Assessment Ideas to Use Tomorrow!

Assessment……a necessary evil but could it be more?  Hi, this is Karla from CMajorLearning.  As a veteran teacher of over 20 years, I've seem many trends come and go.  Some have been welcome changes that have come and stayed, some have come and gone quickly for good reason and others are here to stay and we, as teachers, not the policy makers, have to make the best of the situation.  This is how I view the current trends in assessment and data collection.

As a bit of a numbers geek, I have actually found gathering data formally and using this information to drive my instruction a pretty easy transition…..I think that Kodály inspired teaching lends itself to data collection with only a minor changes to our teaching habits and patterns.

We are constatnly watching, listening and observing our students during class, now we are asked to make it more formal by collecting data.  So how do we make that happen in our classrooms on a daily basis without completely going insane?  Well, here are a few ideas that have worked for me and I hope will work for you!  They are K-2 focused because that is what I teach, but I believe some can be adapted/amended to work with older grades.

Start with games and activities
Your students are already making music and actively engaged in class, now find a way to get some hard data out of all that music making.  I have found success with the following:
1.  Throne Game - I'm not even sure where I learned this fun little ditty but it is a real winner (could have been Sandy Mathias or Cindy Kinser).  The game is very simple - the king/queen (the teacher) begins by singing a greeting ("good day first grade" on s m ss m or whatever pattern/melodic element you are working on) to the people in her kingdom (the class) and everyone sings back (my students sing "good day Mrs. C" on s m ss m).  Do this several times going from large to small groups (use colors, types of clothes etc).  Then go to individual students, when the student answers they have to move to either the dungeon (if their singing voice is too low), the bell tower (if their singing voice is too high) or the throne (if their singing voice is just right).  (I have these placed assigned in my classroom before we begin the game so the students know just what to do.) If they use their speaking voice they usually go to the dungeon but that is up to you.  The goal of the 'game' is to get everyone on the throne. Use the students placement in the castle as data, either formative or summative.  I place a + (bell tower), - (dungeon) or √ (throne) on my recoding sheet and assign points if I am taking a formal assessment.  I use the following scale because it works for me, use what works for you!  3 for throne, 2 for bell tower or dungeon, 1 for speaking voice, 0 for not responding.

2.  Copy Cat  - I learned this while attending a Midwest Kodály Music Educators of America Divisional Conference many years back from Theresa Witt. This ones assess steady beat.  Choose a recorded piece of music with a clear and constant steady beat (I pick from the Rhythmically Moving cd's - there are so many great recordings in that 9 cd set!) Have a 'copy cat' chair at the front of the room. Each students gets to sit in the chair and put the heartbeat somewhere on their body and the class has to copy it.  Students stay in the copy cat chair until the teacher gives them a signal to return to their seat, I play a resonator bell.  The next student in line comes to the chair and places the heartbeat somewhere else on their body for the class to copy.  I use to assess my students very quickly and easily.  If they keep the steady beat the get 3 points; if they keep the steady beat with assistance from me, they get 2 points; if they cannot keep the steady beat with assistance, they receive 1 point; and if they do nothing they get 0 points.

3.  Koosh Ball Games - There are so many fantastic interactive whiteboard games available and my students LOVE to play them.  Just go to TpT and search 'koosh ball' and you fill find a game for just about anything your heart desires - melodic or rhythmic!  As the students take their turn, I write down there score on my recording sheet.  
5 points - student reads pattern unassisted with steady beat and names (ta/ti-ti or sol/mi, etc)
4 points - student reads pattern unassisted with correct names but not a steady beat (or reverse)
3 points - student reads pattern with correct names and beat but is assisted by the teacher
2 points - with assistance, student is unable to read the pattern with steady beat and names
1 point - student gives up or does not attempt

Another more formal way to assess that many of us use already are worksheets.  There are many different types available or you can create your own for exactly what you are looking for.  I have noticed that just doing a worksheet can be kind of 'boring' for the kids but adding just a little bit of a twist makes it a whole new experience for them!

Here are a few of my favorites:

1.  Dab of Music Fun by Aileen Miracle

I cannot wait to use this set of no prep printables for so many different assessments in my classroom.  They are in my lesson plans for this week and I know that the students will enjoy using the dabbers AND I will get some really good data from their work!

2.  Listening Gylphs by Jena Hudson

These glyphs have been a fantastic resource for me this school year (she has many themes available).  The students listen to a piece of music (you pick but there are suggested works that fit well), and based on what they hear, they color the picture with certain colors.  My students have LOVED these and more importantly, I have learned that many do not hear certain concepts in recorded music even if they can identify it during our folks songs.  In reviewing the grades or data from these worksheets, it was brought to my attention a deficit in my teaching and relating to real world examples.  I have adjusted my instruction and am happy to report that the students have improved in this area.  It was not their fault buy my own because I was not teaching the best way possible.  A perfect example of the assessment driving my instruction - I learned that I needed to improve my teaching and when I reflected on it and made some changes, the students learning improved!

3.  Write the Room - this is a well used activity in general ed classroom and I have made it into a music room activity.  Initially, the activity may seem very simple but put into practice I have observed and heard from those that have tried it as well that there is soooooo much more going on as the students are completing the work. 

In this activity, flashcards are posted around the room and students are given a recording sheet, clipboard and pencil.  They must move about the room and write down the rhythms in the correct box on their recording sheet.  The first time I did this with my 2nd graders, the room was completely silent because they were all searching for the flashcards so diligently.  It was even better at the end of class when I had a student say to me, "That was the best game EVER!".  Now, it was neat to see the students working so hard but what was really telling was the data I gained from their completed worksheets.  I could see in writing which students could place the rhythm in the correct box and write it neatly and clearly, completing the entire pattern, check their writing skills as well as just observe how they work on such tasks.  During the next music class, we did a think/pair/share activity in partners that was another opportunity for me to observe and informally assess my students rhythm reading.

Formal Assessments
Of course you cannot leave out the formal assessments that are given in your classes/districts.  This includes any pretest and post-testing you may be doing as well as the assessments used for the SLO (student learning objectives) that are now tied to our evaluations (at least here in Ohio).  

If you are interested in this topic (or really anything else), I encourage you to attend the Organization of American Kodály Educators National Conference from March 19-22, 2015 in Minneapolis, MN.  Myself along with Aileen Miracle, Lenny Davis, Sarah Oyler and Mike McBride will be presenting a panel discussion on SLO's facilitated by Brent Gault.   You can find more information about the conference by clicking the picture.  There are sooooooooo many amazing session planned - everyone should be there!

What are your favorite assessment games/activities or worksheets? I would LOVE to hear from you!!!


  1. Wonderful blog post, Karla...and thanks for the shout out! I'm super excited to use your "write the room" activity!!

  2. What pitch/key do you use for the game?


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