For many elementary music educators, we are asked for data that proves our students are learning. This seems daunting as with our field, data is not the first choice when showcasing what our students are learning. We are a creative field where our performances tend to mark our assessments. In some cases, we are defined by our performances.
With that said, even with the youngest of students, we can assess and provide data. Technology has given us a variety of tools to make this easier. This task does not take a lot of time, even if you have only one device in your classroom. In addition, acquiring data about your students’ learning can give you an insight into their knowledge so that you can focus on what direction to take their learning. Finally, there might be a time where this data can help your administration understand your subject more because data is “speaking their language.” It gives you the opportunity to meet them halfway so you all can have a purposeful discussion about the arts at your school.
Where to begin?
When using technology to assess, you first want to ask yourself, what goal in the assessment are you trying to reach? Are you giving your students a formative or summative assessment? Are you starting with a student learning objective (SLO) and wanting to pre- and post-test your students? Are you wanting to have the students record themselves so they can write a reflection about their performance? Choose a goal. Once you do, you can choose a tool that best serves you and your students’ needs.
If you have only one device in the classroom, Plickers can be a great tool to use for assessment. I have used this tool successfully with kindergartners and first graders to assess high and low sounds, long and short sounds, as exit tickets to our music and movement classes, and so much more. Plickers requires an account, free or the paid subscription (I use the free), a series of questions you would like to ask, the Plickers cards that you can print for free from their website, (I mount them on construction paper so they last longer), and a device to scan the cards when the students hold them up.
I create an account, upload the class list, and create a set of questions that can automatically play on the screen. I can also create a pack and share it with other users. I give the students their cards (make sure you print the class list you uploaded to Plickers so you give the card to correct student) and begin with questions such as “My name is Mrs. Burns. True or False? A is true and B is false.” The students hold up the card with A on top. I then scan the cards using the Plickers app and it immediately records their responses. On your device’s screen, you can see who is answering correctly and incorrectly, and students who are holding up C or D, which are not applicable to this question. I always begin with a simple question so I know that my young students know how to answer the question. We then answer the questions and I can download the data later to see where the students are with this pre-test.
Want to Learn More for Free?
There are more tools such as Socrative, Google Forms, Padlet, Notebook assessment features for SMART Notebook, iDoceo, Nearpod, Peardeck (since I use google slides for manipulatives, I tend to use Peardeck over Nearpod as Peardeck turns my Google Slides into assessments), Seesaw, Flipgrid, and Kahoot, AnswerGarden, to name a few. To see some of these in action, click on the links above or view my webinar for free below. My webinar needs a few tweaks due to a couple of updates with these tools (mostly the screenshots), but it is still very applicable. If you are an NJMEA member, you can send me a short summary and answer the question at the end of the webinar to receive PD credits.
Are you going to TMEA 2020? Please visit me as I will be presenting every day. My sessions include how to integrate technology into elementary music approaches, 1:1 iPads in the elementary music room, 1:1 chromebooks in the elementary music room, Seesaw in the elementary music classroom, and a session with Dr. Barb Freedman on elementary and middle school music tech tools.