«INDIVIDUALIZING ELEMENTARY GENERAL MUSIC INSTRUCTION: CASE STUDIES OF ASSESSMENT AND DIFFERENTIATION By Karen Salvador A DISSERTATION Submitted to ...»
13-14). Centers provided not only opportunities for individual assessment, but also a chance to indulge Danielle’s curiosity about children’s abilities, preferred activities, and modes of expression when given the chance to self-select.
Challenges to scoring assessments and tracking results. Ms. Wheeler indicated some
challenges to keeping records of students’ music achievement. Attendance presented a problem:
one student missed four of the seven Rocket Notes tests. It was also difficult when a new student joined the class and lacked prerequisite skills; two new students started in fourth grade while I was observing. However, Danielle stated that her main challenge was finding a way to record assessment data immediately. “If you had a class at nine [o’clock] and then you have how many classes [in a row without a break]… you don’t have time in between classes to write notes… so when do you have time to write those notes? Because an hour and a half later, do you remember what happened in the first class? Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t” (DW Initial Interview, p. 19). This was corroborated by her journals. On one occasion she waited two days to write her journal entry, and stated “Uh Oh… Waited two days after lesson and having trouble remembering what happened” (DW Journal 2/8, p. 1). Her typical journal entry comprised 3 to 6 pages, and this one barely filled one page, indicating that the richness and detail she was able to recall diminished greatly over time.
On several occasions, Ms. Wheeler recorded whether students participated rather than their levels of achievement. For example, as described earlier, when fourth grade students composed B sections and played them individually for the class, she simply recorded which students played (DW Think Aloud 2/15, p. 11). In another activity, Ms. Wheeler had kindergarten students sing in small groups into microphones but did not record her assessments at the time. During a think-aloud, while watching a videotape of that class, I asked, “Do you know which children are leading?” Ms. Wheeler replied, “At that particular time I would know.
If I listened to it again I would know” (DW Think Aloud 2/15, p. 4). In light of her comments regarding how hard it was to remember specifics of what had happened in a class over the course of the day, recording more information than simply who participated may have painted a more detailed picture of student strengths and needs, since in most music classes, she did not have a video recording to review in order to make those assessments.
Ms. Wheeler felt that it was important to pick one specific musical behavior when she assessed. “That was, I think, the hardest piece of all assessment for me… I think I had to identify specifically… It has to be one thing. I can’t seem to do more than that” (DW Initial Interview, p. 20). She indicated a wish to be more holistic, but indicated that collecting holistic portraits of all 500 students did not seem achievable. Yet, Ms. Wheeler also stated that selecting specific musical behaviors to assess made it difficult to keep track of all the different ways she scored everything, because each activity had its own scoring system (DW Journal 2/15, p.1). In addition, she felt that it was difficult to know whether the fifth person in a row to demonstrate a particular skill was actually demonstrating his own ability or imitating the response of another child (p. 2). Danielle also was concerned that rating everyone on a particular skill took too much time, preventing spending as much time as possible musicking (DW Think Aloud 2/15, p. 2).
Ms. Wheeler stated that she was looking for some specific musical behavior in nearly every activity she taught. At first, she needed to be deliberate about what exactly she was looking for, and it was difficult and very time consuming (DW Final Interview, p. 9). However, she was determined to integrate assessment components into her teaching. If she was not deliberately checking for something, it “…would not have any meaning. It would just be an activity” (DW Final Interview, p. 9). Danielle found that, with practice, the assessment mindset became more automatic. “I think at some point, you just generally do them [assessments]. I think you just have to implement that assessment piece and try it” (DW Final Interview, p. 9).
She knew what she was looking for in each activity. Now, she was working to find the time and the best method to record that information.
Differentiation and Assessment Ms. Wheeler’s assessments sometimes resulted in individualization of instruction, and differentiation also resulted from her instructional frameworks and strategies. The extent to which Danielle differentiated varied based on the age of the students. In kindergarten, when instruction nearly always was whole-group and experiential, differentiation was rare. In fourth grade, group work and self-paced individual work allowed Ms. Wheeler to use information gleaned from assessments to assist individuals. Ms. Wheeler frequently used the assessments of other teachers as a way to differentiate instruction, although this differentiation was primarily focused on social and academic skills rather than on music learning.
Differentiation in kindergarten. At the kindergarten level, I observed little differentiation of instruction as a result of musical assessments. Individualization was limited to behavioral and social intervention for students with special needs, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and English as a second language (ESL), rather than to musical skill development. The curriculum in kindergarten primarily focused on exposure to music and music activities (e.g., singing, moving, and playing instruments) and teaching children the routines of the music classroom (procedures and social expectations). Perhaps because of this, Ms. Wheeler used an early childhood approach to teaching kindergarten, which did not usually require response or have an expectation of correctness. It may be that differentiation of instruction occurred naturally as children were allowed to acclimate to their new environment at their own pace. However, elements of the differentiated classroom as described by Tomlinson (2000), such as flexible groupings, or varying material or response styles for students with different levels of preparation and ability, were not present.
The day Ms. Wheeler used centers constituted a notable exception in her approach to kindergarten differentiation. Ms. Wheeler began class by demonstrating each center. The students were accustomed to centers in their classroom and understood that some centers were
required and some were free choice. The optional music centers included:
1) Large Taos drum with mallets. Students could play macrobeats, microbeats, or very little microbeats. They could also play My Mother, Your Mother (a chant echo game) with patterns notated on paper plates. Only four people could play.
2) Singing center with microphones. Students were to sing specific songs cued by picture cards. These songs were all part of their upcoming program.
3) Drawing on the white board with markers. The drawing must be a music picture.
Students could draw an instrument or write music notes.
4) Instrument area with unpitched percussion instruments. Kids could play patterns or sing songs with the percussion.
5) A puppet stage made from a sheet over some chairs and a variety of puppets.
6) A group of chairs and colored paper hearts for “Messenger, Messenger”
7) Sitting in the teacher’s chair to read: A, You’re Adorable (a song they will sing in their program) (DW Field Notes, 2/12, p. 3).
Compulsory centers were individual singing voice development testing in the hall with the student teacher and xylophone play (bordun and glissando) in the classroom with Ms. Wheeler.
Centers offered a chance for free play in groups flexibly chosen by the children. According to
my field notes:
The drum center is popular. I hear several examples of steady beat. I see kids trying out the drum with their hands rather than the mallet and preferring that timbre. Some kids rush from center to center, others stay in the same place for a long time—especially those who started off at the drawing center.
A group of girls play the “Messenger, Messenger” heart game for a few minutes. They move to the microphone-singing center, where they appear to sing a few songs, but I can’t hear them. Then, they come closer to sit in the teacher’s chair and accurately sing A, You’re Adorable—while one student holds the book (and turns the pages at the correct
The drawing center (white board) is covered with fairly correct music notes. Students are now trying to draw treble clefs. I learned later that these students had never written as a
I see one little girl reading the rhythm pattern cards for My Mother, Your Mother at the drum center with the correct solfege syllables.
Six students organize a group to play the Messenger, Messenger heart game, and one child is the teacher. I am amazed to hear how accurately she leads the echo singing; the responses vary in accuracy. It is funny to watch the little “teacher” as she imitates Ms.
Wheeler’s response style when one child forgets to echo.
One girl sits by herself and sings all of “Hush, little baby” with accurate pitch and good tone while keeping macrobeat on a triangle. (DW Field Notes, 2/12 p. 4-5).
Centers time resulted in student-directed learning of preferred topics in student-chosen groups, which is one way to differentiate instruction. This differentiation was the result of assessment, but not in the way I had anticipated when I designed this study. Rather than to provide learning activities based on a need for remediation or challenge discovered by assessment or using the centers to assess the musical skills used at each center, centers filled the need to have something for students to do while the teacher engaged in formal assessment.
Differentiation in fourth grade. In fourth grade, there were several examples of differentiated instruction based on the results of assessments. Ms. Wheeler frequently circulated and wrote the names of students who were not demonstrating particular skill (e.g., fingering for low D) on a clipboard while the whole class played a song together. If the list was longer than five or so students, Ms. Wheeler would work with the whole class on that skill. If not, she would pull those specific students aside for additional instruction.
“Rocket Notes” offered an illustration of how assessment results could be used to individualize instruction. As stated above, this one-minute timed test of note reading ability was administered once a week for six weeks. Tests were not graded; they were marked with the number of correct answers. Individual children set a goal based on their previous score. One day, I overheard a girl talking about how she got 26 and her goal was 27. She seemed excited to try again. Ms. Wheeler reported that one child had gotten 40 out of 40 twice in a row, and that seemed to motivate students as well (DW Field Notes 2/2, p. 1). Although goal-setting was selfpaced, the tests were identical for all students. In my field notes, I wondered if there was a way that these tests could be sequentially differentiated so that students could work on different skills or levels. When I administered Rocket Math as a long-term substitute fourth grade teacher, some students were testing on single-digit subtraction, and others were reducing improper fractions (DW Field notes 2/12, p. 1).
Ms. Wheeler charted Rocket Notes scores for each student. As a result, she learned that one student did not understand note reading at all. During whole group instruction, she started to help him track notes on the paper. The student was new this year and very quiet. Prior to Rocket Notes, Ms. Wheeler had not discerned that he was struggling based on observation and checking the group (DW Journal 2/5, p. 1). After Rocket Notes results showed he was struggling with note reading, Ms. Wheeler noticed he was also having difficulty with composition. As a result, she checked with his classroom teacher regarding possible learning problems and ideas for ways to help (DW Journal 2/26, p. 3). She also started checking in with him more often and offering additional instruction in music. Another student was writing the same pattern of four letters (EGBD) over and over for two quizzes. Danielle reviewed ways to remember the names of lines and spaces with him, and he improved on the next test. She thought it was likely that he was simply not trying rather than confused about how to answer based on his rate of improvement (DW Journal 2/5, p. 2).
When students were working in duets and trios, Ms. Wheeler provided for differentiation by allowing them to select different levels of challenge. Students were spread out over several rooms, and Ms. Wheeler, her student teacher, and a guest teacher (visiting as a professional development day) worked with children who needed assistance based on observations made while circulating around the practice areas as well as prior informal and formal assessments. I asked what would happen during the pass/fail assessment if one child’s playing was unsatisfactory, but her partner or the rest of her group passed. Ms. Wheeler replied that she has taken such students aside for diagnostics and coaching right after the assessment or set up a time at recess (DW Think Aloud 2/15, p. 16). Duets and trios also fostered peer coaching and selfpacing. Groupings were by student choice, and students who were more advanced helped friends who were less advanced. These groupings, and specifically the need for the groups to spread into other rooms and the hallway, also seemed to have another benefit: students could hear themselves more accurately in smaller groups. Being able to hear their own playing produced some immediate gains, not only in tone quality but also in accuracy for some students. Similar improvements may be possible if students could hear themselves better in other activities, such as composition, when it was very hard for students to hear themselves as they played their ideas on recorders, or singing, when students may not be aware of how they sound outside of the group.