Monday, July 11, 2016

Note-Reading Quiz (SLO)

SLO note reading quiz beginning orchestra

For my SLO (Student Learning Objective) for the last few years, I have been using note-reading quizzes with my first-year orchestra students to measure students' growth in naming and drawing note names in their respective clef.  I do not like to spend class time in orchestra doing written quizzes when there are so many other things we could be doing, but I don't mind dedicating some class time to these.  This quiz is a straight-forward way to see exactly where each student is with their note reading and to track their progress throughout their first year of orchestra.  I give a pre-assessment in early October, a progress check in January, and then the final quiz in late May or early June.

The quiz is organized by string, and I have five different versions with notes scrambled up in different orders.  The first half is simply note identification.  Students earn one point per correct note name (leaving off a sharp sign is worth half a point) for a total of 16 possible points.  For the second half, students draw a quarter note for the given letter name in two places on the staff, a high and low version (sometimes students know three for a given note, but they only need two).  Each quarter note is worth half a point (so one point per letter name), for a total of four points.  The total quiz is worth 20 points, which makes the math easy when scoring :)

In class, we name notes (and finger numbers) together before playing different pieces, and I have students come up to the board and point to notes on the staff for their students to play on their instruments when they learn notes on a new string.  I teach mnemonic devices for the line and space notes of the staff (and students come up with their own phrases too), and students learn about the musical alphabet and how it repeats up and down the keyboard.

I would do all these things even if there wasn't a note-reading quiz at the end of the year, but this SLO has made me more intentional about how I teach note reading, and it has made students more accountable to learn these strategies for naming notes and to make them their own.  This quiz also makes it very clear to me where students are in their learning, and I can create the monthly small groups based on student need.  Without this written document, I wouldn't know for sure how each individual student is doing; it's easy to hide in a small group by listening to the others name notes and just say what the others are saying or by playing all the correct notes on the page without necessarily knowing their names.  I also feel good about sending my students on to middle school knowing that they're leaving with this knowledge about the musical alphabet and note-reading.

In the October pre-assessment, I assure students that this won't count as a grade and that I don't expect them to know it all yet.  I do let them know that by the end of the year, they will have learned all this information.  At this point, I'm happy if students can pick out their open string notes and perhaps the notes on the D string.  There are always a handful of violin, cello, or bass students who study piano and can easily and accurately complete the quiz already in October.  I give these students "challenge notes" by adding ledger line notes to their quizzes, and then they would not be included in my target population for the SLO.

With the January progress quiz, it is clear who is right where they need to be and who is not.  At this point, students should be familiar with the notes on their D and A strings, and perhaps G string too.  This is where the data helps me to adjust small groups to combine students with similar needs.

As we get into the C/E string notes near the end of the year, this is when we work on mnemonic devices for the line and space notes on the staff and we really focus on strategies for figuring out letter names on any string.

I tell students a week in advance when we're doing to do the final quiz, and we do a practice quiz semi-independently that week before as well.  On quiz days, we do a quick warm-up with instruments, a bit of review, and then I ask if students would like background music as they work.  The papers are color-coded by instrument for ease in passing out and sorting quickly.  As students finish with their quiz, I ask if they had a chance to look everything over and then I immediately look it over myself, circle any wrong answers with a colored pencil, and work through any missed notes with the individual while the other students are still working.  I keep the quiz to assign a score to it later.  I don't share number scores with students, as the focus is on learning and achievement, not a number.  The number scores are just for my use, though I do assign a grade in the grade book based on the score of the final quiz.  Anyway, as students finish, I either have music for them to practice individually, maybe a review page in the book or a new packet of student compositions to try out, or perhaps a new written composition to begin.  I make sure to start the quiz pretty early in the half hour in case there are students who take a long time to complete written assessments.  Once everyone is finished, we join back together as a small group.

Finally, here are the different versions of the note-reading quiz:

Version A

Version B

Version C

Version D

Version E

Feel free to take and adjust for your classroom.

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