Assessment in elementary music classes takes many forms. But it is important to integrate assessments into class activities naturally. Assessments should be authentic, reliable & valid, and quick & easy to administer. They should also be FUN! “Take it Home” pages make great assessments.
Some music teachers shy away from any written work at all. After all, music classes are not usually set up with desks, tables & chairs. Sometimes, just the process of getting pencils & paper out seems to take too long. The Take it Home pages included in the music reading activity lessons in this post are a short, but effective way to help children build music literacy levels. If you are considering giving it a try, a detailed outline of the process I use is as follows.
1. Distribute Supplies & Move to Expanded Seating Arrangement
Keep students actively engaged in music. While we pick up pencils & paper, we sing our “Write Your Name” song. (Later in the year, we learn to sing it in German too.) Or, we choose another song that students know well. As we sing, students re-seat themselves in our expanded seating position which simply makes more room between the rows. In my music classes, students sit on the floor and this expanded position gives them more room to lay down and get comfortable to write.
2. Read the Rhythm
Together as a group, students “point & read” the rhythm of the song. It is critical that each and every student point to each note on their paper as they read. This is an integral part of developing one-to-one correspondence from symbol to sound. It is also how I assess students.
I can easily scan the room and see who is reading accurately and who is lost. If someone has trouble the first time, without singling anyone out, I often say something like this, “Ought O. Someone got lost. Let’s give them another chance.” Then, we point & read the rhythm one more time as a group.
3. Label the Pitches
On the other side of the paper, students label the solfege pitch names using S for So, M for Mi, etc. This is the only writing in this entire activity except for writing their names on their paper. The writing portion of the lesson truly is minimal but it is critical. It lets me know who has learned to read the music and who needs additional practice.
4. Check Their Own Work
Next, students check themselves and practice by silently signing and singing their answers. Don’t skip this step. Most of the time students will catch their own mistakes. This step also teaches students to “hear” the music internally while reading silently.
5. Partner Check
When both partners have checked their work and practiced silently & independently, they partner check for each other. Partners help each other. It is what we do. If a student has made a mistake, it is okay to change their answers. The goal is to get it right. During this step, I am watching closely to see if anyone is completely lost. I take that into account when recording grades. I do not factor in simple mistakes here or there.
6. Sign & Sing the Pitches as a Group
As a group, students sign and sing the pitches from their papers “into the grade book” as I visually scan and record grades. It is very evident who the exceptional readers and leaders are and who may be struggling. Since most of our music reading songs are 18-30 seconds long, the process takes only seconds.
7. Sing the Lyrics as a Group
As the final step, students sing the lyrics as a group.
8. Share the Song as “Homework”
Students read the rhythm, sign & sing the pitches, and then sing the song for someone at their house. This is their “homework.” To read more about using Take if Home pages to extend learning and build advocacy for your program, check out this post, “Homework in Elementary Music Classes, Really?”
Reward Exemplary Work
Our school uses various systems of rewarding exemplary work. As students work, I circulate around the room and silently drop “tickets” to students who are doing a great job practicing or helping their partner. Use whatever system you have in place at your classroom/school to recognize students who are working hard and helping each other.
Learning How to Use Take it Home Pages
Learning the process for completing Take it Home pages takes a little time. But, be consistent and students will pick it up quickly. You may even want to make a poster of the sequence to prompt students and yourself if you choose to implement this strategy.
If you are looking for no-prep, music reading lessons with Take it Home pages, check out these sequential bundles. (All lessons are also available individually.) For more about developing music literacy, check out this post Sequential Lessons that Build on Prior Learning.
Assessment in elementary music should be a natural part of class activities. Why not use Take it Home pages and challenge students to extend their learning at home.
How to do you assessment music reading levels? Leave a comment below.