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Grading: Testing chorus students


>My school requires that we give a "mid-term" just prior to the Winter
>Holidays. I have not done this before and have never given my MS chorus
>students all-encompassing tests. I thought I'd seek out others who
>already do this through Choralist!

NOTE: Thanks to those who replied! I got 4 replies, but one was particularly
interesting. Its at the bottom because it was also the longest. Obviously,
we can't all do the same exams but your comments will help me create my own.
I plan to incorporate several of your suggestions this December.


It's been a while since I've taught MS, but when I did I always gave a
mid-term, which basically consisted of singing a selected portion of one of
our pieces in quartets, individuallized sight-singing and a review of terms
covered (in their music) through the term. I consider this a necessary
assessment though, and it was weighed (I think) 50, 30, 20.


Good luck with your students mid term exam! Perhaps questions could be based
on the repertoire they are learning, including composers, time periods,
historical events of the same time, vocal ranges within the pieces, use of
melodic motives, compositional styles, etc.


I don't have anything for middle school testing. I give a high school final
each semester and have the kids sing in quartets or trios depending on the
voicings of the music. The only way they can fail is if they refuse to sing
or walk away and sit down. If they just stand there, they will get a 60%.
If they sing any part they get a 70%. If they sing their part half right
they get 80%, mostly right 90% and perfect is 100%. It allows me to hear the
kids and gives them an hour if they are not secure enough to sing in front
of their peers.

I test the kids about once a month by recording them individually on the
repetoire in the following way.

8 students at a time, 8 microphones, recording through 8 channels on to 8
tracks on a computer software program called Cubase. Students who are not
being recorded sing anyway - but away from the mikes.

Each student's track is then converted to mp3, emailed to the student along
with a rubric based on the one I have attached (this rubric is wordy and
needs to be introduced bit by bit on successive tests). They self assess
and then I teacher assess about one third of them (the ones that think they
are brilliant, the ones that think they are terrible and a random sample of
the ones in between). I also ask the student to write a short paragraph
setting priorities for improvement they want to work on and I always write
back with suggestions or a promise to add their concern to the lesson plans
(if enough students have the same concern). Then they put these goals onto
their practice sheet so that their at home practice is as efficient as it
can be.

This makes them self-motivated learners, me a better teacher, and breaks
right through all that nonsense about choral directors teaching students
when in fact they are teaching choirs using a scatter gun approach not based
on individual student needs. It also motivates them to be ready for
concerts :)

This takes time, but less time thanif you have students coming in (or
forgetting to come in) during lunchbreaks for individual assessment.

There are good software programs for continuously assessing theory (Alfred
Theory does one) or you can use the books as I do currently. For
sightreading, I listen to Grade 8 students individually in front of their
peers, Grade 6 students get recorded in groups of 8 using the same method I
mention above, and Grade 7 students get the choice, with a higher than A
grade possible for those who take the risk and an A still possible for those
that don't). Auralia does an excellent ear training program which really
quickly lets droners tune up their ears.

Mr. Jussi Doherty
on November 21, 2004 10:00pm
Only test your students on material that you have covered extensively in your class. You should make the exam a two part exam. Part one is the actual performance they give at the Winter Holiday, then part II is a critique form filled out by the students themselves. You can use forms like they use for Festival contests and grade the students on their answers. This makes the exam an integral part of the class that you teach rather than something you are forced to give.

Good Luck
Pete Rodrigues
on December 25, 2004 10:00pm
I am a Choral student, in an auditioned ensemble for SSAA Literature. My choral teacher does not give us a written test. Our Final or Mid-Term exams consist of going to district contest, being involved in our class, auditioning for All-state, and Solo/Ensemble. This motivates us, and we don't even think about it as a grade, because we enjoy doing these activities.