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Sectionals With A Sub

How and Why I Essentially Let My Students Run Their Own Class When I'm Not There

With four field trips, and two conferences this semester, I've been out of the classroom a lot lately. But just because I'm not there doesn't mean that my classes come to a screeching halt. Please enjoy this picture from ACDA in Kansas City:


And this one....


I've been letting my classes run their own sectionals while I'm out. Sectionals can be great when used effectively. Here's what I notice when I allow some time for sectionals:

  • Critical thinking ( because they have to work things out themselves)

  • Team work/Problem solving

  • Solidification of individual parts

I’ve found that the key to this going smoothly is all about prepping your classes properly by providing clear expectations, and structuring the class as much as possible BEFORE you plan on being absent.

Could I leave worksheet packets? Sure.

Have I done that before....absolutely. But, I think this is a more productive use of time, and to be honest:

Worksheets aren't my fav.

Prior To Being Out

Structure the entire period


This was on the board before I even left so students know how they were to use their time while I was gone.

Make Practice Tracks

I make practice tracks that I upload to Google Classroom for my students to access and use during sectionals if they need to hear something, or to practice with at home. Section leaders are in charge of starting the tracks (if they choose to use them).

Let Students Elect Their Own Section Leaders


I’ve held sectionals plenty of times before without appointed leaders, but have discovered that if I let students pick who they want to lead their section, everything runs more efficiently. There’s no guessing game about who listens to who. To elect section leaders, I first told students that they needed to try and pick someone they trusted and were comfortable taking directions from. This person also needed to be someone who could keep them on-task. Section leaders were voted on for each song...meaning that the Sopranos would have one person for one song, but might have a completely different leader for another. I’m also not stuck to the idea that these people will act as section leaders until the end of time. I like the idea of allowing different students the opportunity to try leading their group.


Students let me know if they were interested in leading sectionals by raising their hands. I wrote their names on the board. Then, we conducted a “blind” vote….a.k.a, they closed their eyes and put their heads in their laps so that way I was the only one who could see what they voted.


I made a big list of section leaders on the board, and left it up while I was gone so each class could refer to it as needed.

Give 'Em Some Practice Strategies


While it's definitely beneficial to drill the song by singing it over and over, I want my students to get into more detail. The first time I was absent, I suggested they try the 4-step strategy I wrote on my board. Several of my older students even went above and beyond and addressed issues by solfeging certain sections, speaking the text, or singing on a neutral syllable.

When I went to Kansas City for ACDA, I uploaded checklists for our CPA pieces we had made the day before , and suggested they try to address the specific items on each checklist.

Plan A Practice Round

Usually the day before I'm scheduled to be out, I take the entire period (or at least part of it) to review what each class is expected to do while the sub is with them. With sectionals, I actually allow them to have sectionals while I’m still there. I go around and monitor, and let them ask me any questions and work out the kinks while I’m still in the room (like riding a bike with training wheels).

The Day Of

Everyone Gets A Copy Of The Sub Plans

This might be extra of me, but I’ve actually started sending my students a copy of my sub plans on Classroom. I expect them to essentially run the class, and the sub to monitor that they stay on task. I’ve been tweaking my notes to the sub lately, because I really want them to understand that:


  • Each group will be practicing out loud at the same time

  • I’m ok if they video with other groups singing in the background

  • The kids are probably going to talk while they’re working...and that’s ok.

Video Assignments

 Each section had to make a video of each song at the end of the 15 minute period to show me what they worked on during that time. Section leaders were responsible for videoing, and submitting to Classroom for me to see. I told them that I didn’t expect anything to be perfect in their videos, just that I wanted to see what they’d been doing.

Accountability Survey

I uploaded a Google Form survey to Classroom for students to share with me what they worked on, how they thought their sectional went, and if everyone in their group did what they were supposed to do. Click here to see a copy of the form my students filled out.

After working in sections, a lot of my students said that having that time really helped them clean notes and rhythms in their adjudication music. Plus, it's way more fun that boring old worksheets!

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