Music Substitute Lesson Plan (4th/5th Grade) for a non-music sub

Need a music substitute lesson plan? It’s always tough to be away from your classroom, but it helps if you know that learning will continue even though you’re not there.  That can be hard to do when you don’t know if your substitute will have any background in music. 

Here’s a great solution!  This is a lesson plan for 4th & 5th grade that will work whether or not the sub has any musical experience.  They just need to read the script, play the awesome, short teaching videos, guide discussion and facilitate simple movement patterns. 

Download a PDF of this entire music substitute lesson plan – ready to go for your substitute! It will have everything from the next paragraph down. Click here – Music Substitute Lesson Plan

Links to ALL VIDEOS CAN BE FOUND AT under ‘substitute’ or you can go to the individual links:
Please double check before the first class that all links are working correctly.

This lesson should take about 35-40 min.  If you don’t finish that’s fine.  If you finish early, feel free to ask the students what some of their favorite things are that they do in music class, review what they learned today or if they really liked one of the videos you could show it again.

Lesson Plan

Read this to the students word for word:
Today we are going to talk about something that involves the feel of music. It’s what helps you tap along when you hear a great song. 
Often it’s called meter.  (Have a student write the word meter on the board.)
When you get into middle school music it’s also often called time signature. (Have a student write the words time signature on the board.) 
That’s because it tells you how the “time” of the music is divided up. 
It tells you how many beats are in a bar or measure. (Have a student write the words bar and measure on the board.)
A measure is how music is divided into small parts. Kind of like how when you write a story and you divide your story into sentences and words. 
Each measure gets a certain number of beats. (Have a student write the word beats on the board.)

We’re going to watch a 5 minute video and I want you to pay specific attention to when you hear these words that are on the board.

Play the video How to Read Music  Pause the video at 3:30 and tell them “Here comes the part about time signature.” Then continue the clip.

When the clip is over ask them these questions:
1) The beat is like a:  a) taco   b) car  c) clock  d) the clef  (Correct is C. A Clock)

2) Music is divided into small sections (that look like boxes).  These are called:
a) boxes    b) bars    c) measures  d) bars or measures (Correct is D. bars or measures)

3) Which time signature tells a performer that there are four beats in each bar/measure?      a) 2/4    b) 3/4     c) 4/4     d) 6/8  (Correct is C. 4/4 time)

Ask them “What were some other things in that video that you already knew?  I’m curious what you’ve already learned in your music class.”  Let them tell you a few things they already knew about.

Continue by saying:

With time signature, beat 1 is always the strong beat.  That’s how you can tell what time signature a song is in by listening and don’t have to look at the music.  So here are 2 different common time signatures.
(Show them the 2 papers that have
12341234 1234  and 123123123123)
(Do each card separately. Have them say the beats with you, emphasizing beat 1.)

Now, Let’s all do 4/4 time (say it “four four time”) for a minute.
For 4/4 we will stomp on beat 1, tap our thighs on beat 2, clap on beat 3, snap on beat 4.
Let’s all stand  up and try that.

Now let’s do 3/4 time (say it three four time).
For 3/4 we will stomp on beat 1 and snap on beats 2 and 3.  Let’s try that.

(Have them SIT DOWN while you explain the next part.)

OK – now for the fun (and tricky) part
I’m going to split you into 2 groups and we’ll see if we can do both at the same time. Now when I start you, what’s everyone going to do on the first beat? (stomp) Then after that we’ll be doing different things because the groups doing 3/4 will be different than the group doing 4/4.  Now if we keep doing our own patterns going, how many beats will go by before we all line up on a STOMP together?  (Put it on the board or show them the cards this way…) (There are display cards in the PDF – they will need the download to show the students!)

12341234 1234 1     So after the 12th beat we should all line up.
(Divide the class down the middle. Have group 1 make their own little circle and group 2 make their on little circle to help them not confuse each other.  Assign one group to be 3/4 and one group to be 4/4.)

Now I’m going to say 1 2 ready go.  We will all start with a stomp. 
(See if every 12 beats they come together for a stomp on the 13th beat. Once they get pretty good at it, try going a little faster. )

(Have them sit down) Very good!  Now we’re going to watch another 5 minute video.  This one shows another way to put a feeling of 3 against a feeling of 4.  You’ll see how he does it in the video.

(Show Video  A-rhythm-etic – The Math Behind the Beats  (6 minutes)
Encourage students to participate in the call & response with the musician on the video.)

All right, now we have a challenge.  In the music like what this musician just played, he is accenting on a weak beat, so even though beat 1 is naturally the strong beat, he shows how sometimes musicians, especially drummers can change accented beat to give the music different types of feels – different styles.

So you remember how he counted

(Show them the paper with this pattern on it.)
(There are display cards in the PDF – they will need the download to show the students!)

Let me hear you count that. (Count it with them slowly.)

Alright now we’re going to try to stomp on the accented number – the big number.  Let’s try that slowly.  (Do it a couple times slowly.  Then a little faster, then a little faster.)

(Have them sit down when finished.)

It’s harder than it looks, right?  🙂  That musician must have practiced a lot to get that good.

Now, speaking of people that have practiced to become really good musicians, here’s one last video that you’ll really like. 

(Show them It is 4 minutes long. This should be a great ending to class!)

(IF you have extra time, this is another 4 minute video that the students will love. Sound of Music flash mob )

Thanks so much for teaching my students.  Please let me know how each class did.  I really appreciate it and hope you enjoyed getting to experience music today!

Don’t forget to download the printable PDF lesson plan! Print it and be ready to go! Click here – Music Substitute Lesson Plan

A 1999 music education graduate of WTAMU, Tamarie Sayger held band director positions in Plano and Odessa, TX for 5 years. As a private clarinet instructor in Texas for 16 years, she has taught hundreds of students from grade 6-12 in classes, sectionals, and individual lessons. She has presented at district in-services and co-presented at the Texas Bandmasters Association convention. Her website,, provides resources for clarinet teachers around the country. Mrs. Sayger is also a core contributor for, primarily on the subjects of clarinet and private lessons. Her podcast, Crossing The Break, can be found on iTunes.

Related Reading:
Band Substitute Lesson Plan (for a non-music sub)
How to have a ‘Student Led Band Class’ when you have a Substitute
Rhythm Envelope Game (Beginning Band or General Music)
Melody Envelope Game (Guest Post on Mrs. Miracle’s Music Room)

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