Assessment in the music classroom can be tricky. Many music teachers only see their students once a week — sometimes even less so fitting in quality curriculum, engaging songs and dances, games, books and more needs to be balanced with assessing students' musical growth. Here are several things to consider when assessing in the music classroom.

Why am I assessing?

Your first response might be, "Because I have to!" Many of us do have to report grades, but what if you didn't have to? Why would you do it?

Your answer might be because it provides you with data about students, it helps improve your own teaching, it helps improve their learning, it helps you differentiate, etc. There are a lot of valid answers, but it's still valuable to think about it.

Which assessments will I use?

This will vary from year to year and marking period to marking period. Will you listen to students sing individually? Will you have them dictate rhythmic patterns with dry erase boards and markers? Will you have them compose their own piece with known solfa and rhythms?

Whatever the answer is, it's helpful to plan ahead for those assessments so you can make sure your students are prepared. I write my assessments into my year plan, otherwise known as scope and sequence. Although I might change the assessments I've planned, it at least gives me a starting point.

Which standards will I assess?

If your standards are like my state standards, there are a lot of them! You may have heard of the term "power standards," which refers to the standards you consider the most important.

When deciding on assessments, it's helpful to start with power standards and branch out from there. Assessing power standards first doesn't mean that you won't teach or assess the other standards, it simply puts importance on the standards which are the most necessary for students to understand.

How will I keep track of the data?

In the past, I've used everything from printed-out class lists to the apps iDoceo and Numbers. In my district, we are now using Powerteacher. I've also loved using a small notebook to write down observations, grades, notes, etc. This is so helpful for when I sit down to input grades.

In the notebook, I put the teacher's name and the assessment on the top of each page, then write down whatever I need. Once I record the data into Powerteacher, I put a diagonal line on the page so I know the information has been recorded.

Will the assessment be formative or summative?

Some assessments will help guide your instruction and the students' understanding, while others will be used as a "final grade" or a grade to report to parents. Decide which assessments will be formative and which will be summative before assessing, and this will greatly help your thought process.

You might adapt as you go I've decided to change some summative assessments to formative once I realized that students weren't grasping the concept as well as I thought they were, so that I could provide more practice.

How will I grade the assessment?

Whether you use a plus-check-minus system or a detailed rubric, you'll want to consider how the assessment will be graded. I often use a 1-4 rubric, and either have the rubric attached to the lesson or included in the lesson procedures.

How will I help those students who are struggling?

In past years, I simply helped kids by mostly targeting weaknesses in a whole group setting. However, in the last few years, I've really tried to focus on providing individual intervention whenever I can, typically during centers. I enjoy the one-on-one time with students to help improve their understanding.

Whether you use games, manipulatives or one-on-one intervention, assessment can be a great way to improve musical understanding, as well as your instruction.