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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.

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

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

Establish Clear Learning Targets

Written work is NOT what is graded with our “Take it Home” sheet music pages. Specific rhythm and pitch reading skills are the learning targets in each song-based activity. Each page includes a clear learning target for the musical element students are reading.

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

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

Use Take it Home Sheet Music Pages as Observational Assessments

The Take it Home pages included in our Music Reading Activity Bundles are a short, but effective way to help children build and demonstrate their music literacy levels. They require VERY little, if any, writing and also serve as a means for students to further their musical skills outside of the classroom.

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. 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 have taught your students an efficient process. A detailed outline of the routine I use is 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 have introduced a new rhythm or pitch in as written symbols, you may want 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.

Pick up 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.

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

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

We 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 already laid out and 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 which creates more room between the rows. In my music classes, we sit on the floor and this expanded position gives students more 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.

Song to Read & Sing

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.

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 get it right.

During this step, I watch to see if anyone is had 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 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 prepare 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 it Home pages and assessments takes a little work. But, be consistent and your students will pick it up quickly.

Share the Song as “Homework”

Students repeat this process for someone at home for their homework.

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

This is their “homework.” To see more about how to use Take if Home pages to extend learning and build advocacy for your program, see this post, “Homework in Elementary Music Classes, Really?”

Reward Exemplary Work

Our school uses various systems of rewards for exemplary work. 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.

Ticket used as classroom reward

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

No-Prep Resources with Built-In Assessment

Each activity 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
  • Games, songs, instrumental activities, and more

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

More Music Literacy Activity Bundles Coming Soon

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

Assessment in Elementary Music Should be FUN

When you have a consistent song-based music reading and assessment system you do NOT 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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