Sub Plans


Today is my last day of maternity leave. I feel conflicted—excited to see my students again and teach, but sad to leave my baby girl. My students have been very fortunate to have a wonderful substitute teacher during my maternity leave. She is Orff-trained and has taught really creative lessons with the students, while also following my written lessons and year plans. She will be subbing for me again in the next couple of weeks, and I know I can leave my normal lesson plans for her and it will go very well.

That, of course, is not always the case. We do not always have musically trained teachers subbing for us, and it can be very difficult to write something that both meets musical goals and can be followed by a substitute. I have found sub plans to be a very frustrating part of my job—as organized as I am with writing my typical plans, I have felt very disorganized with sub plans. I find myself spending hours each time I have an absence, trying to come up with something that will work.

Recently, on pinterest, I found this idea of a “sub tub”:  I also found this blog about writing music sub plans: Both offered great ideas about putting together sub plans, so I decided it was finally time to get myself organized with sub plans!

In years past, I’ve created sub plans for the entire day, which included several different lessons by grade level. I decided when organizing my sub plans that it would be much better to save the sub plan to my computer by grade level, so they are easier to find and organize. I found all of my old sub plans, and re-organized them by grade level. Now, when creating my sub tub, I will have a plastic tub with file folders containing the following:


  • Procedures, rules, and schedule: This will include standard classroom procedures, music rules, consequences, duty and drill procedures, instructions on using the SMART board and I-pod, and my weekly music schedule.
  • Grade level sub plans: I will have file folders labeled by grade level, and each folder will contain at least three different sub plans appropriate for that grade level.
  • Materials: I will put materials in the sub tub such as props, books, and DVD’s needed for the lesson. If I often use one of the needed materials, I will indicate in the written lesson where to find that material.
  • Checklist: I have created checklists for each grade level, with the class names listed in horizontal rows and the lesson plans listed in vertical rows. Each time a sub plan is used, I can check off which lesson and which class. This way I can easily keep track of which lessons I can still use.


Now, when I have an absence coming up, I can look through my sub tub and easily compile sub plans. I’ve saved all of these lessons to my home computer, so if one of my daughters gets sick in the wee hours of the morning, I can simply go to my computer, figure out which lessons to use, and write the sub directions, referring her/him to the appropriate lessons within the sub tub.

Below I am including two sample sub plans that you could easily use. For the 4th grade lesson, if you do not have a SMART board, you could use a LCD projector hooked up to your computer, or with the proper connection, project the website onto a TV.

4th Grade Young Person’s Guide

1st, 2nd, and 3rd Grade Jazz Fly

Any other ideas for sub plans? Please comment below. Happy lesson planning!

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