For me, if I am out for one or two days, and know I will be out, I leave clear sub plans in 3 places.
1: In the main office where subs check in.
2: On my whiteboard with big arrows pointing to them.
3: On my demonstration table I've cleared off and cleaned.
My sub plans usually include the sub playing an art history video from my library and students completing 20 facts about what they saw or heard that is graded when I return. You can download my video notes handout HERE. Instead of keeping your absence a secret, sometimes it's good to give your students a pep talk the day before and outline your expectations. I do think that any work you leave them should be graded, if only a small grade, so they feel invested in the work. Conversely, some students will take the news you will be out as a chance to skip class. You know your students best, and I always refer students I suspect of ditching class to the office. It's rare, but does happen.
If I am at school, and feel like I might be getting sick, I set up as if I will be out, and about 50% of the time, I am. In these 2 cases I lock up all my supplies. Whenever I struggle with cold-like symptoms, I am ready with a sub plan.
If I am unexpectedly out, I have 5 days of sub plans in the main office. I have only needed to use those once when my father passed. We are fortunate at my school to have a good set of 5 permanent subs, so they have a better working knowledge of the kids and school procedures, but my sub plans are almost written like a script.
The left image below is a sample script I used while I was at the NJ Art Teachers Convention, and the right image is of a book I created with about 100 of my sub plans, knowing other teachers might find them helpful. I have MANY FREE sub plans HERE.
Parker N stresses the need for explicitly clear directions for subs. I agree and as you can see by my sample above, it's practically a script. Assume nothing when leaving plans. We breath art daily in our rooms, what is obvious to us (Like allowing nearly 10 minutes to clean up from a painting assignment) may be completely foreign to a sub.
Nicole C likes to leave a printed slide show of directions that are easy to follow, and a seating chart with the kids faces. Visual clues can be very helpful. I put post-it notes on many items so that the sub can find the volume button on my video player, or know which video to show first.
Seating charts are also important. I put plastic over each classes chart so I can write notes in a dry erase marker but still make adjustments underneath. Here is the one I am currently using, and it's easy for the sub to do attendance on it.
Cami S makes a concerted effort to connect with the sub before she leaves to be certain everything is understood. If this is possible, it's a great piece of advice. We take the time to make the plans, and sometimes the office knows who will have our class when it is a planned absence. Having a short conversation with your sub, can be a big bonus.
I hope this post will be helpful to others. Please add your own advice or experiences below. If you are interested in the Sub Plans book, remember you can get 30% off by ordering directly from Firehouse Publications.