Christine Eason's picture

Do you dread that day you know is coming up when you need to collect some data on your students’ progress?  Do you cringe at the thought of having to make notes, check a box, or write numbers next to your students’ names in order to have some sort of running record of their achievement?  If you are anything like me, the answer is YES!  As the music teacher, so much of what I do is in an ensemble setting or in small groups.  While I am leading singing or movement, or facilitating a music game, I do not enjoy taking out my clipboard and writing even the smallest of notes.  I am just being honest here.  However, one way to integrate objective, meaningful and even fun assessments is through the use of technology.  I will share some of my favorites that I have used and feel free to post any that have worked for you.  (Remember, I am an elementary school teacher, so some of these will not be advanced enough for middle and high school.)

    It was not until just this year that I acquired a classroom with a SmartBoard.  This has made incorporating meaningful technology so much easier because it is so easy to use with large groups and I can guide the students as they take the lead in learning.  As a relative “newby” to the SmartBoard, I decided to invest in some software designed specifically for music called Interactive Now.  The visuals and assessment tools have been a welcome addition to my curriculum and extremely well received by my students.  Here is how I used some of these features.  

    The first quarter of my year was focused primarily on tempo and rhythm.  Once the students has a solid understanding of long and short sounds, it was time to show them what those rhythms looked like.  In Vol. 2 of the Interactive Now software, I was able to introduce to grades 1-3 quarter notes, eighth notes, and quarter rests using the Rhythm Notation Station.   The notes and rests are inside fun shapes such as leaves and snowflakes, making their presentation so much more engaging than my black marker on the board.  The neat feature for my students was the ability to click and drag the notes or rests in different patterns for four different rhythms.  The kids caught on to this so quickly and became rhythm readers right away.  I have never experienced this before.  But, it gave me the idea to just use this software as an assessment tool.  

    For the upper grades four and five, I used the Rhythm Flash Cards and had the kids clap and chant through the rhythms as a group.  Later, I gave them all drum sticks, put on a funky backbeat from my Garageband app, and listened to each student play the rhythms individually.  Since we has already practiced the rhythms in a group, everyone felt more confident playing them alone.  

    In Vol 2 there is a cool feature called What do You Hear? and you click on the instrument, it plays a rhythm, and the listener touches the notated rhythm on the screen.  What a perfect assessment tool.  As we did this in class, I was finding that my kids were learning so fast and they were all choosing the correct rhythms.  I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and there are so many great technology tools, but for now I am enjoying Interactive Now as an assessment tool in the elementary music room.