Five easy (and free!) sub plans for the music classroom

5 easy (and free!) sub plans for the music room: Includes great ideas for sub plans, as well as a way to download the sub plans as an editable Word document!

We've all heard the adage, “It's easier to come to school sick than to write sub plans.” Many of you, like me, have spent hours upon hours working just on one day of sub plans, so it IS often easier to come to school sick than worry about it.

A few years ago, though, I finally got my sub tub in order (read more about my sub tub here), and figuring out sub plans began taking 10 minutes instead of 2 hours! Since then, I've become passionate about figuring out ideas that would have students making music, have subs feel comfortable teaching, and allow me to not spend tons of time preparing!

Here are some ideas for quick and easy sub plans to leave for your sub. Make sure to scroll to the end of the post, to sign up for my email list and receive editable Word documents to edit and adapt the sub plans for your own music lessons (as well as a bonus file)!

#1: The Rhythm Trainer

This website is a wonderful way to practice dictation and audiation skills! On the first page, you'll see this:

You could have your sub choose A if students will dictate rhythm patterns (onto the SMART board, or on a computer projected onto a LCD projector) or B if students will choose from multiple choice patterns. Then, students or the sub can choose a tempo. Lastly, you can leave notes for your sub with which rhythms to choose from, which can be adapted depending on the grade level! So if your first graders only know ta and ti-ti, or quarter and eighth notes, then you can have the sub only choose the first two rhythms, like shown above.

Then, students can either listen to the one pattern (if choosing option A) or listen to four patterns (if choosing option B), and students come up to the computer or SMART board to dictate or choose the correct pattern. Several students can come up and choose…and even better, your sub doesn't have to be musical in order to have students play this game!

#2: Rhythm Reading Video

I created this video as a quick and easy way to practice quarter rest, and it's perfect for a sub plan! Students get non-pitched instruments (such as wood blocks, hand drums, rhythm sticks, etc.) The first time through the pattern, they simply say the pattern, using whichever rhythm syllables they know (i.e. ta and ti-ti, ta and ta-di, etc.) The second time through the pattern, they play the pattern on their instruments. You could even have them watch the video more than once, and switch instruments each time (or have them play the patterns all on the same note on recorder, or have them improvise a melody in C pentatonic on Orff instruments!)
Here is the video:

If you want more helpful videos for music teachers, make sure to check out my channel here.

#3: Roll and Listen

This is one of my favorite freebies on TeachersPayTeachers, by Cori Bloom from Rhythm and Bloom. The idea is simple but brilliant: students roll a die, listen to a snippet of a piece of music, then  discuss either with the whole class or in small groups the answer to the prompt. This is a great way to discuss tempo, dynamics, instruments, and more, and can be used with ANY piece of music, which is great!
I use foam dice from Amazon, but you could also use big dice from a store like Five Below (like in this post), or a die on the SMART board, if you have SMART notebook.
Click the picture above to download the file on TpT.

#4: Students' Choice

Having students choose what they'd like to do is a great time filler, especially if you're not sure the sub plan you're leaving will be long enough. For example, if you were doing “Rhythm trainer” listed above, and expect that it will only take 20 minutes, and you have 30 minute classes, you could leave a note to the sub that students can tell him/her their favorite singing games, he/she can make a list on the board, and then the class can vote on their favorite to play. There are several singing games my students know really well because we play them so often, so they can play it without really any help from the sub (who may or may not be musical!)

#5: Keep the Beat

In Kindergarten, first, and second grade, once students know steady beat, you could leave a book for a sub that inherently has a steady beat, and have students keep a steady beat on their laps as the sub reads. If you're nervous that a sub may not be able to read to a steady beat, you could record a short snippet of you reading as you keep a steady beat on a drum, so the sub can hear what you mean. Here are some of my favorite picture books for steady beat (click each to be taken to that listing on Amazon; these are affiliate links, but you may be able to find them in your school library!):

Looking for more sub plans? Check out these:

Receive the sub plans as editable documents (as well as a bonus file) by signing up here:

What are your favorite sub plans for the music classroom? Feel free to comment below, and happy teaching and planning!

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Hi, I'm Aileen

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