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If you have not ended your school year yet, or even if you have (congratulations!), you have most likely written or are writing the end-of-the-year progress reports. As an elementary music educator, this can be a valuable tool to keep the parents informed about the curriculum and the student’s progress. However, it also can be very time consuming because elementary music educators can teach 100+ students. I have read posts from elementary music educators teaching over 1000 students over the span of five or more schools.
When the number of students is large, how do we manage progress reports?
Ideally, we have been assessing the students throughout the year and by the time we get to the progress reports, we are looking at their work and writing the report from that work. Some examples of this are:
- Older students: Using such tools as Kahoot! (a free gaming assessment app that benefits from a small amount of devices in the classroom to a 1:1 classroom), Socrative (a free formative assessment app that benefits from a small amount of devices in the classroom to a 1:1 classroom), Plickers (a free assessment tool that requires only one device and the Plickers cards), Google Forms (a free assessment app that benefits from a small amount of devices in the classroom to a 1:1 classroom), or Seesaw (a digital student learning journal), you can pre- and post-test older elementary students on musical concepts. These tools are not challenging to use with students. I have webinars on my website that showcase how to use these tools for assessment. In addition, many of these tools support written or video reflections which assist you in your progress report writing. It is always wonderful to reference the child’s reflection about music/music concepts/etc in the progress report. Finally, none of these tools require students to have an email address. Kahoot!, Socrative, Google Forms, and Seesaw can be accessed by a code, a link (if you uncheck the box in Google Forms that reads “Limit to one response”, then the students do not need a gmail account) , or a QR code. Plickers is accessed through the Plickers cards. All of these tools collect data and present them in the forms of excel files, spreadsheets, or reports.
- Younger students: When assessing younger students who have limited abilities to read and do not take formal tests in their classrooms, it can be challenging to collect data. However, I love using the iOS app, iDoceo. iDoceo allows me to quickly upload all of my class lists and create tabs that
include seating charts, Orff charts, attendance charts, recorder star tests, vocal assessments, playing assessments, and more. When I want to record a student singing a solo, I click on the student’s cell, click on the microphone, and press record. When finished, I click the check sign and now there is audio data for that child. For my instrument classes, I use the video tool, which is found next to the audio microphone. In addition to recording into their cell, I use the icons to show the assessment. For example, a green star means that the child can match pitch and sing the solo with no assistance from the teacher. When I need to write my progress reports, I open iDoceo and listen to the assessments. iDoceo can do so much more. What I have explained is the tip of the iceberg. A similar Android app would be TeacherKit.
No Prep Work?
What do you do if circumstances prohibited you from collecting data or assessing throughout the school year? There are some solutions. The first one is that you can create a rubric, or find one already created through a google search or Teachers Pay Teachers. With this rubric, you can do your best to assess from memory how each student achieved the skills or items on the rubric. Another solution is to take out a device with a video recorder (phone, tablet, etc) and record the students singing, playing an orffestration, performing a movement activity, or some other musical activity for you to include in the progress report.
What to Assess?
When assessing and writing progress reports, it is best to begin with what the district states are the standards. These standards might be ones that are included in the state standards, national standards, or standards that are included in various elementary music approaches. If the school is not dictating any standards for your students to achieve, then a discussion with the program that your students will go to when they leave you, might be warranted. If you are a feeder program to another program, then your assessments might need to address what the students need with their next teacher. Some items that are included in assessments are: singing on pitch, rhythm reading, note reading, performing the steady beat, performing proper mallet technique, progressing on the recorder, respecting the instruments, respecting cultural dances, and so much more.
I hope that these tech tools and tips assist when it comes to grading time.
Amy M. Burns is an elementary music educator, clinician, author, and musician. She currently works at Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, NJ teaching PreK through Grade 3 general music, grade 5 instrumental music, and grades 4-8 instrumental band. She is the author of Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom, Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with a SMART Board, and Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with One or more iPads! She is also an author for Online Learning Exchange™ Interactive Music powered by Silver Burdett. She has given numerous presentations on integrating technology into the elementary music classroom as well as being a keynote speaker for music technology conferences in Texas, Indiana, St. Maarten, and Australia. She is the recipient of the 2005 TI:ME Teacher of the Year Award, the 2016 NJ Master Music Teacher Award, the 2016 NJ Governor’s Leader in Arts Education Award, and the 2017 Non-Public School Teacher of the Year Award. You can find out more about Amy at her website: amymburns.com