Got a Sub? Get Help from a Tub!

Give music substitutes quality, familiar materials with a generic “sub tub” in every music room in your district. With the same materials in all sub tubs, music substitutes become familiar with them wherever they teach. An idea from Lake Washington School District in Washington, here’s what’s in their sub tubs:

Sub Tub Contents

General Materials

  • Building procedures
  • Seating charts
  • Specific classroom health concerns and tips
  • Emergency procedures

Music Materials

  • Music movement games
  • Songs and accompanying CDs
  • Games
  • Music theory reproducible activities

In addition, music teachers in the district assembled flip charts for ActivBoards with each element of music. Substitutes can access them with a password.

  • Rhythm activities
  • Composer lessons
  • Melody practice activities using solfège
  • Boomwhacker lessons
  • Activities on orchestra instruments

Additional materials

Teachers can add some of their tried-and-true materials to their sub tubs:

Games (can be arranged by grade level)

Beat Circle Wink
Beat Detective Music Bingo
Doggy, Doggy, Where’s Your Bone? Key Game
Museum Music Uno (with symbols, vocabulary, or instruments)
Freeze Dance Scavenger Hunt


  • Stomp, Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey
  • African Children’s Choir
  • Blue Man Group
  • Animusic 1 and 2
  • Composers’ Specials Video Series with grade-level activities (from Devine Entertainment/Hal Leonard)


  • A collection of patriotic or folk songs w/accompanying cassettes (~30 minutes) outside the class’s normal repertoire.
  • “The Star-Spangled Banner” lesson with a book on its history, proper etiquette for singing, and a recording.

Sub Tub Success

“I have had three subs this year, and all have mentioned that the sub tub was terrific! In our district, subs can be confident that they’ll be able to teach in the music classrooms even if they don’t have experience with teaching music. This makes many more substitute teachers willing to teach for us!” –- Wendy Pappas, Louisa May Alcott Elementary

“There were many substitutes in our district who wouldn’t take music teaching jobs because they felt unqualified to teach music,” says Pam Larson. With fun, readable teaching materials in every school in the district, “more teachers might sign up for music positions.” She adds, “I have found that writing lesson plans [for subs] has become less time consuming. I assign games and songs from the sub tub that are familiar to the students.”

“My substitutes have LOVED having helpful, useful resources in one place, along with everything else they need for a successful day.” –- Jan Montgomery, Audubon Elementary

“The sub tubs have given new teachers in the district some of the elementary music faculty’s favorite teaching materials,” says Lucy Kay Osborne. “Visiting teachers may choose lessons in all music concepts, including games, movement activities, music theory worksheets in rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre, form, and dynamics.”

Sub Tub creators preparing for substitutes

These ideas came from an article in the Washington MEA magazine Voice, “Plans for Elementary Substitutes,” compiled by Jo Caldwell, editor. The sub tub idea came from three Lake Washington School District elementary general music teachers:

  • Pam Larson of John Muir Elementary and Elementary Music Coordinator, Kirkland, Washington
  • Lucy Kay Osborne of Carl Sandburg Elementary and Discovery Community School, Kirkland, Washington
  • Katie Sikkora of Robert Frost Elementary, Kirkland, Washington

Linda C. Brown, February 11, 2009, © National Association for Music Education (