Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sub Plans

Recently there was a question posted regarding how I handle sub plans.  To be honest, if I know I can catch up during the next rotation and I'm not sure who will be coming into my room to sub, I leave a video.  Although I don't like to do this, it is sometimes the best option not knowing a subs musical background.  

I am known for leaving ridiculously detailed sub plans.  I want to make sure that I am very specific because I know that going into a music room without a musical background can be intimidating, so I try to give as much information about activities as I can.  Two years ago, I was out on an extended leave because I was getting married.  I had to come up with lessons for 6 grade levels and make it sub friendly.  It can be a taxing job but I did it and since then some of the ideas I included in those lessons are some of my go to's.  I really should create a sub tub but I haven't had a minute yet!

A few of my go to activities are:

1.  The Sound House
This was one of my earliest posts and it is something I do year to year with my students.  It can be done without a house.  You could have a student sit behind the piano or another object in your classroom and play an instrument.  This is something that subs have done with my students before and have been successful with.  Plus, if they give each child a turn in the sound house it can take up time.  Subs come to the music room with a different perspective and sometimes can better explain the sound of an instrument better than I can.  Sometimes I think well it's a triangle it has a triangle sound!  Which, is definitely no help to little ears and at times some of the ideas my subs have shared with the kids have been great explanations.  This is one of the only instrument activities I will leave and for a sub I'm familiar with.

2.  Beat Leader
I'm sure you have done this with your little ones before.  Play a piece of music with a strong steady beat.  Teacher keeps the beat on their body, students keep beat in same place.  Change where you keep the beat every 8 to 16 beats.

3.  Drum Game
Teacher plays the steady beat on the drum.  Students move feet to the beat, freeze when drum stops.

4.  Sing-a-Longs
You can find sing-a-long cd/videos that have a variety of children's songs but occasionally I make my own.  I have a little microphone that plugs into my ipod.  I record the process that I would use to teach the song, so that students can echo.  The sub just has to hit play.  Once learned, they can sing it along with a storybook.

5.  Rhythm Caterpillar
This only works if you have already done this with students before hand.  I originally found this idea on Mrs. King's Music Blog.  Check it out: Mrs. King's Music Class.  I have created different sets for each grade level.  2nd grades have half notes, 3rd grades have sixteenths, etc.

6.  Story Books
Have a sub read a book that you will be using soon for an activity.  They could also read a book about a composer and then students could divide up into centers to experience more about that composer.

7.  Name that Note
This game can be played with a sub in a variety of formats.

8.  Compositions
Using the rhythm building blocks, students could compose rhythm patterns.  I would assign each rhythm a word so that the sub can easily play the game.  You could add an extension for older kids where they need to create a melody for recorder.  Once they have their rhythm, they assign each note a pitch.  They could even transfer the rhythm to the 5 lined staff.

9.  Worksheets
I created these for a recent absence.  Due to budget constraints, our copies are being limited this year.  I wanted to use these worksheets but didn't want to waste my copies.  So, Pinterest to the rescue.  I put them inside of sheet protectors and students were to use dry erase markers to complete the sheet.

I made these so that I would have an easy way to practice notation on the staff.  The front is a treble clef staff and the back a 3 lined staff for my little ones.  You could use poker chips or bingo chips to notate if you didn't have enough dry erase markers for a full class.

I found this worksheet on The Plucky Pianista.  We have not learned bass clef, so I crossed that part out so that my 5th graders could focus on the treble clef.

For my 4th graders, tracing treble clefs and practicing line and space notes.  Now line and space notes is not a new concept but reading the line and space notes from bottom to top is always a challenge when it comes to recorder and this worksheet addresses that.  I found these two at  There are tons of worksheets on this site.

Some things that I would avoid.....

1.  NO Instruments
I always indicate that students should NOT touch instruments in my absence.  I had one sub who decided to use instruments anyways and it resulted in a couple of mallets being broken.  Now, I know that I have taught my children the right way to handle instruments but there are always a few students who, given the opportunity, will beat the living daylights out of an instrument.  I'm sure you can picture those boogers in your mind!  :)

2.  New Concepts
I would not allow a sub to introduce a new concept.  They are not familiar with your curriculum and often times music concepts at all.  Enough said?  :)


  1. Hi Emily, I posted a treble-only Musical Spelling Bee just for your class! Thanks for linking to my blog. Have a fabulous day!

    1. Yippee! Thank you so much for doing that. I will definitely print off a few sets to use in my room. :)

  2. Great ideas for subs. I also never know who will be my sub or their music background. Now that I am on a cart and in the cafeteria I need to revise some of my sub material for next year. My principal told me last month while I was out with bronchitis and emailing in plans that I could not leave sub videos - they were all music related and enforced things we were studying- so I especially need to add to my sub tub.

    1. It's frustrating when principals are opposed to videos. While not ideal, they are not all bad. Part of what we do is expose students to different types of music and videos can do that in our absence. I would suggest having a conversation with your principal and explain the benefits of videos and the logic behind having a sub show them. Unless I have one of my trusted subs, I am fearful of having a sub do anything other than a video. In the past, subs have felt the need to add elements to the lessons I have left them. The results are broken instruments (nothing major) and misinformation. One sub even taught students that the word harmony meant that you all sang the same thing together! I hate to make it sound like I'm ragging on subs, I'm not. My Father happens to be a sub and I know many who are very good, it's those who aren't so good that I worry about.

  3. I hope you don't mind. I put up a link to this post over on my new sub lesson blog for music teachers. Jan


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