top of page
  • Writer's pictureJenny Ferris

What to put in your Sub Tub and why you need one

We've all been there - your alarm goes off in the morning and despite going to bed in tip-top shape, suddenly you feel like death. It's the dreaded lurgy and there's no way you're making it into work today. You blindly grope around for your phone to call in sick, but then you realise... once you've made the call you will have to somehow find the superhuman strength to haul yourself out of bed, stagger to your laptop, pull up your timetable and lesson plans for the day, realise that none of them are feasible to leave for a substitute teacher (who knows who you'll get!) and that you will have to spend the next 40 minutes of sick time re-writing the day's lessons. 


Wouldn't it be so much easier to send a one-line email saying "it's all in the Sub Tub" ?

In case you haven't come across this concept before, a Sub Tub is a tub of information, activities and pre-made lessons ready for a substitute teacher to use in the event of your absence. 

It can take a bit of work to set up in advance but is well worth the time saved when all you want to do is roll over and sleep off your flu. When setting one up, you should put yourself in the shoes of a substitute and try to imagine the kind of information you would find useful. It's also worth making sure that these lessons and activities don't require any musical knowledge as it can be rare to find a substitute teacher who is a music specialist. 

You will want to include some administrative info about the running of your school including your timetable, bell times, emergency procedures, who to contact in case of...  etc. I include a list of my routines and procedures (for example, I have a rewards chart where the class earns a star at the end of the lesson if they have worked productively etc. so I ask my subs to leave notes about which classes earned a star that day).

You may also want to include health info such as a list of anaphylactic students etc. (though depending on your school, they may already have that info displayed in the class or as a general info pack given to the sub when they arrive). 

Then, it's on to the good stuff! Here is a list of activities and lesson plans I include in my sub tub - all of which have a description of the activity, all materials required and a CD recording of any songs the students will need to know. 

Sub Tub Activities

Check out this great blog post from Aileen Miracle on the topic: 

Mrs Miracle's blog

I have a few freebies up on my Teachers Pay Teachers site and some that you will have received if you have subscribed to the mailing list (if you haven't yet, it's not too late!)

Freeze Dance pics

Musical statues is a fan favourite and is a great extra to leave for your fill-in teachers in addition to any major tasks, ideal for those times when the kids are restless, unfocused or starting to wriggle. This works as a great little brain break and if you use some sketches of different poses you can turn this from a simple game into a guided movement activity!

Eyes of Blue

This is a great little song about different facial features and has a clear rhyming structure - meaning that even non-music specialists will feel comfortable talking about the form of the piece. Leave a recording of yourself singing the original for the kids to learn and then have them come up with new lyrics that follow the same rhyming structure. 

This can be a worthwhile and engaging composition lesson with discussions about form, but it doesn't require too much in-depth musical knowledge to scare off non-music substitute teachers!

I Have A Car

This is another composition task which can be left for students. There are many versions of this song available, but here is a video of someone teaching the song: 

(My subscriber's pack contains slightly different lyrics, but the same melody)

Students can easily spend a whole lesson performing the song, subtracting a sound effect each time (inner hearing development, anyone?) and then composing a set of sound effects of their own to share with the class. 

Instrumental Bingo

Create a set of bingo grids (or sign up to my mailing list for a free copy!) with different instruments in each square. Create a playlist or mixtape with various pieces of music which feature a particular instrument, then have kids mark off which instruments they've heard. Keep going until someone gets 3 instruments in a row, or until they have the whole grid - depending on how much time you have.

Rhythm Trainer

This is a great website for older students who are familiar with a variety of rhythms and have experience with rhythmic dictation. You can either have the teacher direct it from the IWB or, if your school has an iPad program/Bring Your Own Device arrangement, then kids can complete the activity independently. Check it out at

Listen & Roll 

This excellent freebie from Cori Bloom is a keeper. There are three different levels of question sheets (suitable for lower, middle and upper primary) for students to complete while listening to a piece of art music. Leave a CD with these sheets and tell the teacher to play a track and roll the dice. Whichever number it lands on is the question the students should answer. 

Listen & Roll freebie

This is fantastic because the chance element means you can set this task several times over and the students will be answering different questions about the repertoire each time. 

Beat Books 

Leave a list of picture books in your room which have strong speech rhythms and are easy to tap a beat along with. Ideal for young children who are practising steady beat, this gives them a chance to practice without the substitute teacher needing to perform music they're not familiar or comfortable with.

Drama Games

Create a document which lists a variety of drama games - think Whose Line Is It Anyway for inspiration - or you can grab a free download from my Teachers Pay Teachers store 

Staff Wars app

If you have a number of iPads in your class, or if your school has a student iPad program, then you can have this app installed on those iPads in case you are absent and set students some practice time to work on their stave note-reading abilities. 

Staff Wars App

You can choose which clef you'd like to read in and the levels become increasingly difficult as you progress. This is an excellent activity to leave for band programs, instrumental classes etc. 

What do you think? Do you have a favourite Sub Tub stuffer? Drop me a line and let me know!

1,354 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page