Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Find Balance in Your Bag of Tricks

Every sub needs one, and I have struggled over the years with what to put in mine... a bag of tricks. I fluctuate between bringing everything (including the kitchen sink) to the minimalist approach. I still am not sure I have figured out the best way. I like to be prepared for any situation, but unfortunately the bottomless Mary Poppins bag doesn't really exist. And I don't want to give myself back problems from toting around that bag of tricks. But when I don't bring anything, I have been stuck really wishing I had materials. So, now I am trying the balanced approach.

I treat packing the bag of tricks like packing for a trip. I lay out everything I think might need on a table and then look over the pile. I do away with single-use or grade-specific items that have a low probability of use. I definitely keep open-ended items that are applicable for any grade level. I also keep things for my personal comfort. Being a sub is sometimes not easy, so anything you can do to make yourself more comfortable is necessary. Here are some items that made the cut to stay in my sub bag of tricks:
     • Water bottle
     • Small snacks like nuts, crackers, and granola bars
     • OTC meds like Tylenol, Rolaids, and Claritin
     • Hand sanitizer, lip balm, and hand lotion
     • Scrapbooking punches for classroom management
     • Sticky notes or index cards for classroom management or notes
     • Notebook
     • Clipboard
     • Pens (I love fun ones!)
     • List of activities that need no or little supplies
     • Class set of a graphic organizer or two
     • Loose-leaf notebook paper
     • At least one copy of the Daily Summary
     • Treasure bag. I use a large Ziplock baggie and fill it with small things for rewards.

Once I have my items, I decide on a bag to carry them in. Now, I have a bag obsession and probably own way too many. But I like to carry a colorful one that, of course, will fit everything I need to carry. My personal favorite right now is a purple snakeskin tote I got at Target.

Hopefully, this will keep me prepared and yet eliminate the need for a sherpa to tote my supplies. What are your sub bag of tricks must-haves?


  1. Stickers, mad libs, notebook, a book if I have down time (or sometimes even read during their reading time which they love), geometric coloring sheets, prize bag, brain teasers, lotion and hand sanitizer, tylenol, hair brush, a few picture books of my own. And my whistle is always attached to my name tag.

  2. Money - in case you didn't have time to make your lunch; change for the soda machine - a little caffeine is sometimes necessary; sweater or jacket - rooms may be cold. Be careful with snacks - look for signs indicating the classroom is nut free due to allergies or ask the school nurse.

  3. WOuld you be kind enough to share your list of activities that need little or no supplies? I do also bring my own whistle for playground duty.

  4. a highlighter for items on the sub plan that I do not want to forget, a small gift (dry erase markers, pens, package of stickers, etc.) with a quick "thank you" for the regular teacher, laminated "Boggle" boards with small squares of cut lined paper, and writing prompts among other things :)

  5. All good ideas given, as some I have not thought about. But I haven't seen the most important supply of all ... Chocolate!
    I also keep a booklet of group games - most of which need little or no supplies but encourage building of social skills. See for suggestions & instructions.

  6. Sorry - website link was not included. Look up social skills games and games such as "Giants, Wizards, and Elves", "Moose", or "Ships and Sailors."


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