In the past I have felt uncertain about how to assess my students that helped them and helped me. I had done singing assessments and written assessments at the beginning of my career that just did not fit with the kind of teaching I was doing. I was having to stop the learning to do the assessing, rather than continue the learning throughout the process. It but a damper on my teaching, and it caused anxiety and stress in my students when they would have to perform on the spot.
I have done a lot of soul searching, planning, and asking around to find different methods of assessing my kids that works for me. These are some of my favorite ideas that I use in my classroom.
I love playing games to assess my students. They don’t realize I am assessing them as much, if they are just having fun playing the game. One of my go to games is the “move around and perform”. I use this for multiple songs. I print and laminate different rhythm sentences that go with the song theme ( see my Pumpkin Patch post for more detail). Students then move around the room while singing the song, stop at a rhythm sentence and perform the sentence. After a few times I might have just some students perform the rhythms and I can assess their performance. This process could work for any number of songs and the students remember the format each time which helps with teaching.
Another rhythm performance assessment I use is when I am having students write their own rhythms. This then gives me 2 different “grades”. One grade for writing the rhythm, one for performing the rhythm. I use a lot of manipulatives in my classroom, especially for rhythm writing. Students can create their own rhythm sentences as B sections to a simple song. Then they perform those creations in Rondo format with the song. This allows me to do a quick assessment of their performance. We could also do this with the students actually writing their own sentences and performing those as well. You can also have the students perform their rhythms on instruments if desired. Lots of choices for what works in your classroom.
Instruments & iPads
I am lucky enough to have both my own iPad and access to school iPads. I use both my own iPad and school ones for recording grades and recording performances. I utilize Google Docs when recording individual grades. I have a spreadsheet for each class and just type in the grade for the student. This helps to not have to carry around a paper gradebook and then transfer those grades into the computer.
My favorite way to use iPad in my classroom is for performance recording. I will set up my instruments and have 1 student be the “recorder”. When the students rotate through the different parts, the recorder has their own station. They end up recording just one instrument during the song, which then I can go back later a view. This is what it ends up looking like:
I have found that singing assessments are the biggest obstacle I still face when it grading my students. I hate to just have 1-2 students singing at a time. This not only puts them on the spot, but it stops my teaching. After talking with other teachers in the Cincinnati area, I have started assessing my students singing in other ways.
When doing singing games, or play parties, I try and play with the students myself. This allows me to hear what the students are doing while they are singing. Especially when doing play parties that change partners, I can assess numerous students within the game. When I do this I utilize my grading lanyards.
A couple years ago my student teacher and I brainstormed these assessment lanyards. We made 4 lanyards, one for each grade level. Each class has their own laminated sheet. I made a simple excel spreadsheet list of the students in the class, plus 3 colunms of blank boxes. We use these for on demand assessing. This way we can just mark on the class list the grade and then transfer it later to the gradebook/computer. We use expo markers to mark the laminated sheets, so that they can be wiped off and used again. We also use symbols to show the different grades rather than letters or numbers because they are easier to do with the expo markers.
These are lots of different ways to assess your students in your classroom. These are just some of my ideas that you can use and even improve upon if desired. Assessment doesn’t have to be scary for you or for the kids. Just keep in mind creative ways you can get the results you desire.