I thought you might like to know what has worked for me when assessing my primary children with their music. As music is largely practical it can be hard to pin down and record where your children actually are, and therefore where to take them next. The following tips really helped me…
ASSESSMENT IN PRIMARY MUSIC Considerations and ideas…
- Real assessment is what the children can do WITHOUT you. Therefore, good ideas are lots of ‘my turn, your turn’ while teaching a song, play call and response games and regularly ask the children to perform what they have learnt without you. This will give a much truer picture of where they really are and where you need to take them.
- You can only ever really tell if a child can sing if they sing you something on their own or in a very small group. Even if a song sung by a whole class sounds good, it may be being carried by the more confident and often the less confident are not singing at all.
- It is important to look at the melodic and rhythmic ingredients of a song and to consider whether it is appropriate to expect your class to sing it. For example, ‘Cauliflowers fluffy’ is extremely complex melodically and rhythmically and has huge intervals and chromatics, but because of the words and the fun element children as young as 4 are often expected to sing it at Harvest. Children need to have songs and games with ingredients that they can cope with so they can succeed in and gradually build on their musical skills.
MUSICAL SKILLS: How to assess
- Can the child keep a steady pulse? Play a pulse on a drum or play music with a clear pulse and ask the child to ‘find’ and show you the pulse by an action.
- Can the child copy/make up rhythm patterns? Rhythm patterns can be clapped to the child, who claps back. If they can clap a 4-beat pattern, try an 8-beat pattern and so on. For more advanced children ask them to compose on the spot and clap a pattern for you to clap back.
- Can the child sing in tune? Use songs with 2,3,4 and 5 notes to begin with that are also well within the child’s range. Ask children to sing solos, or if too shy, in small groups. Use lots of games that involve solo contributions. These are ideal for those children who do not feel comfortable singing solos – they often don’t realise they are!
- Assess these by little tests and keeping regular notes.
- GROUP WORK – this is an excellent way to assess – teach a game and only when the children are very familiar with it, ask them to practise and perform the game in groups – this gives a better opportunity for you to listen, watch and assess.
- QUESTIONNAIRES: These are fantastic ways of finding out where your Key Stage 2 children are in their abilities, knowledge and attitudes towards music. They can tell you about instruments they learn, what grade or level they are at, let you know their understanding of musical terms and can even rate their own singing voices. If teaching has been specific, clear progress can be seen and proved if the questionnaire is repeated later on in the year.
- LEVELS: Tick sheets for the children: Children can have their own ‘I can’ sheets according to their music level and tick off skills as they are secure in them. This will enable them to be aware of where they are and what their next musical aims are. From experience I can see that this raises children’s motivation levels hugely.
- LEVELS: Tick sheets for you: There are a variety of ways in which you can keep tick sheets for National Curriculum levels for your class (see examples)
- MUSIC BOOKS: Have music books for each child which can go with them through the school. Write musical notations, opinions of music listened to and composition structures etc. Also include worksheets connected to Creative Curriculum music they have been involved in. It is all ‘evidence’ and can help in keeping up with where the children are in their music.
- CLARITY OF OBJECTIVES: Always think ‘What are the children learning musically through this song/game/activity?’ E.g they may be learning to keep a steady pulse, accurately clap a rhythm, sing two notes in tune, recognise dynamic changes etc. When you are really clear about your musical objective, it is so much easier to check if the children have learnt that particular skill. Many activities, songs and games will need to be regularly covered for just one musical objective to be achieved. It can sometimes take years for a child to even reach one! However, musical objectives are quite clear and follow clear stages of development so can be assessed more easily than might be thought!
- DIFFERENTIATION: Once assessed, you can use this information to put the children into music groups or to differentiate activities and expectations.
- ABILITY GROUPS: As music is a very practical subject, ability groups work excellently for the top groups, but the lower groups really flounder. A group of high ability children working together will obviously achieve so much more yet the lower ability groups can really lose confidence.
- MIXED ABILITY GROUPS: I have found these work far better as differentiation is achieved by the more able leading and the less able being supported. The more able can be pushed by being given the role to conduct. Organising musicians and taking a musical lead is a very important skill to develop.
WHAT IDEAS HAVE YOU FOUND THAT WORK WELL IN ASSESSING YOUR PUPILS?