Friday, October 25, 2013

Student Learning Objectives (SLO) and Simple Assessment Ideas

There has been so much talk of assessment lately with states requiring SLOs (student learning objectives) or other acronyms from other states that I thought I would share a little about what my district came up with for 2nd and 5th grade, as well as two of my favorite informal assessments that can be done in any grade for any subject.

In our district, we just met this past Friday to discuss our SLO's.  The state says no teacher should have more than 5, and well, we teach 6 different grades, so it will be interesting next year when we are out of our practice year and into the "real deal".  Because many other schools in Ohio have already started implementing their SLOs and doing the pre and post tests we had a lot of ideas available to us to get started.  We decided to focus on one primary grade, and one intermediate grade this year and add more in next year after we see how our idea pans out.  Many of the examples we saw focused on one skill (rhythm reading, solfa singing, or vocab) but we wanted our assessment to be a true snapshot of all we teach throughout the entire year.  Therefore, we decided it would have elements of rhythm, solfa, AND vocabulary.

Our 5th grade assessment is basically a picture of a piece of music with instructions to circle one symbol (eg. repeat sign), put a square around another (time signature), define another (tempo or cresendo) etc. There are about 10 symbols they must identify/ define.   It also has a portion where students need to fill in missing beats from a rhythm or missing solfa from a song. After they fill in what is missing, they will come up to me and perform the example.  They also have to determine if the teacher is playing the melody or a harmony part for The Star Spangled Banner.  I hope to post the test as soon as we have it developed.  If you have any questions about my basic explanation, just ask in the comments!

Because we are required to assess as part of our teacher evaluation, I have been trying to figure out more informal assessments to keep my kids on track so that I can be sure they are improving from the pre- to post- test and I am not surprised by the results.  Not that I did not assess before, but I more hyper-focused on it this year due to the changes at the state level.

2 super easy informal assessments I am now using often are:

1) Fist to 5 self check. Many people in my school are starting to use this check in many ways. It is a just a simple way for students to self-assess their own knowledge.  I have them show me "fist to 5" as related to a certain subject.  Fist= I have no idea what you are even talking about and 5= I completely understand, I could teach it.   1-4 fall in between with 1 as the lowest understanding and 4 as very good understanding.   I have done this for new rhythms, new solfa, and especially vocabulary, when they are in line at the end waiting to be picked up.  I sometimes even jot down their answers (I now have them line up in alphabetical order). 

-Also in line I am starting to do simple exit tickets like a lightning vocab round (I say a word-they define, I say a definition-they say the vocab).  I also have asked them to clap a 4 beat pattern, or sing a phrase using certain solfa, etc.  Again, if they are in alpha order it is really easy to jot down who is on track as they are walking out the door. 
Check out this great poster from 

2) The Vote Game-  I have 5-6 clouds on the board or smart board with rhythm patterns, solfa patterns (both on staff and off) or vocab words.  I then clap/ sing/ give the definition of one and the students vote for which cloud they think I am referring to.  I have students vote in front of their body using fingers to minimize cheating.  If they raise their hand high in the air others can easily see and will either out-right cheat OR second guess their own answer.   Check out my wix sharing site to get a version of the Vote Game for prepping La in late 1st or 2nd grade.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

October Fun

October is my favorite month!  Not only does it have Halloween, but it also has United Nations Day (which happens to by my Birthday on the 24th) AND it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (I lost my high school chorus teacher/ 1st voice teacher to Breast Cancer my senior year so it is super important to me).  Therefore, I thought I would share a few things I am doing in October to celebrate with my students.

1.  Halloween Rhythm Cards
           Making the rhythm cards Halloween Themed seems to make them much more exciting than my regular ones. :)  The set you can get from my Sharing Site HERE is for prep of quarter rest.  There are ___  for the quarter rests (get it starting Monday 10/21/13... my new home computer doesn't have SMARTnotebook yet).  It may not come up on your computer if you do not already have the MUSIC ED font because that is what I used to make the cards.  If you don't already have it- MusicEdFont is GREAT for making worksheets, rhythm cards, etc.  It has notes, stick notation, piano keys, most musical symbols, handsigns and more!  Great resource for only $25.  You can get it here.

2.  A few of my favorite Singable Halloween Books:
Shake Dem Halloween Bones- Join all the fairy tale characters for a fun Halloween dance.  Students will love singing along to the chorus and shaking their own bones!    

Dem Bones- great for MRD practice!
(Shake Dem Halloween Bones... mm rrr d)

3.  This Fun Video called the Skeleton Dance- great for a brain break or an extra few minutes at the end of class. Uses a variation of DEM BONES. 

I also typically listen to things like In the Hall of the Mountain King and Dance Macabre.  My 1st graders also use ghost voices, and do Engine Engine like they are Zombies with a low voice, and Ghosts or Witches with a high voice.   That is super fun to watch.    Other fun halloween songs include: Pumpkin Pumpkin (tika-tika), I Heard a Horseman (6/8!), Mrs. White (ta and ti-ti), Which Witch (quarter rest), and of course many more! Share your favorite Halloween songs or activities in the comments section below! Also check out Teachers Pay Teachers and search Kodaly.  Many Kodaly Educators have some great Halloween songs, manipulatives, and games you can buy for a very small price-  All of the items I have gotten so far are VERY worth it!  Look up Lindsay Jervis and Aileen Miracle- both have great stores :)

Hope you are having a great October!  Check out the Wilson Staff in our PINK on our Passionately Pink Day- we raised almost $1,000 so far to donate to Breast Cancer Research Charities!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Solfege Fun! 3 solfege practice ideas

I am always looking for new ways to practice solfege with my students so I thought I would share a few of my SMARTfiles and other ideas I have used in the past week.

              On the SMARTboard (get the file Here and feel free to edit so it says your school name or is in your school colors)  I have made a Wilson Music Remote that has the channels Words, Rhythm, Solfa, and Inner-hearing.   I have the kids alternate between these TV "channels"  by moving the arrow to point to a new channel.  I tend to focus on only 2 or 3 rather than all four (I cover up those channels that are not being used).  Just words and rhythm, just words and solfa, etc.  The kids love it because a lot of times the phrases end up sounding funny when they are mixed up.  They also love to move the arrow themselves-  you just have to remember to remind them that they cannot switch the arrow too much so that the class has time to think.  The hardest thing about this game is not singing along with the kids.

2.  SOLFA Tic-Tac-Toe
Also on the SMARTboard  I make a tic-tac-toe board with a solfa pattern in each square and a
cover over each pattern. (Use the same link as above to get this file too!) Students are split into teams and choose a square.  I reveal the pattern and they have 2 tries to sing it accurately.  If they sing it correct, they get to put their X or O onto the square.  If they sing it incorrectly, It gets covered up and the other team can try for it.  I only let the class try a square 4 times (2 per team) before it is null and void and no one can use the square to get their 3 in a row.  I ALWAYS have a tie-breaker square for when it is a Cats game.  I pick a square with a pattern in our next song (Transition alert!) and whichever team got that square become the "winner."

               Because it is October I made these great song-match manipulatives.  The name just happened to work this month, but if I make stockings in December, it might not be such a cute name for the same activity. :)  Basically I made 3 sets of pumpkins, a solfa set, a staff notation set (this is for 6th grade) and a song title set. Total, it is 9 pumpkins for each song (4 solfa, 4 staff, 1 title)  Students are challenged to sort the cards (4 songs total) as fast as they can.  We have in the past just had groups do one song each to practice.  The activity is tricky for them at first, but as the students figure out, there are hints on the staff cards- Treble clef, Time and Key signatures on the 1st card of a song and a double bar line on the last card of the song- and they can use this to give them a springboard to be successful.  This really helps them get started.    This is a great one for stations!

I have also made a version that is matching solfege, to stick notation, to the song name and you can get it on TPT!  There are two versions- one for fall and one for winter- but you can use them any time!

Jack-o-lantern Stack
Do You Wanna Build a Snowman

Bonus Activities!

1.  Koosh Kwest Solfa -   On the SMARTboard, students see many
circles.  Each circle is attached to another slide with a solfa pattern (I have both solfa notation and staff notation examples) that the students sing.  Students toss a koosh (or beanbag) at the board and it takes them right to the attached slide.  This is a great one for assessment because you can have who ever tosses the koosh sing the pattern before the whole class does.   Unfortunately, I cannot link this file, because I did not make the file.  Check out the screen shots to see how you can make one yourself!  Kids LOVE this game- but you have to remind them to toss underhand. 
Home Screen
Example Melody (top circle links back to home screen)

2.  Solfa Texting/ Solfa Ladder-  I use the solfa ladder all the time, where I or my students point to notes on our solfa ladder and the rest of the class sings.  I have just started having my students also be the ones to give the feedback on the pattern they have shown.  Was the class accurate?  Confident?   This is great for a student led activity!    I can't wait to try solfa texting.  Check out a link to how to do this here:

Last Hungary Post- James Cuskelly Tips for Choir

Before I get into my post about Tips from James Cuskelly Workshop and 2 musicianship classes I took from him during my  3 weeks in Kecskemet, Hungary, I wanted to brag a little about my 5th + 6th graders.  I challenged them today to truly sight-read (on solfa, with accurate pitch and rhythm) a line of a song which was diatonic.  The 1st half of the line was the same as the example we did last week, but the 2nd half was different, and most of them got it on the first try (which I did not expect at all!) and by the end of our work, we were singing the entire verse of the song (4 lines) accurately on solfa.  I was happily stunned.  Usually we have to write in at least a few key pitches- but they didn't write in anything! WOW!  It really shows what using a Kodaly sequence in both choir and general music can do.  It also shows that when kids are truly "your own" you can push them and challenge them and they really are getting it - so new teachers, don't be discouraged!  Keep at it and one day, you too can be stunned! :)  ~ They have now successfully read the whole song and sing it beautifully on solfa with the accompaniment- we will be getting to words soon!

Now onto the tid-bits from James, an AMAZING Kodaly musicianship teacher from Australia (there will be a documentary coming about about Kodaly in Australia, focused on him soon- so stay tuned and as soon as I know it has premiered, I will let you know- I think late 2014 or 2015).  This is kind of an overview/ outline of his Keynote speech during the symposium, with a few practical examples from his musicianship class thrown in.

In his speech, James talked about the choral rehearsal and I have been trying to use his tips and wisdom a lot in my chorus classrooms this year (and it's working!) Obviously in a performance based class, a beautiful performance is the end goal- but how is that achieved? 

2 ways- Good Musicianship (both the chorus AND director)
             Folk Music and Art Traditions in Balance

Kodaly states that the "roots of music are in singing" and that singing would ensure a  more meaningful engagement with music for life.  The components of folk materials serve not only to comprehensively develop the musician, but they ALSO encourage the artistic sensitivity.

During a chorus rehearsal, to achieve good musicianship on the part of the singers, students should master the following in order:
           In tune unison singing (which actually can be VERY tricky)
           Partwork (both homaphonic and polyphonic by way of cannons and ostinatos first)                               Perfect Intervals (both harmonic and melodic).

I tend to focus on the 1st two in my 5th and 6th grade choruses, with some subconscious interval work mixed in by having students read from hand signs in 2 parts.  Kodaly has many 2 part examples that you can do with your choirs.  They also sight-read from the Kodaly 333 and add both pitched and unpitched ostinatos.

If you have a more advanced choir you can try some of these ideas from James:

Singing the tri-chords of a pentatonic scale up and down with interval names (ex. s,-l,-d-l,-s,   s,-l, major 2nd; l,-d minor 3rd; s,-d perfect 4th (then backwards))

You could also sing the scales (or scales with interval names) with different rhythm patterns like tom-ti ti-ti ta and then for an extra challenge do it in groups in cannon.  (this is HARD!)

One more idea is rhythm dictation in both 2/4 and 6/8 and speaking at the same time (this is big kid version of an idea Lucinda mentioned her workshop, check that out HERE).   Students need to dictate the rhythm and then when reading it out loud some start at the 2/4 while others start on the 6/8. Both are read simultaneously AND students have to switch back and forth keeping the macro beat the same. Below is the rhythm we dictated then read in the Musicianship class. 

Just remember that a music classroom should be both sequential and developmental.  Assist your students from moving from the simple, to the more complex and continue to choose a variety literature; some that they will be successful on quickly, and some that is more of a challenge that may take a few rehearsals to master certain sections all to reach the goal of a beautiful performance that leads to a meaningful engagement with music for life.

I will leave you with this WONDERFUL Kodaly quote about singing in a choir and a beautiful video of a choral flashmob in Budapest, Hungary that happened recently:

              Is there anything more demonstrative of social solidarity than a choir?  Many people
              unite to do something that cannot be done by a single person alone, however talented
              he or she may be; there the work of everyone is important. ~ Zoltan Kodaly