I am all for assessing student singing, but for some time I have struggled to find a way to assess that did not take up an unreasonable amount of time. I have tended to favor informal methods, where I walk up to individual students while they are singing with the rest of the class, listen to their singing within the group, and make a quick rubric assessment of the child. I can assess an entire class this way relatively quickly, and the data I gather helps me plan instruction that meets individual needs. The class is still doing what they would be doing anyway, singing, and with little interruption in familiar class routines, assessment takes place.
The problem with this type of informal assessment is that there is no record of student work; there is only the rubric form I have filled out. There is no work to show students, parents or administrators, and students are never evaluated singing alone, which is a much more accurate situation for assessing student achievement in singing. The model cornerstone assessments being piloted for the core arts standards in music address this problem by having the teacher record students singing alone. The recording becomes a shareable and assessable piece of student work, and students are assessed singing alone. On the other hand, the issue of time becomes an issue once again. Having each student sing alone is not what students would be doing anyway, at least not to the extent needed for these assessments. Recording each student singing even a short song can quickly become tedious and overly time consuming. If children record themselves in a separate room, there is the distraction of children frequently leaving and re-entering the class. If the children are recorded in class, other instruction must be suspended while recording is taking place.
The solution is to integrate the solo singing into the lesson, and make the recording as unobtrusive to other instructional goals as possible. While a child is singing and being recorded, the rest of the children in the class can practice using a self-assessment rubric by using it to assess the singing of the student singing, demonstrate and self-assess correct concert etiquette, or practice the solo song by audiating. Students can be held accountable for audiating by cold calling on students to sing the song on two occasions, and checking for improvement.
After a child has sung and been recorded, they fill out a short self-assessment rubric, which I eluded to a moment ago. This gives the child who just sang something to do while the next child sings. If the child fills the self-assessment form out quickly, the teacher can then cold call on a student to answer one of the questions regarding the student who has just sung. For example, did Sarah sing with a steady tempo? This keeps students accountable for listening to the solo singer. Often, they enjoy hearing their classmates sing, and will do so quietly anyway.
Even with these strategies to keep students engaged and attentive, I have found that I can do 8-10 solo recordings in a class before children begin to get weary of the activity. As a result, it takes me three class periods of 45 minutes each to record an entire class for assessment. After the recordings and self-assessments are completed, it takes about half an hour for me to listen to all the recordings and assess each performance. When each recording is made, the student is assigned a number which is recorded on my master list and on the self assessment rubric form the child fills out. My master list tells me by number but not name what the order of performers is on the recording. I use the roster number on my class list. This keeps me from knowing who I am listening to and assessing as I assess each performance, but allows me to look up who the singers are after assessment is complete, so I can use the assessments to plan individualized instruction. When the process is completed, I have a recording of every student singing as student work, a teacher evaluation of each performance, and a self-assessment from each student. Visit www.ctcurriculum.org for more details, and for the rubrics and recorded prompt for the recordings. Under disciplines select music, for certifications select CT common arts assessment, for Grade Level select 2 to 2. Click on find tasks, and then choose “2nd Grade Solo Singing and Self-Evaluation.”