Using Technology to Assist with Assessment in the Elementary General Music Classroom
The most recent issue of NAfME’s Teaching Music had an excellent section devoted to technology and assessment. This portion supported the 2017 message from NAfME’s CEO and Executive Director, Mike Blakeslee, on how the association has to help teachers “consider and adopt practices that focus on culturally responsive music making.” He included technology in his message as an example of change that is occurring in many schools and how we have to utilize it to expand and enhance our offerings.
I have taught elementary music for over 20 years and was excited to see that elementary music was included in their technology assessment segment. There are several ways to use technology to enhance the assessment in the general elementary music classroom. If a teacher likes their current way of assessment, and the school accepts the assessments, then changing to one that is technology-based is not a priority. However, if an elementary teacher would like to further their assessment or want to know how it can enhance their current philosophy, methodology, or approach, here is a list that has been very successful in my classroom or in other elementary music educators’ classrooms that I have observed.
Tools You Might Already Own
One of the best assessment tools is using your mobile device to record audio or video of your students’ performances. For years, I have taken video of my classes singing one of their concert songs a week before the concert. When finished, the students would watch the recording, analyze, and evaluate the following aspects:
- Younger Elementary: I asked the younger students questions such as, “Do you see everyone singing?”, “Is everyone standing up straight”, “Can you hear the words of the song?”, and “What else do you see?” These questions prompted the students to think about the performance and to reflect on the items we have been working on like posture, memorizing the words, and everyone working together to perform the song. The young students cannot state any names because there are some students who are shy singers. If I feel that this question might make a shy singer uncomfortable, then I will not ask it. However, these questions prompted the younger singers to assess their performance. I will either record those responses or write them down. Those responses are wonderful additions to their progress reports, such as, “Sarah recently commented that when she watches her class sing, everyone stands up tall and sings out. I love how Sarah is beginning to analyze and evaluate musical performances.”
- Older Elementary: As the students are watching the recording of the rehearsal, they are checking off items on a rubric. For example, the rubric could include some of the following items:
|Do you see or hear the following items?||Yes||No|
|Do you understand the words the performers are singing?|
|Do the performers have good posture?|
|Are the performers projecting well?|
|If the song has the performers singing in parts, can you hear both parts?|
|What else do you see?|
What did you like best about the performances?
What did you find most challenging about the performances?
This rubric could be in the form of paper and pencil or electronic. These video and audio tools that are included on most smart devices are helpful in assisting a discussion about analyzing and evaluating students’ performances.
Websites and Apps for a Classroom with One Device to a 1:1 Classroom
There are some websites and apps that can assist or give you ideas on what and how to assess. Here are a few that have been very successful in elementary music classrooms:
- Music Tech Teacher (musictechteacher.com):
- There are numerous websites that can assist in assessing elementary students in general music class. One of my favorites is Karen Garrett’s com. Karen in the 2006 Technology for Music Education (TI:ME) Mike Kovins Teacher of the Year Award winner. She created this website years ago and keeps it up-to-date. It was originally intended to accompany her grades 2-5 music classes. However, many music educators visit the site daily to utilize her lesson plans, quizzes, and games. Her games are based on musical concepts such as rhythm values, musical terms, instrumentation, rhythm math, and more. Some of the students’ favorite games are “Instrument Soccer Challenge”, “Rhythms HoopShoot”, and “Rhythm Quiz” where you can “Fling the Teacher.”
- Plickers (plickers.com):
- Plickers is a successful tool for a music classroom with limited devices. It requires one device with the app (iOs and Android), the Plickers cards, and a free account that you create at plockers.com. In your account, you can create multiple choice or true/false/yes/no questions. Currently, your questions can include pictures. Once you input the names of your students into a class list (you can cut-and-paste them in), Plickers will assign the students their card numbers. Once you create an assessment, and print out the cards and the class list with the assigned numbers, you give each student his/her assigned card and begin asking the questions. You can click “LiveView” from your computer screen (when in plickers.com) and the questions with the pictures will appear on the screen. When you ask the students their questions, they will turn the card with their corresponding answer facing up. For example, if they believe the answer to be “A”, then the letter “A” is facing up. Through the app on your mobile device, you click on the question you are asking, click “Scan” (it connects to your camera), and then you can see who is answering correctly and who is answer incorrectly. Click the check button on the bottom of the screen and it records their answers. Through your website account, you can review the answers in the “Reports” section. No two cards are the same and it is difficult for them to look at someone else’s answer because the letters are printed in a small font size. I usually line my students up in three rows (standing, kneeling, sitting) so that I can assess them in one scan. I also mounted my cards on construction paper so that they last a long time. You can purchase matte-laminated Plickers cards on Amazon as well. I have used Plickers with the students in grades kindergarten through three to assess high and low sounds, as exit tickets, and to assess how they are feeling when dancing with other children. It has been tremendously helpful with my assessments.
- Socrative (Socrative.com)
- I have used Socrative for years to give my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders pre-and post-assessments. Socrative is free, but you can purchase the upgrade to Socrative Pro. With the free account, you can set up a public room for your classes. You then create your assessment. The assessment can include pictures and be set up in the forms of space race (game-like quiz), multiple choice, short answer, exit ticket, or true/false. From your device, you launch your assessment. When the students need to access the assessment, they do not need an email address to login, just a device. On days that I know that I will use Socrative, I have asked other teachers if I could borrow devices such as laptops, chromebooks, and iPads. Since Socrative runs from a web browser, it successfully works on many devices. Now that my school is 1:1, the students bring their devices with them. The students go to socrative.com (or click the app on our iPads), click on “STUDENT LOGIN”, type in your public room name (i.e. Music Room 17), and then type in their name. The pro version allows you to skip these steps by uploading all names and giving a link to quickly access the assessment. The students then begin the assessment. On your device, you can see their progress, if they left any questions unanswered, and when they finished the assessment. Their answers are now recorded and you can export them via download, email, or Google Drive. They will also stay in your account. Other similar tools that have been very successful with educators are Kahoot! (getkahoot.com), Google Forms, and Quizlet (quizlet.com).
- iDoceo (currently iOS only)
- Though this is a pricier app, it is well worth the price. From my iPad, I can launch this app and see all 17 of my classes’ seating charts, access all of their assessments including video and audio assessments, export the assessments through a variety of ways from Google Drive to OneDrive, have the app select the next student with it’s built-in teaching tools, and so much more. I adore using this app to record my students’ singing and playing assessments from the youngest to the oldest of students. I love that I can print out all seating charts with pictures and leave them for my sub when I am out. This app assists greatly with my assessments and my organization of them.
- Seesaw (web.seesaw.me)
- Seesaw is a student digital learning portfolio, which can be used as an self-assessment tool for the student. The free version allows the teacher to set up 10 classes. If you have more than 10 classes, you can set it up per grade level instead of by class. Once you set up your classes, you or your students can add their student work into their individual digital portfolios. For example, if they sing an assessment in a 1:1 classroom, you can ask them to open their Seesaw page, go to a corner of the room, sing their assessment, and click the check mark. It will not upload to their portfolio until you approve it. You have access to their portfolios. Therefore, you can approve and disapprove items, leave comments on items, and share items with parents. If you are in a classroom with one device, then you can record them individually or set up a station where they record themselves. Finally, these portfolios follow the students throughout their school years. Therefore, you can share their musical assessments, along with their music creations, compositions, performances, etc, with their next music teacher. Please contact me if you would like to learn more about this as I did a free PD NJMEA webinar on this for elementary music educators in NJ.
SMART Technologies: Using smart devices instead of the previous clicker system
Years ago, SMART Technologies had a clicker system where an educator would create assessments in the SMART Notebook software, launch the SMART Response system, and have the students answer the assessment questions using clickers that were devices that looked like remote controls. Currently, those clickers no longer work with their newest SMART Response 2 system (https://education.smarttech.com/en/products/smart-learning-suite/smart-response-2/smart-response-2-faqs), unless you run Notebook version 16.1 or earlier. When devices such as iPads, Chromebooks, and tablets became more prominent in the school system, SMART updated this application to the SMART Lab. The lab is accessible through the Notebook software. It includes more features than the clicker system and can support around 100 student devices, depending on the school network. It allows lesson sharing and immediate feedback. If you have a SMART Board in your room and you use the Notebook software, definitely check their website at education.smarttech.com.
What about using technology with a certain approach?
There are excellent approaches and curriculum to teaching elementary general music Dalcroze, Feierabend, Gameplan, Gordon, Interactive Music Powered by Silver-Burdett, Kodály, McGraw Hill Music Studio, MusicPlay, Orff-Schulwerk, Purposeful Pathways, Quaver’s Marvelous World of Music, to so many more. Most of these approaches and curriculum lend themselves to technology-assisted instruction as the technology is built into the product. However, if your technology is limited and you are utilizing one or more of these approaches, then technology can be a great assessment tool to enhance your vocal assessments, performance assessments, recorder tests for belts, concert evaluations, and more. Technology can also assist your students in finding fingering charts for instruments, chord charts for ukuleles, information for research projects, etc.
Assessments in the elementary general music classroom are a great way for the educator to make sure that the students comprehend what they are teaching. In many schools, teachers are required to show their assessments to an administrator. However, for many music educators, assessments give us the feedback on what is working in the classroom and what is not. It assists us with improving how and what we teach to our music students. Technology is one way to assist with assessing numerous students because when we teach elementary general music, we are usually assessing numbers in the three-digits (100+ students) daily. I hope that some of the ideas listed above will assist you with assessing your elementary music students.