Improvise—Embellishments to a Familiar Song
Students, through exploration and improvisation, will play or sing embellishments on a familiar melody. This assessment can be done using instruments or voices. The teacher will make this decision based on the abilities and previous experiences of the class. Students need to know the definitions of the words “embellishment” and “improvisation” in order to be successful in this assessment.
Each student will be asked to improvise variations on the second phrase of a short melody (e.g., a four-measure phrase followed by another four-measure phrase for a complete song). Students will be given the opportunity to practice this song as well as experiment with possible embellishments at the beginning of the class period before the start of the assessment.
Possible song choices include: “Hot Cross Buns,” “Gently Sleep,” “Merrily We Roll Along,” “Frog in the Meadow,” “Pierrot” or any similar song that is currently being studied in the music classroom.
Students can be seated in a circle for this assessment. The piece they are singing or playing should be memorized; rote instruction is advised. If choosing to sing, use a neutral syllable.
The students will play or sing the complete song once as a class with the help of the teacher. The teacher will model embellishments twice at the beginning of the assessment before asking individual students to play or sing. Then the class will play or sing the first phrase while individuals improvise embellishments on the second phrase. This will continue until each student has improvised individually.
This item has been voluntarily field-tested by Michigan teachers with a non-representative sample of students.
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