Last year I participated in the field-testing for the MAEIA Assessments for elementary music. In that role my focus was on the assessments themselves, the length of time it took to administer them, if they were grade level appropriate, and how well they worked to assess the concepts.
This year, I used the assessments but with a different focus—how could the assessment help me teach a concept in creative ways?
I took the opportunity to become even more familiar with the Catalog of Assessments and looked for assessments that I felt might be appropriate for me to use later in the spring for my third and fourth grade general music classes. Of course the catalog is so easy to navigate, I could quickly narrow down my search to music assessments for grades 3 – 5. Then by going down the list of assessments by title, I could find assessments that would match up with concepts I would be teaching in the spring. I printed out both the teacher and student booklets and set them out by my planning materials so that I had them easily accessible. Then as I sketched out my plans for the school year, determining when different concepts would be taught, I could see how and when the assessments would best fit in with my time line and work them in accordingly.
Choosing the Assessment, Choosing the Songs
For third grade, I ended up selecting the Performance Event M.E202: Singing Partner Songs and an Ostinato. I chose to teach the children the songs Skip to My Lou and Bow Belinda. Knowing the challenge that singing canons and partner songs are for this age group I wanted the students to be very familiar with the songs before attempting the assessments. Therefore, I included movement activities as students sang the songs.
Song 1: Bow Belinda
For Bow Belinda students were divided into two groups, one group found personal space in the room, standing up. These students were to remain in their spots and not travel. Students in group 2 went and stood in front of a partner of their choice. We sang the song and students bowed to one another as they sang, then on the last phrase of the song students were to “find another partner.” But instead of just bowing again as we repeated the song, students explored other non-locomotor motions they could do with a partner such as jump, hop, spin, sway, and many more. They enjoyed coming up with creative ways to move and this kept them thinking and singing the song without tiring.
Song 2: Skip to My Lou
Skip to My Lou comes from the play party tradition of 19th Century Americana. For this song, I had students get with a partner and stand next to them in a circle. I gave each pair of students a small scarf to hold so they could easily identify who were partners. One person, however, was left outside the circle and they skipped around the outside of the circle looking for a partner as we sang the song.
To make this a little easier, I had one student from each pair hold their hand behind them slightly so that the child skipping around could grab it. Then, when they grabbed the hand of someone, the two skipped off together around the circle, while the student who “lost my partner” skipped after them trying to tag the one who had stolen the partner, similar to the game Duck, Duck, Goose. The students loved this game and were willing to keep singing and playing it much longer than I had anticipated. In fact, it was quite hilarious as children became so involved in watching the student skip around the circle that they were oblivious to the fact that their partner had been stolen.
Students enjoyed it so much they asked to play it again the next week.
The following week we put the two songs together. Because they sang both songs so many times putting the two together was rather easy for them. All that was left was to add the Ostinato. Both songs just use a simple I –V – I chord progression, so students sang the root of the chords (Do and Sol1) using the words “Bow” and “Skip.” After having heard the accompaniment for both songs so many times, their ears were well prepared. They also learned to play the Ostinato on the xylophones. So to prepare for the assessment, I assigned 6 students to the xylophones to sing and play the Ostinato.
The remaining students were divided into two groups: one-half singing Bow Belinda, and the other half singing Skip to My Lou. The students took turns singing on all three parts. Once students all had a turn on the three parts, I put them in groups of three. Each group was a given a xylophone and they took turns each one singing one of the parts, still as a class but they were separated from one another, not standing next to other children singing the same part.
On the day of the assessment I handed out the student booklets and read through the directions explaining the rubrics to students. Students were then put back into their groups of three and given 10 minutes to decide which part each would perform and practice together. When time was up, each group took turns performing for the rest of the class as I videotaped them.
By this point the excitement was tangible; the children were so excited to demonstrate what they could do and be videotaped.
It just so happened that my administrator dropped-in to observe me on the day of the assessment with one of the classes. We were both impressed by the performances but for different reasons. I was excited to see the children singing their individual part, staying together and on pitch. Children who at the beginning of the year had struggled with singing rounds and canons (evident by placing their hands over their ears as they sang) now stood up, faced the person who was singing the contrasting part and sang out with confidence.
My administrator was impressed that students were given a direction sheet and rubric so that the expectations were clear. She also noted how quiet and engaged students were as each group performed. Finally, she appreciated that the students had an opportunity to complete a self-assessment (Part 3). Later that day, when I ran into my administrator in the hall, she commented on how wonderful she thought the assessment was, how impressed she was with it, and how well the children had performed.
Using this assessment was a great experience. It gave me an opportunity to be more familiar with the MAEIA assessments and appreciate them, not just as an assessment tool for the students, but also as an opportunity to create lessons that incorporated singing, movement and playing instruments, and see their value as an educator evaluation tool.
Creating the learning opportunities that led up to the assessment were fun for me, and the students were excited about a performance opportunity where they could demonstrate their skills.
Margaret Thiele teaches in Dexter Schools and is a MAEIA Leadership Fellow.Click here for a Printer friendly version of this article.