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Grading is fun!!! Not really… It pretty much sucks…

frustrated teacher grading band class

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:

  1. Preparation

  2. Active Participation or Ensemble Skills

  3. Rehearsal Etiquette

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!

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