bears on one side and Mama and Baby bear on the other. It is cute and Rose is now able to tell the story herself. Having Baby bear come out of his mama’s apron adds to the story.

She particularly enjoyed flipping the puppet over and saying “Look, bears!” and “Look, Goldilocks!”

Storytelling puppets are also available for Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs.

Goldilocks and the 3 Bears

Little Red Riding Hood

3 Little Pigs

I have tried photographs and flannel board as well as the interactive whiteboard but nothing beats a stuffie they can cuddle too! What do you use to bring your stories to life?

Story Telling with Fairies

We are all a little fairy mad here; stories, movies, toys, gardens, pinatas and parties.

Daisy enjoys playing with her fairies and I noticed her telling stories and acting them out. I asked if she would like to make a book to tell one of her stories. The response was one of excitement.

We sat down and discussed the story she would like to tell. I mapped it using a graphic organizer so we had a set story to follow.

Yes, this does seem very organized for a simple story but I wanted to be able to read the story again and again and not cringe. Daisy tends to tell a story one way and then forget what happened and change it for the next retelling. This is a wonderful way to improve and develop storytelling skills but in this case, we wanted a strong story with a problem to work with.

I helped her identify the characters, setting, problems, events and solutions. I used a great Flip Chart and have found it very useful for learning how to structure and plan writing.

We used our plan to tell the story. I wrote the story and photographed…

… while Daisy acted it out with her fairies and various other toys and props we found. Here the fairies are chilling by the pool. The story was simple but it had a problem to be solved.

This allowed us to finish with a satisfying ending. This picture in particular made Daisy very proud.

The fairies were trapped in the building. Big people had left a bowl of beans out for the fairies but didn’t realize they were trapping the fairies behind the gates. The hummingbird took a message to the fairies chilling by the pool who came back and rescued the trapped fairies. They did this by sprinkling fairy dust on the bowl of beans. Daisy loved the realistic flying bowl of beans (I cropped her hand out of the picture).

The story (Daisy’s story, in her words), photos and a little photoshoot in a fairy costume were made into a beautiful book.

Daisy was very proud to receive her own book ‘Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Dust Rescue” for her birthday. It has been well-read and shared already.

Benefits of Acting Out a Story

This is a great way to see if the story you have just read has been understood. You get to assess reading comprehension, vocabulary knowledge and sequencing skills while the ‘actor’ gets to have fun! This activity gives the actor the opportunity to make a personal connection with the story.

We read the story together. Then we gathered the main characters; mainly rabbits in this story- yes we have too many stuffed rabbits!  The only props we needed were a tree and a remote control. The clothes horse stood in for a tree and my camera case was a remote.

The story went something like this, as told by Daisy:

Lettuce lived high on a hill. Nibble, nibble, hop, hop, every day was the same.

A small bird flew by.

“I wish I could fly.” said Lettuce.

She dreamed of flying.

She tried jumping and flapping her arms and ears.

“I’ll never be able to fly”.

She heard a hum and saw a beautiful pink airplane.

It landed and Lettuce jumped inside. It took off and went up, up, up into the sky.

“Help” Lettuce squealed and then “I never knew the world was this big!”.

Judder, lank, CRASH. The plane landed in a tree.

Lettuce held onto a branch of the tree.

She fell down, down, down into the arms of a little girl.

“What are you doing here?”

I just wanted to fly and now I’ll never get home” moaned Lettuce.

“I’ll fly you back” and she showed Lettuce the remote control.

“Thank you” said Lettuce.

She flew back home and all the bunnies were excited to see her. When she landed and went to the burrow she told all the bunnies about her trip.

“Sometimes you really can make a dream come true.”

The book we read is “Lettuce The Flying Rabbit” by Mandy Stanley.

She enjoyed the acting and role-played again as I reread the story.

In these photos, you may see a girl playing with stuffies or you may see a wonderful story about a flying rabbit. This activity can be done in many different ways. You can vary the props, characters, method of role-playing, scenery. The options are endless.

Learning Opportunities:

  • English LA: sequencing a story, retelling, using learned vocabulary, identifying the characteristics of a story; characters, problem, solution, beginning, middle, end

How have you acted out a story?