Grading is fun!!! Not really… It pretty much sucks…
Grading in the band room can be difficult. It is not easy to quantify what a band director teaches.
Our instruction time is vastly different from our colleagues in the Math, English, and Science departments. In those classrooms, students will receive a lot of grades for daily assignments, pop quizzes, tests, homework assignments, etc.
With so many assignments, it’s not uncommon for these teachers to have 40 or more graded assignments in a given grading period.
A lot of band directors find themselves at the end of a grading period with 3-4 playing tests and “check-offs” for practice records.
To an administrator, a comparison of grade books may cause them to see a huge gap and to question the grading policy of a performance-based music classroom.
Administrators may not realize that 90% of our class time is teacher-student engagement in a rehearsal setting. We are constantly critiquing and assessing our students progress through their active participation in the rehearsal. That’s how we are able to pull off a great performance.
However, current trends in education seem to frown upon the elusive “Participation” grade.
So how can the band director accurately assess the student's performance on a daily basis?
It’s Ensemble Skills not Participation!
The solution may come with the thoughtful weekly evaluation of the Ensemble Skills you teach through rehearsals. In Grading & Assessment in the Performance-Based Classroom, I suggested evaluating and grading Ensemble Skills in three primary areas:
Active Participation or Ensemble Skills
Student preparation can be broken down into 2 main categories: Materials & Music
Is the student bringing the necessary materials for success in the rehearsal?
Instrument, sheet music, pencil, valve oil, reeds, etc.
Is the student prepared musically for the rehearsal
i.e. Did the student practice the music from the previous rehearsal and identify the terms in the music?
The Ensemble Skills should be also be evaluated in 2 main categories: music & discussion.
Is the student actively participating in the rehearsal?
Playing at the appropriate times, using proper techniques, posture
Is the student actively engaged in the classroom discussion?
Answering questions and asking for clarification
The final category, Rehearsal Etiquette, is a unique quality to the performing arts and a necessary skill for success! This category can also evaluated in 2 categories: focus & behavior
Is the student focused on the tasks
Director, music, ensemble
Is the student's behavior (or performance if you’re in a system that doesn’t like the term ‘behavior’) promoting success?
Refraining from talking to other students, playing at appropriate times, marking their music, etc.
By quantifying these skills based on a scale of Never (0) to Always (20), band directors can accurately quantify the daily rehearsal techniques we teach and give the necessary feedback to students to propel them to success.
I hope these tips help you to accurately grade the daily rehearsals in your classroom!