Category Archives: Assessment

Rhythm Assessment

Quick and Easy Ideas for assessing Rhythm Reading and Notation
June 12, 2016

 Many of our American teachers are already on summer break, but the Canadian teachers have 3 weeks of teaching.  With your final report cards due soon, here are a few very easy assessment ideas for you to use this week.

  1. Flashcard Attendance ~ Rhythm Reading Assessment

In the Musicplay teacher’s guides I sometimes suggest starting your class with flashcard attendance.  We don’t always have to take attendance, but in schools where you do, make taking the attendance into an opportunity for a quick evaluation.

In flashcard attendance, I would take the pile of cardstock flashcards that the students were working on.  I’d call a child’s name, hold up the flashcard and the child would read it.

4 – student accurately and fluently claps and says the pattern
3 – student is mostly accurate and mostly fluent in clapping and saying the pattern
2 – student is somewhat accurate and somewhat fluent in clapping and saying the pattern
1 – student has many inaccuracies clapping and saying the pattern and is not able to keep a steady beat

Themes & Variations publishes a set of 100 rhythm flashcards that are printed on colored cardstock.  The color coding indicates the patterns included in the set and helps you to quickly find the set that each class is working on.

Link to Flashcards – Canada

Link to Flashcards – USA

In, we’ve taken the flashcards and made this into a very quick and easy to use movie – just press play.  There are 25-35 patterns in each set.   There are fewer patterns for very easy sets as younger classes are usually smaller (we hope!) and more patterns in the harder or longer sets for your older students.  In the easier sets, we’ve given you both 4 beat assessments and 8 beat assessments. You can choose the set that you want to assess.

Rhythm Read 4 beats coverRhythm Read 4 beats pattern

Rhythm Read 8 beats cover

Rhythm Read 8 beats pattern

If you have already assessed rhythm reading, and want to take your students to higher level thinking skills, do a dictation assessment with them.

Reading the pattern is easy for most of your students.

Hearing a pattern and notating it, is more challenging.

Prepare the students by having them Listen, Clap and Say

With the cardstock flashcards, you clap a pattern and have the students clap it back and say the rhythm names while they clap.  You can use whatever system of rhythm names you prefer – Ta, Ti-ti, Takadimi, or Edwin Gordon.  I make this into a game by dividing the class into two groups:  the Allegros and the Vivaces.  I show the Allegros a flashcard and they clap it.  If they clap it correctly, they get a point.  The Vivaces have to correctly SAY the rhythm the other team clapped.  If they say it correctly, they get a point.  I can usually rig it so it’s a tie by the end of the class!

At this is given as a movie.

Students hear the rhythm played, then have to say what they heard.  The answer follows.  This is the preparation the students need to be successful at music dictation.

Listen Clap Say pattern

Listen Clap Say question blank

Listen Clap Say - answer

To do music Dictation using cardstock flashcards, I choose five cards at the level I want to assess.  I give the students a piece of paper (I use paper from the recyling in the school) and a pencil (I keep a class set in a container by the door)  and an old hard cover text to write on.  They write their name at the top and number 1-5.  I clap a pattern – they clap it back, then write it down.  I’ll give it a second time if they need it.   I write down my patterns as I go or keep my flashcards in order. Students exchange papers and correct them in class, so I don’t have to take home bags full of marking.  Yay!

Music Dictation at is done the same way.

Five questions are given.  Pause the movie between questions.  Immediately following the five questions are the answers.  Exchange papers and mark.

Rhythm Dictation cover

Rhythm Dictation how to use

Rhythm Dictation - question

Rhythm dictation - answers

Similar assessments can be done for melody reading, and similar movies are found in the solfa practice section.

I hope this makes getting those marks onto your report cards a little easier!

Visit to use the assessment tools in this post.

Visit to find workshop opportunities with Denise Gagne.


Elementary Music Report Card Comments

Some of my American teacher friends are already finished school, but for many teachers you are into the home stretch and looking forward to the end of the school year.

Report cards are not anyone’s favorite job, but it’s important to communicate how the students have progressed in music.  If we don’t assess, evaluate and report on what we’ve taught, it’s possible that parents will look at music as a “frill” or “something extra” that we do if we have time, and not as a subject area that’s really valuable to our students.

 A teacher in the Musicplay Teacher’s Group on Facebook asked for samples of report card comments, so I’ve gathered some samples for you to peruse.  Every district (and sometimes every school) has a different reporting policy.  Some allow and encourage lengthy comments, and some limit you to just 1-2 sentences.  Here are some categorized comments:


The student:

  • is an enthusiastic learner who seems to enjoy music class.
  • exhibits a positive outlook and attitude in the music classroom.
  • is a positive influence on other students in music class.
  • participates with enthusiasm when singing
  • participates with enthusiasm when playing instruments
  • shows enthusiasm for music classroom activities.
  • volunteers ideas and suggestions in musical activities
  • strives to always do their best in music class.
  • is committed to doing their best in music class
  • enjoys problem solving and challenges in music class.
  • takes responsibility for their learning in music class.


The student:

  • cooperates with the teacher and other students.
  • participates appropriately when playing musical games
  • transitions easily between musical activities without distraction.
  • is courteous and shows good manners in the classroom.
  • follows music classroom rules.
  • conducts themselves with maturity.
  • responds appropriately when corrected.
  • remains focused on the activity.
  • resists the urge to be distracted by other students.
  • is kind and helpful to everyone in the classroom.
  • sets an example of excellence in behavior and cooperation.
  • shows respect for teachers and peers.
  • treats the instruments with care and respect.


The following comments are leveled.

1 – Developing

  • Beginning to participate appropriately and actively in music class.  Requires frequent teacher reminders.

2 – Satisfactory

  • Sometimes participates appropriately and actively in music class.  Requires teacher reminders.

3 – Proficient

  • – Participates appropriately and actively in music class.  Occasionally requires teacher prompts.

4 – Excellent

  • Participates appropriately and actively in all music classes.


The following comments are leveled.

1 – Developing

  • Beginning to perform some instrument and singing parts with teacher support

2 – Satisfactory

  • Can perform some instrument and singing parts with teacher support. 

3 – Proficient

  • Can perform instrument and singing parts.  Requires prompts from the teacher.

4 – Excellent

  • Can perform all instrument and singing parts independently.


The following comments are leveled.

1 – Developing

  • With teacher support, beginning to read, write, and identify some grade level beat and rhythm concepts.

2 – Satisfactory

  • With teacher support, reads, writes, and identifies some grade level beat and rhythm concepts. 

3 – Proficient

  • With teacher prompts, reads, writes, and identifies all grade level beat and rhythm concepts. 

4 – Excellent

  • Independently reads, writes, and identifies all grade level beat and rhythm concepts.


Assessment of Performances

Assessment of Performances

If students have performed in a holiday concert, give them the opportunity to identify and give examples of their strengths and areas for growth as musical performers and as audience members.  There are different ways that they can evaluate their performance.

  1. Discussion

The teacher could ask the class questions. For example:
– If you were to perform this song again, what would you change and why?

– What parts of the song did you find challenging?
– What parts of the song did you find most interesting to sing? Why?

  1. Quick Self-Assessment

Show me 1 finger if you didn’t sing.
Show me 2 fingers if you sang, but you didn’t try your best.
Show me 3 fingers if you tried your very best, and sang with your best singing voice.

Use 1 finger, 2 fingers, 3 fingers as a reflective response for many other areas:

  • Were you a good listener in the concert?
    – Did you like the way you performed in the Christmas concert?
    – Did you behave well for the substitute teacher yesterday?
  • – When you were moving, did you try your best?
  1. Written Self-evaluation  (This is from Dec. Musicplay 6)
  2. I sang with my very best singing voice.

Always ___ Almost always ___ Sometimes ___ Seldom ___

I used my eyes and face to express the words of the song.
Always ___ Almost always ___ Sometimes ___ Seldom ___

I used good posture while singing.
Always ___ Almost always ___ Sometimes ___ Seldom ___

My eyes were focused on the conductor during the performance. Always ___ Usually ___ Sometimes ___ Seldom ___

I remember all (or most) of the words to the songs.
Always ___ Usually ___ Sometimes ___ Seldom ___

I was a good audience member for the other performers. Always ___ Usually ___ Sometimes ___ Seldom ___


Share what assessment tools you use!

Join the Musicplay Curriculum Facebook Page, and/or the Musicplay Teachers group and share your assessment tools.

Or – email denise at and I’ll post your ideas.

These materials come from the Musicplay curriculum.

For information on Musicplay visit

Holiday Concert Scripts:  Last December I invited teachers to send in the scripts that they’ve written for their holiday concerts.  I’d love to get enough to put together a collection of scripts that teachers have used.  I have a few, but would very much like more!  If you’ve written a script, submit it for review.  If accepted, your script will be published and you’ll be paid a 10% pro-rated royalty.    Along with the script, we’ll need the list of songs you used and sources where other teachers can find them.


Videos of Themes & Variations songs:  We LOVE to see videos of your students performing music from one of our publications.  No special permissions are needed to take video of children in public performances, so the usual foip rules don’t apply.  Post the video on YouTube and send me the links.  We’ll share your performances with others.