top of page

Checklist: What Supplies Should Be In Your Substitute Teacher Bag?

Updated: Jan 24

15 items to pack in your sub bag for a successful day of substitute teaching


When you're a substitute teacher, you need to be prepared for anything. That means having the right supplies in your sub bag for any situation. It also means being organized and making sure that everything is easy to find.


Here are some easy tips for packing the perfect sub bag.


Choose the perfect bag.

The best substitute teacher bags are roomy enough to carry essentials, but not so bulky that they're hard to carry. You want a bag with plenty of pockets so that everything has its place.


If you're going to be carrying around a lot of stuff, consider using a backpack or a tote bag with an organizer insert. Organizer inserts cost around $15 on Amazon.


First pack the essentials.

  • A notebook

  • Pens, pencils, and a highlighter

  • Spare lesson plans


Carry things that will keep you comfortable.

Here are some items that can be included:

  • Water bottle

  • Lunch and snacks (allergy friendly)

  • Extra clothes like a jacket (in case something gets dirty or you need to go outside)


Bring items that can be used as impromptu rewards.

When you're in a new classroom it's important to keep the kids calm and engaged. One way you can do this is by using an impromptu reward system. This means that when students have been behaving properly, they will receive an item that will encourage them to continue being well-behaved.


Here are some ideas for rewards:

  • Stickers (that are appropriate for the age group)

  • Mechanical pencils

  • Erasers

  • Coloring books can be a great choice for younger students


Be prepared with time-filling activities.

If you find yourself with an unexpected break in the day, be prepared to keep students engaged with games, activities, or even a book that you can read aloud.


Some examples include:

  • Worksheets of math problems

  • Brainteasers

  • Coloring pages

  • Games, like “20 Questions”

  • Writing prompts, such as “write a short story inspired by your favorite song”

  • Having students create crosswords based on the lesson they are learning

Games and activities will vary widely depending on the grade, but we'll be publishing articles with more ideas soon.


Try name tag stickers and bring sticky notes.

Name tag stickers are a quick, easy way to remember what students' names are without having to constantly refer back to your seating chart or roll sheet—and they're perfect for when you're trying to keep track of multiple students with similar names. Sheets of 100+ name tag stickers cost around $4 on Amazon.


You'll also want some sticky notes handy so you can leave messages for the teacher. These notes will help make sure the teacher knows what went on in the classroom while they were gone.


Pack miscellaneous and emergency supplies.

You might be tempted to ignore the idea of packing emergency supplies because you're not sure what's going to happen. But a little preparation can go a long way in calming your nerves, and it'll also ensure that your students are safe as well.

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Tissues

  • Sunglasses (if you need to go outside)

  • Cough drops

  • Headache relief

All of these things are small but can make a big difference when you need them most.


Checklist: 15 items for your sub bag.

  1. Notebook

  2. Pens and pencils and a highlighter

  3. Spare lesson plans

  4. Water bottle

  5. Lunch and snacks

  6. Extra clothes

  7. Impromptu rewards

  8. Games, activities, or a read-aloud book

  9. Name tag stickers

  10. Sticky notes

  11. Hand sanitizer

  12. Tissues

  13. Sunglasses

  14. Cough drops

  15. Headache relief


You’re ready to go!

Now that you know how to pack your sub bag, are you ready to find your first substitute teaching assignment in the U.S.?


Register with HelloSubs and gain access to thousands of substitute teaching jobs in public school districts, charters, and private schools across the country.


Our team of placement consultants will walk you through the entire application process, including the necessary background checks and qualifications. Sign up today!



bottom of page