Pre-Assessments for the Win
Updated: Dec 18, 2018
I teach music to TK-5th graders at four very different public elementary schools weekly. To figure out where each of my +/- 1000 students that I see each week are at on the spectrum of music knowledge, experience, and skill level, I need to get some reliable data, and fast! Many of my students have never experienced music training before in their lives while some of them are already performing regularly on stage. I can teach to each student and more accurately differentiate my instruction if I administer pre-assessments to my classes at the beginning of the school year and also at the beginning of each new unit. These pre-assessments will show me before we even begin to sift through the material which students need to be challenged more, which students need more support, and which students need more practice.
My Pre-Assessment for 3rd-5th graders as we begin our recorder units in the the late fall/early winter months will include questions that will reveal what, if any, prior knowledge each individual student has on the following topics:
1. Note Name Pre-Assessment (using letter names...a lot of them won't know this yet and so are not expected to do well. Obviously this won't effect their grades) 2. Rhythm Pre-Assessment (featuring review of rhythms learned in the past and some new rhythms we haven't looked at together) 3. Music Terms Pre-Assessment (featuring music vocabulary, some we talked about and some we don't know yet)
4. Recorder how-to and asking students how to play a few specific notes.
I found some great recorder unit pre-assessments thanks to Beth's Notes: https://www.bethsnotesplus.com/2014/03/recorder-assessments.html
Once I score the pre-assessments, I can sort and track the results. From there, I can create homogeneous groups for the 22% of students who are English Language Learners (ELL), first time music students, students who have special needs, and students who have social or learning disabilities. These students will need more instruction on concepts and attentive check-ins with me. I will create 1 group for the 22% of students who get the highest scores on the pre-assessment and need further challenge and/or enrichment. Lastly, I will create 2 groups for the 55% who know some music or catch on relatively quickly and just need more practice. They can also answer questions for each other and fill in each other's knowledge gaps. I will tell these students to ask around to their cohorts in either group until they find the answer to their question. If no one can answer their question, then they can write down the question for me to answer to the entire class before they leave for the day. The sorting of students into these homogeneous groups is represented below in the mind map diagram, along with center activities.
To assess how well students worked on filling in their knowledge gaps during class time in their centers, I will have them fill out an exit ticket before they leave in which they can ask any burning/remaining questions they have. I will give them another pre-assessment at the beginning of the next class to see if anyone has moved to a different score range and therefore to a new group.