Monday, February 18, 2013

Assessing Assessments Part 1

   How I grade has definitely evolved since I began teaching.  I don't really remember much discussion in undergrad as to how to grade, what to grade...etc.  I think I just began grading the way that I was graded in undergrad and in high school.  Show up, participate, don't screw around too much and you get an A.  That is not the case these days.  We are grading for learning.  We want students to understand why they received the grade that they earned and we want them to hopefully work to improve that grade. 
  I struggle with grading music.  I struggle with how inflated grades have become.  No longer is a B considered above average anymore.  Receiving a B for some students is like receiving a death sentence.  In my own education I was definitely not an A student.  I had a fair share of As, but I mostly received Bs and some Cs (mainly in math) and I think I am doing OK in my career, but that is beside the point.  We are in a different time now.

  My main struggle right now is administering grades for a playing test that I just had my students complete. Students played a one octave chromatic scale individually for me during their lesson time or those who missed had to record themselves during band.  I am really green with technology in the classroom, but after having the kids record themselves, I am committed to start using electronic portfolios next year.  My grading scale was extremely generous.  10 points total: 10 points for 0-2 mistakes, 9 points for 3-5 points and 8 points for 6+ errors.  So if a student missed half of the scale they are still getting a B.  That is pretty darn generous; probably far too generous.  It takes me back to that march  by Thomas Duffy, "A+ March" that makes it pretty clear that in order for music to be considered " A+" only x amount of mistakes can be made.

  Anyway the students who attend their lessons, for the most part, did very well.  The students who had to complete the test during band typically are the ones that for one reason or another miss multiple lessons.  I am struggling with a handful of recordings that don't resemble any sort of chromatic scale whatsoever.  How can I possibly assign them a B when they clearly have no idea of what is going on?  This also presents an excellent case for smaller lesson sizes (ours are mandated at 15) because clearly I am not connecting enough with these students.

  I decided to assign these students 6 points, and letting them know that they can practice more and make a second attempt for a higher score.  I do want these students to hear their recordings, but at the same time I wonder if they know at all how poorly they are doing?  I give them credit for attempting the playing test, but there is also a small part of me that is feeling like I am failing as a music educator as these kids have NO idea.  How do I get to these kids?  How do I get them to succeed?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Solo Projects-Part Two!

A display of some of the finer examples of programs that students created. 
I really like this one-he served brunch for his whole family!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

I am a lucky lady

   This is going to be a short post, but I was so inspired and moved by my 6th graders this past Friday that I needed to share this with you.  I was out of school on Friday trying to get healthy.  There is never a good day to be gone, but with my particular schedule there are better days than others.  I knew that if I was gone on this particular day that my students would be ok without me, as seen below.

   The previous times that I have been gone on days that my "A day" 6th grade band has met, they have attempted to rehearse themselves-usually with a bit of success. (I usually am unable to find a music sub).  After the first time that I was gone, they shared with me their frustrations of trying to be a student leader, and at the same time having kids in the band yelling out directions, trying to count off...etc, so we did a little impromptu conducting lesson and how to treat your peers when they are behind the podium.  Just in case I was gone again and they wanted this again.  Of course, I always provide an alternate lesson, but these kids are SO motivated that they just want to play and share their skills with whomever will listen. 

  So, I share with you what my 6th graders did on Friday and my sub sent me.  I was really taken aback and moved a bit to tears.  These are special kiddos and I am praying that they stay this way for a long time!