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Assessment. This is one of the favorite words in education these days. Principals love assessment, district chairs love assessment…. Do teachers love assessment? Not really. Do kids? No.
But you can change that. At least you can change that in the elementary music room.
Most of us see our kids about once a week. My schedule is different this year, so I see one class for 45 minutes a day for a week, and then I do not see them for another five weeks.
Do I want to give up one of those days to stop everything and have kids do a test? No.
And a lot of our skills cannot be assessed from a paper. You cannot use your singing voice by writing on a paper.
So how do we do assessment in the music room without giving up all of our precious time? Here are a few ideas. You may already be doing some—or all—and that is great. You can add your ideas to the comments below. But if you are stumped by assessment in the music room, here are some ideas.
Now, if you follow me on Instagram, you will see that I did give my students a drop-everything-and-take-a-test this year. I did this for a pretest with grades 2-5. And it did take almost the whole class period.
But I will say that it was worth it, because I found out soooo much about my students. The top half was a pretest and the bottom half was an interest survey. I found out what students enjoyed and didn’t enjoy (one of them said “Something I don’t like about music is not chewing gum.”).
It was also interesting, because I thought my students would freak out and be really miserable filling out this paper in music, but they did ok. And some of my worst classes actually behaved better, which I found interesting. If I continue to have issues with the one in particular, I may switch to a totally different teaching format for them.
Anyway. I would not do that for every single unit. I did one at the beginning, and I will do one at the end. Now, for what you came here for…
Also read: Routines You Need in the Music Room
Assessment while doing an activity
This is probably the most common and easiest thing to do. You teach an activity and while they are doing it, you just check off who is doing is correctly. I suggest having a seating chart (seriously– you should have a seating chart!) with boxes on it so that you can mark students off.
I don’t do anything fancy when it comes to this. In my room, students either get a check (they are doing it right), a line (almost there), or an x (don’t have it right).
I do this almost every day. Sometimes I walk around during a game and check off who is matching pitch. If we are writing rhythms on white boards, I check off who has the correct amount of beats. We will play a game like Kaboom! and I will check off who is doing the rhythms correctly. If we are doing a form activity like this one, I’ll check off who is switching actions at the appropriate time. If we are keeping the steady beat, then I will check off who is doing that. If we are playing instruments, I will check off who is playing them correctly.
Even if you are not writing this down, you are probably doing it in your head. So just put it down on paper.
The more intentional you are about it, the more things you will find that you can use for this.
And the kids don’t even know they are being assessed.
Assessment during centers
This is also very helpful. If you have read this post about centers, then you know I usually have one group that is with me. And this is the perfect time for assessment. A lot of times I will do things that are very similar to what I would do whole group, but with only a few students it is easier to assess them all.
And if you are wondering, I do differentiate my centers. If you are interested in hearing more about that, let me know in the comments!
I also like to pull out things like writing rhythms on white boards or putting bingo chips on letters on the staff during this time. Those are easy things to assess that go over pretty well.
If you don’t anchor yourself at one center, you could just walk around and listen to students and check them off.
I like to have my station where students get a grade and also include some sort of written assignment where they get a grade. This could be writing a rhythm, writing lyrics, drawing a picture about a song we learned, etc.
Also read: Setting up Centers: The first Day
Assessment through exit tickets
I will be honest, this is something I am not good at.
Exit tickets are traditionally quick things students write and hand to you at the end of class. People do this very well, and it is a good way to get quick information about if your students are understanding a particular concept.
The reason I do not do well with these is because my students sit on the floor. In order to write anything, we have to pass out paper, pencils, and clipboards. By the time that is passed out or collected, we have now spend 20 minutes on it, and it is no longer an exit ticket. This is a bit too much when we are also trying to line up (and with some classes, that itself is a struggle).
I am experimenting with some exit ticket designs that do not require a lot of stuff. Here is my first attempt, which you can get on TPT.
And if you know of something, please let me know in the comments.
This is something I have not explored very well either. I have, on occasion, filmed a whole class working on a dance or instruments or something like that and then gone back later to watch it and assess students. This can be done while students are already doing their stuff and it doesn’t take extra class time.
I have heard of people having students use the SeeSaw app on iPads to have students record themselves. I plan to try this once my iPads are up and running!
Also read: DIY Music Manipulative: Battleship
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How do you do assessment in the music room? Do you have drop-everything-and-test days? Do you do it sneakily? Let us know in the comments!