What to Do during Testing Season
By Audrey Carballo
You might think you read the title a little too fast but yes. It said the fifth season.
No, I didn’t mean Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
Or, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
I wasn’t even referring to the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
When you’re a teacher, you experience fall, winter, spring, testing and summer seasons.
Yes — testing is a bona fide season.
I look upon it as that magical time of year when standardized testing supersedes all instructional time. Schedules are rearranged, and students are made to sit for interminable amounts of time being evaluated on their knowledge of core subjects. Some districts add EOCs (end of course) exams to the already frazzled student body. Grades as young as Pre-K through 12th grade are assessed in various settings of time and days. Generally, the testing window begins sometime around the beginning of April and ends in the middle of May with some minor exams still given right up until school is done for the year.
How does this affect the music program? In several ways.
Are you planning a Spring Show? You better have decided on the pieces and started teaching the repertoire in January because you might not see your students for 2-3 weeks in a row, if the schedules work out that way. In my experience, all testing is done in the morning and ends close to the noon hour. Then the students go to lunch. If those classes which are testing are also involved in your performance, the chances of you being able to rehearse with them are zero.
With block scheduling, you could easily miss seeing a child for the entire week if they are absent because they would (most likely) be pulled out of their elective classes to make up the tests they missed. POOF! Another week gone without seeing the child!
Another way testing affects your music program is energy and enthusiasm. When the students are finished testing, they resume their regular schedules. Awesome! You get to see your afternoon classes. Yes! You prepare this amazing lesson. You stand at your door with a smile on your face, waiting anxiously to welcome the students to music, and you are greeted with some of the most lethargic, uninterested and unexcited faces you have ever seen. These kids have poured their entire store of energy into the test they took this morning. They are bone tired — both inside and out. Some are thinking about tomorrow’s test. Some are still obsessing about today’s test.
What can you do to motivate them?
When you get your afternoon classes, have them sing or play pieces the students love to do. That’s always comforting. Something they are used to (and are good at) will renew their sense of accomplishment. I wouldn’t give them a test. They’ve had enough testing for one day. Save your test for a time when they aren’t.
Word searches and cross word puzzles with familiar vocabulary words are a great treat for them. Word searches are not busy work. They are not only vocabulary reinforcement but it is critical thinking. They have to be able to find the words in different configurations. Now could be a good time to play a musical game with them. If you’ve gone over composers and representative pieces, play some and see who can ‘Guess the Composer’.
Kahoot! is another awesome resource which is perfect for situations such as these, and for regular instruction days as well. I like to save Kahoot! for testing days to make it special.
There are so many possibilities for you to explore. I play “Name the Movie” when I review genres with my students. I have them take out a piece of paper and number from 1-25. I then play 25 excerpts from different movies to see if they can name which ones they came from. I ask for the title of the piece and the movie. I do that with Disney/Pixar as well. The kids love naming the movie and the song title.
Read Audrey Carballo’s past articles:
About the author:
This past fall, Audrey Carballo, a 34-year NAfME member, began her 34th year as a music educator for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system, the fourth largest school system in the country. Her teaching experiences include general music, exploratory music, and chorus to regular and exceptional students in elementary, middle school, high school, and exceptional student settings.
She has been an Assessor for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and currently serves on the National Education Association Member Advisory Board Panel and as the Union Steward and Chairperson of the Educational Excellence School Advisory Board Counc il at her school. Recently, Audrey was the Children’s Choir Director for the Miami Music Project, which is an El Sistema program spearheaded by the world renowned conductor, James Judd.
One of her most rewarding experiences has been with the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In addition to teaching Broadcast Journalism classes, and giving private lessons in voice, composition, theory and piano, her duties included being the Vocal and Advanced Theory instructor for their Better Chance Music Production Program. Audrey was one of the co-authors of an article published in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness titled, “A New Synthesis of Sound and Tactile Music Code Instruction: Implementation Issues of a Pilot Online Braille Music Curriculum.”
Audrey collaborated with Jin Ho Choi (another instructor at the Lighthouse) for nine months, creating their Braille Music Distance Learning course. Read her past blog post on teaching braille music.
Follow Audrey on Twitter @scarlettfeenix.
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.