5 Quick Christmas Cover Ideas With Very Little Effort

It's that time of year when we are not only expected to teach great lessons, keep up with meeting, duties and the gazillion emails every day, but also arrange a plethora of excellent musical experiences in order to impress upon anyone who happens to be passing by that we are an excellent and over achieving school.  

Sorry, that came out slightly sarcastic.......what I mean is, we all know that at this time of year there is a lot of extra responsibility to present the music department in a glowing light and provide a beautiful musical backdrop to school events, as well as showcasing our excellent students. 

Anyway, whilst that might be very enjoyable, we are left with the dilemma of what to do with our classes in our absence.

Thinking about January already?  Not sure what to teach?  Have a look at this list of 100 Curriculum Ideas for some inspiration and receive a new resource every week in your inbox!

Hmmm, it's a tricky one isn't it?  We may not see them that often, so we don't want to waste a lesson with some trivial worksheets that won't be completed.  But equally, we don't want to risk our classrooms being, quite frankly, wrecked in our absence by KS3 students doing practical work without our watchful eye. 

So here are some solutions for you which involve very little preparation, can be delivered by a non-music teacher and won't leave your room looking like a hurricane has passed through. 


1. Re-Write A Classic

Starter: Leave the Youtube links to play 2-3 well known songs.  You could even start with some karaoke versions.

Main task: Print out the lyrics to some well-known Christmas songs.  Give out to students and ask them to re-write the song about a certain topic.  This could be anything from your school to snowmen to shopping for gifts.  Ask them to consider metre and syllabic stresses.  You could even demand a specific rhyming pattern.

Main task 2: Ask students to swap and get another group to sing it.  Give feedback and work on improvements

Plenary: Performances of songs to karaoke backing track


2. Create A 12 Bar Blues Christmas Piece

Note: this will probably only work well with classes who have studied chord sequences, or more specifically, the 12 bar blues.

Starter:  Listen to a 12 bar blues track such as Wipeout to recap the sound of the sequence.

Main task: Give students the 12 bar blues grid and a lyric framework.  Ask them to write a 12 bar blues song about a certain topic, or just leave it as a general 'Christmas' choice.  Students must play the chord sequence (guitars, ukes, keyboards) and perform the song lyrics in AAB form over it.  You could update by adding a rap.

Main task 2: Students perform to another group for feedback and work on improvements

Plenary: Performances to the class

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3. Watch A Documentary

There are many excellent documentaries on Youtube or DVD about history, theory and genres of music.  Depending on your school policy and personal preference you could:

  • just allow the students to watch it  
  • ask students to make notes about its main points
  • answer questions on a worksheet (could find one on TES or create one yourself but this is increasing your workload again so be careful!!)
  • create notes to join in a class debate afterwards

4. Research The Origins Of The Christmas Carol

If you have access to a computer room or tablets, a research lesson is always a winner.  Make sure students actually complete some work by asking them to prepare a presentation which will be given in your next lesson.  This then helps you because you have planned two lessons simultaneously.  The presentation could be given alongside a performance they have been working on. 

Topics that could be researched:

  • Origins of the Christmas Carol
  • Context and themes of a particular song or carol
  • Essay: 'Why is music so important at Christmas?'
  • The life of a composer whose piece they are learning

5. Plan A Christmas Fund-Raising Concert

This fits well with courses such as the BTEC First, where modules such as 'Planning an Event' can still be run.  

In pairs or groups students can plan their own ideal Christmas concert.  This could involve considering:

  • Venue
  • Budget
  • Artists & Programme
  • Marketing
  • Logistics
  • Health & Safety

Access to the internet can be useful here as students may need to research some aspects such as H&S, and search for the artists for particular songs.  As well as being fun in 'fantasy concert' kind of way, this also brings awareness of the wide aspects involved in event planning.


You could leave these ideas in as much or as little detail as possible and the students would still be able to make progress, increasing their skills or knowledge in some way.  It may not be as impactful as your presence in the classroom but these will engage students, make life easy for your cover teacher and leave your classroom relatively unscathed.  



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