Category Archives: Choir Music

Performance Assessments

Are you doing assessments for your end of the year report cards?  One of the areas that I want to assess is how well children perform music in choirs, Orff ensemble, on unpitched instruments, recorder, ukulele or guitar.

Assess a Choral Performance

When you’re conducting a choir, it’s almost impossible to assess the performance of an individual child during the performance.  But you can video the performance, and use it to assess some aspects of performance.
* are students watching the conductor?
* do students use good posture in performance?
* are students singing with an open mouth?

Discuss the Performance with your Students:  (Musicplay 3, song#1)

– “Did we use good diction?”
  “What could we do to help the audience hear our words more clearly?”
– “How can we sing softly and stay in tune?”
– “Did we all breathe in the same places?”
– “Did we sing the phrases the same way?”  “Did we start and end phrases together?”
– “Did we match pitch?”
– “Did the voices sound nicely blended, or were there individual voices that you could hear?”
– “Were the vowels pure?”
– “ Was the tone pleasant, open and resonant or was it sometimes “shouty”?”
– “Did the class maintain a steady beat and perform rhythms accurately?”
– “Could you hear the dynamic contrast at the end of the song?”
Ask the students to think of compliments and comments about their own performance.   

I NOTICED………..    I WONDER……….

Brian Burnett suggests the use of the words “I noticed” and “I wondered” when making comments about performances.   I liked this because it frames statements in a positive way.

THREE STARS AND A WISH

Another way to assess performances that I like is 3 stars and a wish.
If a group has performed in class, invite students to share 3 things they liked (3 stars) and a wish for what they might do differently.
* . ______________________________________
* . ______________________________________
* . ______________________________________
I wish ____________________________________

Quick self assessment for students:

Show me your fingers.  Ask them to hold them against their heart, so it’s just between you and them.
4 fingers – I did an awesome job
3 fingers – I did pretty well
2 fingers – I tried my best, but made mistakes
1 finger – I could have tried harder and could have done a lot better
 
Part of an assessment or a performance can be a student self-evaluation:

Student Self-Evaluation of Choral Performance

 

3 Second Listen

Part of the Assessment might be done in rehearsal. I use the 3 second listen for large groups or for a very quick assessment.  I have the class line up in class list order. (alphabetical).  Then I have them sing as a group, often with a recording.  I walk up and down the rows listening to each child for about 3 seconds, and record their grade on my class list.
X = excellent
VG = very good, with a few pitch slips
S = satisfactory – somewhat close, but is not fully in tune
NY = not yet – the child is wildly out of tune, speaking or not trying

 

Teacher Assess Orff Ensemble

I’ve used this rubric to assess performance in an Orff ensemble.
If possible, video the performance, then assess each child.
 

 
And you can have students do a self-assessment.

Student Self-Assessment in Orff Ensemble

 

Recorder Solo Assessment

This is a very detailed assessment.  I’d probably only use this once in a term.

 

To the Teacher: Since it is very time consuming to assess a complete performance of a solo by every child, assess one skill in isolation every week and assess only 1-3 solos or parts of solos per term.  I seat my students in alphabetical order, and grade directly to my class list.  Instead of calling attendance, I identify the skill to be performed, and give them a short exercise to perform it on.  For example, I assess tonguing on a short rhythm pattern:ta ta ta ta | too-oo too-oo    I can assess legato connections at the same time.  I assess rhythm reading by holding up rhythm flashcards and having each child read one. Pencil and paper exercises are given in the kit and should be marked and grades recorded.  Use the mad minutes as a  tool to assess note names by cutting off the top part and having students complete them in a given time (I use 3 minutes).

This is a much quicker rubric to use:

Rubric for Assessing Student Playing:

1 – Plays correct notes and rhythms with excellent tone, legato tonguing, breath control, and posture
2 – Plays correct notes but is missing one or more of the following: accurate rhythms, excellent tone, tonguing
3 – Plays most of the notes correctly but is missing two or more of the following: accurate rhythms, excellent tone, tonguing
4 – Plays few of the notes and rhythms correctly
 
Assessment is a big topic and these are just a few of the ways that you might use to assess performance.  Share your ideas, rubrics and videos on the Musicplay Teachers Facebook Group!
 
 

Purchase our great set of Melody Flashcards

USA and International – Melody Flashcards

Purchase the Print version of Match the Melody, with many printable assessments and projectables:

Match the Melody – USA

Purchase our great set of Rhythm Flashcards

TeachersPayTeachers – Rhythm Flashcards
Order Cardstock Flashcards – USA   

Purchase Which Rhythm Do You Hear?

Which Rhythm? Print Version – USA
 
 
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Great Choral Music for Elementary Choirs

Bubble Trouble by Stephen Lawrence, published Alfred is a fun selection with great choreography possibilities.  I like that it tells kids that they shouldn’t chew gum in choir – one of my pet peeves.  Here’s a fun performance  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFMqfjtMPrc
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ink to OCTAVO.

For a lyrical ballad, A Wish for Peace is really nice.  It was originally written for Christmas (A Christmas Wish), but only 3 words need to be changed and you can do it for any time of year.  Instead of “this Christmas time” sing “all these things.” Lovely performance here by York House School:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbRwA8qW6ZE  By Denise Gagne and Craig Cassils.  This is available as a single song kit, so you can get music into all your students hands for just $15.  Link to Single Song Kit Download on US site.   Here is the link for Canadian teachers.

Amani Utupe, Sally Albrecht, pub. Alfred
I first used this when it was part of MENC Music Monday.  Have used it many times since.  It’s a great piece.  This is a wonderful vocal performance.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2844ORtcAo  Other YouTube performances show the choreography.
Link to Octavo

Donkey Riding is a good fun selection – it’s in Musicplay 3 (and a single song kit). BCMEA Honor choir performed it a few years ago.   Donkey Riding is quick and fun.  It’s got some interesting articulations in it – I use it to teach staccato and accent.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PDHkPq8Hdo  Here’s a link to the single song kit for Canadian Teachers.  Here’s the link for teachers in USA.

Two Canadian Folk Songs is a lovely partner song that uses Land of the Silver Birch and Two Canadian Folk Songs.  It’s in the Musicplay curriculum in 4th grade, and is also available as a single song kit.  See a movie of the song at www.musicplayonline.com .  Link to Single Song Kit for Canadian Teachers.  Link for US teachers.

Ghost Ship, from Reflections of a Lad at Sea, Don Besig
This is a piece with great story telling in it.  The students loved it, the audiences loved it and we got a recommendation to provincials with it – and we weren’t the only choir doing it at provincials.
YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwPAyCtzKxA
Link to Octavo

Don Gato, Ray Doughty – Plymouth Music Co. Inc.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eue6p8RdMX8
Don Gato, arranged by Ray Doughty, is a favorite Mexican folk song children love to sing. Doughty has written this song for two-part treble voices and piano. The voices sing in unison for much of the piece. The middle section on pages four and five has the voices singing in brief two-part harmony, as well as in the final few measures. Don Gato is a Mexican cat who falls in love with a fluffy, white female kitten. When she agrees to marry him, he happily jumps in the air, falls off the roof breaking his ‘solar-plexus,’ and dies. However, by the end of the story he is reincarnated, comes back to life and all ends happily. There is a dramatic piano accompaniment that assists in creating the dramatic quality of this piece. Don Gato could be performed with a brief dramatic skit as the chorus sings. There are a couple of tempo changes but nothing too difficult for an elementary chorus. A few Spanish words are included. This piece is great fun for children to sing and audiences will truly enjoy listening to it. The tempo changes and dramatic dynamics make this an excellent ‘teaching concept’ piece. “Ole!”
LINK to Octavo.

Humpty Dumpty by Dave and Jean Perry is fun – several choirs did it last year in our Symphony Kids concert last year.   It tells the story of Humpty Dumpty with some dramatic touches.  I love pieces that have lots of contrast and this one has great contrast.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYmxVGDAnfU   Link to Octavo.

Goliath, Joseph Martin is another fun favorite.  My students have always really enjoyed this.  It tells a great story and has many contrasts.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-U_T9e7mHXI
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ink to Octavo.

Child of the Universe, Craig Cassils
This is a lovely lyrical piece with a beautiful message.  The range gets your students into head voice.  There are a few places where students might mix up words, but with enough rehearsal it’s a stunning performance piece.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KxW_JYzj8I
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INK to Octavo.

When I Believe in Me, from Musicplay 5 is another really good message song for kids, from Musicplay 5 – very easy 2 part.  It’s a great selection for an Olympics year, a Dare graduation, or an elementary graduation.   Link for Canadian Teachers.  Link for teachers from USA.

Make a Difference, Denise Gagne – Musicplay 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGjlkIkQiVs       
This selection is in unison, and  is easily learned by a primary choir.  The message is meaningful even to young children – they can make a difference in the world.  The included choreography enhances the performance of the song.   It’s part of the Musicplay curriculum, and is available as a single song kit from Themes.  (www.musicplay.ca – select country – select song collections – select single song kits)  Single song kits include the piano/vocal score, vocal reproducible score, MP3s of performance and accompaniment, and if available a PPT or PDF projectable.   Link for USA teachers.  Link for Canadian teachers.

Jabulani is a Zulu word meaning “rejoice.” It is often used as a first name, and in that context is often shortened to “Jabu.” Although the word comes from Africa, the song could be used anywhere in the world – sort of a universal celebration. You could this song as your opening song for a multicultural concert or you could use the song to celebrate Heritage Day – a South African public holiday celebrated on September 24th.  The performance is by a school in Ontario, and the looks on the children’s faces as they perform shows their love of the song.  It really makes a connection with the audience.  The song is available (print/download) in the collection Celebrate Around the World (US link) Canadian Link to collection, and is also available as a single song kit.   Link for Canadian Teachers.  Link for teachers in USA.  YouTube performance:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQjhhuVxq5I

Siyahamba – Musicplay 6
This arrangement of the familiar South African hymn is given in Zulu and in English.  I’ve performed this very successfully with a grade 4-5 choir, accompanied by drummers.  It’s very appealing to the kids and audiences both.   It’s part of the Musicplay curriculum, and is available as a single song kit from Themes. Single song kits include the piano/vocal score, vocal reproducible score, MP3s of performance and accompaniment, and if available a PPT or PDF projectable.  Link for Canadian Teachers.
Link for teachers in USA.

Share your favorite choral performance pieces in the comments!  There will be a follow up post with more choral pieces from Musicplay that are available as single song kits.  And be sure to try out www.musicplayonline.com – you can access all the choral pieces from Musicplay mentioned in this blog online!