Assessing Musical Literacy with Distance Learning

Assessing Musical Literacy with Distance Learning: Different platforms and ideas for assessing rhythmic reading, staff writing, and more!

Over the past couple weeks, many of us have scrambled to figure out how to deliver music lessons in a distance learning situation. Hopefully, most or all of you are feeling calmer about how to deliver those lessons.

Now, though, as you look ahead to an unknown amount of time distance learning, you may be wondering how we can assess in such a situation. This week, I’ll be posting about assessing, discussing a different strand each day. My district uses these strands for assessing, so I’m going to use them to outline ideas each day this week:

  • Reading/ Writing
  • Performing
  • Classifying
  • Responding
  • Creating

I'll also be posting a challenge inside my FB group each day, asking people to read the day's blog post and make decisions about assessing their students.

Today, let’s talk about how you might assess reading/writing in a music distance learning situation!

First, let me say this. Your assessment is not going to look the same. And that’s okay. We have to think about assessing in a different way. You may not assess as much, and your assessment may look different. Give yourself grace, because this is a completely new and unchartered situation.

I’m going to outline several ways and platforms you can use to assess students’ musical literacy. Please don’t be overwhelmed! Perhaps this blog post will challenge you to try one new platform, or maybe you’ll use a platform you’re already comfortable with. You don’t have to learn all the things right now…just choose what speaks to you most! Now…onto assessing!


I recently wrote about Peardeck in this blog post. It’s a free platform (and you can get premium right now, during school closures, by signing up here!) Creating your own Peardeck is fairly easy to do; here are a few ideas you could use for assessing melodic and rhythmic literacy. For any of these, you could customize an already existing slide, or create your own. I love the MusicEd font for creating rhythmic and melodic graphics, or you could use another music notation font.

  • Identifying rhythm with a drawing slide: Have three patterns on a slide, and students circle which one a certain song starts with
  • Writing rhythm with a drawing slide: Have a rhythm pattern on the slide, and students use their finger or mouse to copy that rhythm. Here is an example of that:

Writing melody with a drawing or draggable slide: Have students write a pattern on the staff, by drawing on the staff, or dragging note heads to the appropriate place. In Peardeck, you can add as many dots as you want to drag. The first slide might look like this (I just created a staff with lines and added a text box):

And the finished product could be:

Peardeck allows you to see everyone’s answers, which is awesome! Watch the video in the blog post above to learn more.


SeeSaw is a great platform, and already has tons of ideas that you can access! A word of warning here though…if you don’t already have students signed up for SeeSaw, this can take a bit of work. If you just want to use SeeSaw with students (and not share work with students), you’d have to import your classes, then send students a text code to sign in and choose their name. If you want parents to have access, you have to enable that, and then you can send them a code to be connected. Still, it’s got lots of very exciting possibilities!

SeeSaw allows students to write on the screen, record themselves singing, drag icons, and so much more! You can create your own activity, or browse what's already been created. If you go to “browse activity learning,” then choose “music,” you’ll find lots of choices. If you’re looking for musical literacy assessments, you could try:

If you are in Nyssa Brown’s E-Learning FB group, check out Manju’s masterclass where she dives into SeeSaw! She has created so much for the platform, so make sure to check that out! Some of the activities you’ll find in SeeSaw were made for a whole group setting, but can easily be adapted for distance learning.

Quizizz and Kahoot

Both of these quiz platforms are super fun, AND both now have the ability to share a link, so that students can play whenever they want! If using as a summative assessment, you’ll just have to ask that students use their actual names.

Here is a collection of quizzes in Quizizz I’ve made, which includes:

  • A Quizizz for Fa
  • A Quizizz for B, A, and G on recorder
  • A Quizz for Tika-ti
  • …and more!

Here are a few Kahoots that I’ve made:

Digital Interactive Music Notebooks

I've recently created these two notebooks, which you can use to practice ta and ti-ti, and/or quarter rest. Simply share the links with students to force a copy to their drive, or share through Google Classroom or Schoology. Students can read the rhythm to a song, then drag the corresponding icon into the box, they can arrange rhythm patterns for a known song, they can compose, and so much more! Once they've worked on a certain number of slides or a portion of the notebook, they can share back with you so you can see their work.

I hope this is helpful to you as you consider how to assess with distance learning. Tomorrow, I’ll be writing about assessing performance. Happy (online) teaching and planning!

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