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Authentic Assessment in Elementary Music

Assessment in elementary music should be authentic, quick, valid, reliable, and FUN! Learn how to integrate assessment activities and build music skills.

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Do you need quick, easy-to-administer ways to assess your elementary music students? Assessment in elementary music classes can take many forms.

Quality assessments should be. . . . .

  • Authentic
  • Reliable
  • Valid
  • Quick
  • Easy to administer

It’s important to integrate assessments into class activities naturally. Assessments should be FUN and never stressful for students.

Establish Clear Learning Targets

We created “Take it Home” sheet music pages as quick observational assessments. Each song-based activity includes specific rhythm and pitch reading learning targets written as easy-to-understand “I Can” statements.

Hop Old Squirrel, Take Home Sheet Music with Learning Targets, Read the Rhythm

The Take Home Sheet Music pages facilitate practice and observational assessment. They also give students an opportunity to extend their learning at home.

Use Take Home Pages as Observational Assessments

The Take Home sheet music included in our Music Reading Activity Bundles is a simple but effective way to help children build and demonstrate their music reading skills. These activities require VERY little, if any, writing. Some music teachers shy away from any written work at all. After all, elementary music classes are not usually set up with desks, tables, and chairs. And, sometimes the process of getting pencils and paper out seems to take too long.

This is an important step to develop independent music readers in the elementary grades and it doesn’t take long once you’ve taught your students an efficient process. Take a peek at the detailed routine below.

Allow Plenty of Rehearsal Time

Before students are asked to do any assessment, they should have adequate practice. As a general rule, we practice each song for three class sessions before we complete the assessment and I assign it for homework.

If this is the first time you’ve introduced a new rhythm or pitch, you may want to provide additional practice before you assess. Do NOT take an assessment yet if your observations indicate less than 80% of your students are able to read independently and will be successful. I prefer to use a benchmark of 90% success rate.

Get Supplies and Move to Expanded Seating Arrangement

Keep students active and engaged singing or chanting while they pick up their supplies. Use every second of class time in a productive way.

I wrote a song called “Write Your Name.” We often sing this simple song as we pick up our sheet music and pencils. This song prompts students to write their names on their music as soon as they get back to their spots without any further directions from me.

Assessment in the Elementary Music Classroom | Authentic, Valid, Fun!

For variation, we learned to sing the song in German too. Or, we choose another familiar song to review as we pick up supplies. Routines are crucial but it’s also important to keep those routines fresh.

Have student supplies ready where they can be easily accessed. Students should stay in their seating arrangement order and lead from one end of the row to pick up their music and pencils. This eliminates any jostling for who will be the first in line.

As we sing and pick up supplies students stay in order as they circle around and re-seat themselves in our expanded seating position. This creates more space between the rows. In my music classes, we sit on the floor and this expanded position gives students room to lay down and get comfortable to write.

1. Read the Rhythm

Together as a group, students “point and read” the rhythm of the song. It’s critical 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. This is also how I assess students.

I scan the room to 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 and read the rhythm one more time as a group.

Song to Read & Sing

2. Label the Pitches

On the other side of the paper, students label the solfege pitch names – S for So, M for Mi, etc. Except for writing their names on their papers, this is the only writing in this entire activity. The written portion of the lesson is minimal but it is critical. This lets me know who has learned to read the music and who needs additional practice.

3. Check Their Own Work

Next, students check themselves and practice 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.

4. Partner Check

After both partners have checked their own work and practiced silently and independently, they partner-check for each other. Partners help each other. It’s what we do. If a student has made a mistake, it is okay to change their answers. The goal is to have the pitch correctly labeled.

During this step, I watch to see if anyone has made frequent mistakes. I take this into account when I record grades. I do not factor in a simple mistake here or there.

5. Sign and 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’s evident who the exceptional readers and leaders are and who may be struggling. Since most of our music reading songs are only 18-30 seconds long, this step takes only a few seconds.

6. Sing the Lyrics as a Group

As the final step, students sing the lyrics together as a group. As they sing the song, I finish grade entry and prep for our next class activity. The entire process should be well ordered and there should be NO downtime.

Helping your students learn an efficient process to complete Take Home pages and assessments takes a little trial and error. But, be consistent and your students will pick it up quickly.

Share the Song as “Homework”

As students’ “homework”, they repeat this process for someone at home.

  • Read the rhythm.
  • Sign and sing the pitches.
  • Sing the lyrics.

To see more about how to use Take if Home pages to extend learning and build advocacy for your music program, take a peek at this post,  “Homework in Elementary Music Classes, Really?”

Reward Exemplary Work

Our school uses various systems of rewards. As students work, I circulate around the room and silently drop “tickets” to students who do a great job as they practice or help their partners.

Use whatever system you have in place in your classroom or at your school to recognize students who work hard and help each other.

Ticket used as classroom reward

No-Prep Resources with Built-In Assessment

Each Activity Bundle below includes DIGITAL Easel Activities which may also be used for practice and/or assessment. The resources below include the following elements.

  • Projectable PowerPoint lessons
  • Simple directions for use with Google Slides
  • Interactive DIGITAL Easel Activities
  • Printable Take it Home pages
  • Digital followup activities
  • Games, songs, instrumental activities, and more

Click below to learn more about these complete NO-PREP Music Reading Activity Bundles.

Save over 35% when you invest in the No-Prep Mega Bundle.

Assessment in Elementary Music Should be FUN

When you have a sequential song-based music reading repertoire and assessment system you don’t have to constantly search for and create new assessments. Your music literacy plan will be much easier to follow and it will be simpler to create your weekly lesson plans.

Assessment in elementary music should be a natural part of class activities and it should be FUN! Learning targets and assessments should develop REAL music reading skills. And, Take Home sheet music helps you to involve and inform your parents and challenge students to extend their learning at home.

It’s a WIN, WIN, WIN!

Free So, La, Mi Music Reading Lesson with Take it Home Pages

When you subscribe to our helpful email newsletter, a FREE So, La, Mi Reading Activity will be your first free resource. Then, watch your inbox for more free resources, tips, techniques, and helpful blog posts heading your way.

Click to claim your free resources. Enjoy!

Meet the Author

Terri Lloyd is a former elementary music teacher with over 25 years of experience. She holds a Bachelor of Music, a Master of Science in Education, and a Technology Certificate in Instructional Design.

She is currently active in music education through blogging, workshops, and curriculum development. She serves on the music staff at her church and volunteers for an after-school children’s program. Terri is an active musician in the community, performing in a local Big Band, pit orchestras, and various events.

More Ways to Connect – Instagram, Facebook, YouTube.

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