Every day that we teach, we want our students to become better musicians. One of the best ways to do that is to evaluate band students consistently and frequently.
In larger classes of students with multiple instruments, it can be a great challenge to listen to individual students daily or on a regular basis without a significant strategy and good classroom management. Here are a three strategies that I used over the years to help make our kids successful.
1. Small Group Assessment in Band
When students enter the room, have a playing assignment up on a screen or white board for the students to work on together. It can be projected from a book, an on-line program or your own notation program. As students enter the class, they get their instruments out and become engaged very quickly. This allows for me to take care of checking attendance and that last minute “I NEED” issue from students.
Once the students are all ready and playing the exercise, I may have them play the screen by sections in various ways. These include:
Woodwind, Brass and percussion (on mallets)
Something new just to keep them alert
2. “Around the Band”
If we happen to be working out a method book, we may play “Around the Band” with a repeat in the line. This means we play all together then by section in score order then all together again. For example:
Full band plays line
Flutes play line
Full band plays line
Double Reeds play line, etc.
This allows me to hear smaller groups and check for understanding. If there is an issue then we can work on specific details or reteach as needed.
3. Individual Assessment
We also like to do regular individual playing tests. These are usually done on iPads and recorded on video with non-stop recording. Students go in with a monitor (first chairs) and play their assignment one at a time by sections. I usually have several iPads set up so that we can get everyone done in one class period and we can also have a rehearsal going on while testing is being done.
Once everyone is done, I go back and spend time watching these videos for evaluation. I can also save these videos for documentation and observe student progress over time. I usually also allow students the opportunity to do the test early allowing for redo’s and extra credit. This allows those “go getter” students to practice in detail and improve. Students that do poorly are expected to come back and redo the assignment with me or another instructor.
These are not original ideas but as good teachers do, we take good strategies from successful teachers and adapt them to our current situations. I hope these techniques for listening to and evaluating band students regularly can help your students reach the goal of becoming better musicians every day.
Gary Owens currently serves as Band Director at Fort Stockton Middle School serving approximately 250 band students. He went to Odessa High School playing trumpet under the direction of Ed Handley. Mr. Owens is in his 27thyear of teaching with 25 years at the high school level as Director of Bands in Community ISD, Pilot Point ISD, Hereford ISD, McCamey ISD and Cuero ISD. He has had numerous 1st Divisions and Sweepstakes award winning bands throughout these years. He holds a Bachelors degree in Music Education from Baylor University and has a Master’s in Education from Texas A&M – Commerce University. He is married to Vertronica Owens and has a son Spencer in 7th grade at Fort Stockton Middle School that plays trombone.
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