Tag Archives: elementary music assessment

Assess Melody Reading and Writing

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 can read, write, hear and transcribe melodic patterns using solfege.  I use solfege only for note reading in Grades 1-2-3, then transition to a combination of solfege and absolute pitches in Grades 4-5-6.

It’s magical when you can show a song to your students and they can sing it or play it at sight.  That’s a skill that many adults don’t have, and it requires some very high level thinking skills.  Musicplay is sequenced to teach the following solfege patterns:
K – prepare so-mi (Some K classes are ready to label so-mi, but that depends on the class.)
1 so-mi, la-so-mi and prepare so-do
2 mi-re-do, so-do
3 la-so-mi-re-do, low la, low so
4 fa, ti
5 scale

Just as when children learn to read, sequencing the skills and breaking them down into small steps will help more children to be successful readers.

I think (and this is just my own opinion) that you could compare the sequence of reading solfa patterns to the way that children learn to read.

Read and name the solfa notes = recognizing and naming the letters of the alphabet and knowing the sounds that each letter makes
Circle the melody pattern that you hear = seeing the word cat, hat, mat and circling correct
Read and sing the solfa pattern = sounding out the word c-a-t
Write the solfa notes on the staff =  writing C-A-T with help sounding out letters
Write the melody pattern that you hear = writing the word cat independently
Create and perform a new melody pattern = write the word in a sentence

If you agree with my sequence, then you’ll want to assess each of these steps, informally in your classes to determine if children are ready to move to the next step.  And you may want to do some formal assessments of these skills for grades or portfolios.  Opportunities for all of these assessment of these skills are on www.muiscplayonline.com and we have print versions available for many for those who don’t subscribe.

Solfa Note Challenge – use to Read and Name Solfa Notes:

This was one of the first interactive solfa activities that we created for the online site.  In this activity, students drag the soccer balls  (the notes) to the net to show that they know which note is so and which note is mi.  Almost every reading song in Musicplay has a Solfa Challenge activity.  If you do not have Kodaly training and are unsure what the answers are, each challenge includes a play button and a singer sings the song in solfege, giving you the correct answers.  (Another great way to learn to read solfege yourself is to use the Note Highlight videos, part 2)

Match the Melody Game – use to circle the pattern that you hear:

The Match the Melody Game is online at www.musicplayonline.com and is also a print product if you don’t subscribe or if you want a print version.

In Match the Melody, you choose the level you’ve been working on.  There are 14 levels in the online game.

The Print version has been divided into Level 1 and Level 2.

Level 1 includes sm, ls m, smd, mrd and ls m d patterns.

Level 2 includes:  s mrd    ls mrd,
mrd l,  mrd l,s,   drm sl d’   drmfs  drmfsl d’ sltd’   t’drmfsltd’

You can choose to have the melody sung in solfege (voice) or you can choose to have the melody played on a keyboard.  The keyboard version is great ear training in classes with teachers who don’t use solfege.  If you’re assessing the solfege, play the solfa pattern and have students choose the pattern that they heard.  We were careful in creating this activity to use the same rhythm pattern for each answer, so students are assessed on their melody reading ability – not solfa.

Additional printables and assessments are included in the print version – Match the Melody 1-2

This is a printable assessment of the Circle the Melody Assessment.


This is another additional printable included in the print version of Match the Melody.  The starting pitch is given, then students write the rest of the melody on the line.

If you’re using the online game, give the students a piece of paper and pencil and have them number 1-5.  Then play the pattern that you want them to write down, and they write it using letters.  For example:  ss m ss m

Teaching music reading using solfege is more difficult than teaching children to read rhythms.  When teaching time is very limited, teachers may have to leave out this aspect of the music curriculum.  (And some teachers choose to teach letter names.) But the reward of having a 6 year old look at a simple so-mi song like, “Hey Hey Look at Me!” Or “Bye Lo Baby Oh” and be able to sing it at sight, is to me well worth the time I invest to teach solfege.

Quick Solfa Teaching Tips

This newsletter is about assessment, but you can’t assess unless you’ve taught, and those who see their students once a week or less, need strategies if you want to teach this.

  1. Start every class with a solfa activity.  The Solfa Practice section at www.musicplayonline.com has enough activities you could do a different one every class for the whole year.  Start with echo, then poison melody, then read flashcards, then read handsigns, then Listen and Sing, then Assess.  Five minutes every class, and your students will read solfa by year end.
  2. If you don’t start your class with solfa, use solfa flashcards as an exit-ticket activity.  That’s where the printed cardstock flashcards are great.
  3. When you teach a reading song, have the students read it!  I have them read rhythms first, then words in rhythm, then solfa pitches, then sing.
  4. Use solfa and simple reading songs as a part of your music class – not the entire class!  Lois Choksy said that reading songs should comprise 1/3 of the repertoire in music classes.  They should be experiencing folk songs and other songs that use a wider range of pitches than just so-mi.
  5. Remember that there are 3 ways to teach a song:  rote, reading, immersion.  If your students USE their solfa reading skills to learn new songs it will be more meaningful.

In Musicplay, some songs have a small staff on the upper-right hand side above the composers name.  This staff indicates the solfa pitches used (in K-3) and in Gr. 4-6 both the solfa pitches and the absolute note names are indicated.  These songs are the songs I use for teaching melody reading.  Sometimes they’ll be in the sequence early to prepare the students.  Children should always experience sound before symbol.  So they should play many singing games and sing many songs in new tone-sets before they can read and write them.

This graphic illustrates where I think that rhythm assessments fall on Blooms taxonomy.  Naming the rhythm as ta or ti-ti would be remembering.  Reading rhythms with a steady beat would fall into understanding/applying.  When you do rhythm dictation, this is even higher up the taxonomy – this is applying/evaluating.  When you have students create their own rhythm compositions, you’re at the highest level.

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

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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Assess Rhythm Reading and Writing

As we approach the end of the school year for some of our American friends, I wanted to share some easy and quick ways to assess the students’ ability to read and write rhythms.

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.
Purchase our great set of Flashcards
TeachersPayTeachers – Rhythm Flashcards
Order Cardstock Flashcards from Musicplay Canada     
Order Cardstock Flashcards – USA   
At www.musicplayonline.com, 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.
The Rhythm Practice Menu is on the left menu (on computers).  Select Rhythm Practice, then select Assessments.  There are 15 levels for rhythm assessments from K all the way to Grade 8.

Rhythm Reading Assessment at www.musicplayonline.com.  To make this really easy, line your students up or seat them in class list order.  Student 1 on your class list will read the first rhythm pattern, then student 2, etc.
For the first 2 patterns, the voice says “ready go.” After the first 2 patterns, “ready go” is replaced with “click click.”  There is a 2 beat pause at the end of the pattern, where you can say the name of the next student.  If your students need the “ready go” prompt you can say it with the clicks.


This graphic illustrates where I think that rhythm assessments fall on Blooms taxonomy.  Naming the rhythm as ta or ti-ti would be remembering.  Reading rhythms with a steady beat would fall into understanding/applying.  When you do rhythm dictation, this is even higher up the taxonomy – this is applying/evaluating.  When you have students create their own rhythm compositions, you’re at the highest level.
Rhythm Dictation Assessments
You can do this with the videos at www.musicplayonline.com or you can do this by clapping the rhythms yourself.
Scroll past the Rhythm Reading Assessments in the Assessment Section to Rhythm Dictation.  A PDF is given with the answer key, and it has a printable 4 Beat Rhythm Dictation worksheet for students to complete.  (If you want to save paper, use recycled paper and have students write their names at the top and number from 1-5.)
Play the question and pause.  Drag the video back to repeat, or clap it again for students if they need to hear it a second time.  Five questions are given.  The Answers follow.  I like to have students exchange papers and grade them in class, then I check them over and enter them into my gradebook.
Which Rhythm Do You Hear?  Another tool that’s available online and as a print product is Which Rhythm Do You Hear?
There are many levels to select from.   Choose your level, and you have 10 questions.  Press “play” and students choose the rhythm that they heard.  If you have a SMART Board, students can select the answers on the board.  Or you could have them hold up 1, 2 or 3 fingers to indicate which answer they choose.
If you want to use these as your assessment, Just press play, allow students to write down their answer, then go onto the next question without showing the answer.  I’ve found 5 questions are enough for a good assessment – I don’t need to do all 10.  There are printable answer sheets in the print product.
Which Rhythm? Print Version
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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 denisegagne1@gmail.com and I’ll post your ideas.

These materials come from the Musicplay curriculum.

For information on Musicplay visit www.musicpay.ca

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.