Stuff You Can Do For A Sub

Substitute.. Most arts teachers cringe at the word just knowing whatever plans we create are most likely going to be thrown out the window by a non music trained sub who turns on the nearest video or presses play on the CD player opting for the zoo like dance party. So how can you prepare so this does not happen? Unless you know you are going to get an actual music trained sub it is hard to leave full lessons behind. You have to come up with activities that anyone walking off the street can do… Unless they have their own agenda..did you know that one time I had a sub come in and did her own lesson on Shakira?? I don’t know why either..

Here are some things I’ve done in the past for subs:


Projects– If I knew when I was going to be out a few weeks before hand, I would create some project that reflected as an assessment or review to what we were learning and would explain everything to the kids the week before. So as soon as they walked into class with the sub the next week they knew exactly what to do. I had them writing songs or poems for lyrics, maybe coming up with a play about a composer, or even write graphic organizers around  a topic you have been discussing to visually map out their new facts and thoughts.

Video instruction– Leave the teaching out of the equation for the sub and you do it! Film a mini lecture or the instructions you want to give the students and have the sub just play the video and facilitate the activity. Make it fun and pretend to be in an exotic location and make part of their activity to guess where you are and the links to the music they are studying.

Movement breaks– I had a huge list of dance videos and left my computer logged in. All the sub had to do was get online and click the YouTube Dance List in my BookMarks Bar to access everything. Link to the Playlist There are so many videos in here it could keep the average student occupied for HOURS.
Madlibs– You can take pre-existing mad libs or ones you create yourself and have students put in music vocal words they have been learning.

Movies– Another great assessment tool, could be about composers or styles, maybe you want them to write and perform a song for you. You would need a handful of mobile devices such as iPads or iPod touch for this to work but if you have a 1:1 school or a small cart you can rent out from the school media center it would work great. Go a step further and have the kids email the videos to you while you are out so you can keep tabs on their work!


I know movies are simple to leave and to have kids watch, make sure to leave something for them to do while they are watching such as a worksheets or graphic organizers.

Writing– Simple and straightforward, have them write a play using song lyrics only, or maybe an opinion piece on a certain period in classical music. You could also have them write song lyrics or reflection papers on the unit they have been working on.

What do you leave for substitutes while you are out?

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