No matter whether you suddenly get sick, your child is sick, or you are in an accident, having substitute plans in a pinch is crucial, especially for a sub who is not a musician. Having simple plans that anyone can do is important. 


One of my favorite sub activities is to have a pile of music-related books. Kids of all ages enjoy listening to stories and it ensures positive behavior. I have always had shelves of music-related books in my classroom, so it would be easy, even if I can’t come in an emergency for someone to grab some to read. 

Check out Melissa Stouffer’s Ultimate Music Ed Book List. 


If you regularly do singing games in your classes, talk to the students ahead about games they could teach a sub to do. Designate several students as teachers for when a sub comes. Be sure to leave any special considerations for the sub for behavior management during a game. 

My older students loved playing “Ye Toop Deram” which is a game from Afghanistan. They sit in a circle and pass the ball on the beat as the first part of the song. When it ends, whoever has the ball is in the middle. The student then throws the ball to tag the student. My rules are they have to all be on their pockets (they can’t throw it as hard), and it has to be below the waist. Many people play it, especially with younger students by rolling it. Check out this video of “Ye Toop Doram”


I spent an entire year doing musical moments as students entered my classroom and began class. The students enjoyed learning about composers and listening to beautiful music and it was a way to help them to enter quietly. A sub could give each student paper and crayons or even just a pencil so they could draw as they listen. The “Carnival of the Animals” music is particularly beautiful for listening to while Drawing. Here is a free sample of my Musical Moments activities. A sub could even just look up some music on google from their phone if you give them a few names of pieces. 

I hope this gives you a few ideas to make your absences less stressful. If you have more ideas for nonmusical sub plans, put them in the comments below. 

Linda Seamons

Linda has over 30 years’ experience teaching early childhood and elementary music, as well as Jr high and high school band. She is also a teacher-author and blogger for Floating Down the River. She is fully certified in Kodály concept and also has enjoyed Orff and World Drumming certification.