Data-Tracking in the Music Room

Data-tracking in the music room: Strategies for making data-tracking easy and helpful! Includes a freebie for tracking data!
“Data” seems to such a buzz word lately in the education world. How well are students achieving? How much they have grown from year to year? And how does this apply to the music room?
I first really delved into data when I first wrote my SLO, or student learning objective, a few years ago. I had never tracked data in such a specific way, and I admit, it was a bit scary! Since then, I've grown to really appreciate the information data can give me, and how it can improve my teaching! So where to start with tracking data in your music room? Here are a few thoughts:

#1: Start with games!

Data-tracking doesn't mean you have to make your students take a pencil and paper test. Have them play a game to collect the information you need! Whether you play a solo singing game like “Come back home my little chicks” (notated in this blog post) or play a rhythm identification game like this freebie, you can collect data in a fun, engaging way…and kids will have no idea that's what you're doing!

#2: Try manipulatives

Manipulatives, like games, can be so much fun, AND a great way to collect data! Whether you are using popsicle stick rhythm manipulatives to see how well students can dictate patterns or songs, or solfa manipulatives to see how well students can hear melodic patterns, students can show you what they know in a very hands-on way! These can be done in a whole group or during centers.

#3: Have students perform

Whether you are having students play “Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder or play a steady beat bourdon on Orff instruments, you can gather a lot of information by observing their performance in music class. Again, they are not sitting with a paper and pencil, but are showing what they can do through performing!

#4: Try written assessments

As much as I've said that assessments don't need to be paper and pencil, sometimes that is the best way to collect the data you need. I find paper and pencil works well for anything involving music notation, as we want students to be able not only to identify correct music notation, but be able to demonstrate it themselves (such as writing rhythm patterns, dictating melodic patterns on the staff, etc.). In my SLO blog post, I wrote about how I give ta and ti-ti pre-tests to students who have never seen ta and ti-ti. It seems really silly, for sure, BUT they have a sense of accomplishment when they are able to do so much better on the same assessment at the end of the year! It is also super interesting to see how students write patterns before they know ta and ti-ti, whether it be with lines, with hearts, or with numbers! Now what do you do with the information?

#1: Whole group teaching

One of my favorite ways to address gaps in learning is to simply discuss the most common mistakes as a class. For example, if in a formative or summative assessment, a lot of students identified the pattern mi-re-do as sol-mi-do, you could talk about how they both go from high to low, but with the first pattern, the notes are a step away from each other instead of a skip. Students hear from you that their mistakes are understandable, but here is why they are incorrect. This can be very helpful and even empowering!

#2: Track the data

Once I've collected the data, now I can sit down and track it! This year, I created a data-tracking binder, shown below:
Data-tracking in the music room: Strategies for making data-tracking easy and helpful! Includes a freebie for tracking data!
I printed out a rhythmic and melodic page for each class, and put students' names in the correct box under “pre-test,” on the page below (please note for the sake of privacy the names don't actually belong to any of my classes–I made the class up to demonstrate how it can be used):
Now I know which students need the most help, and which students perhaps need opportunities for more advanced learning! As the year progresses, I will keep tracking the data, and then can also track from year to year! I have created a free data-tracking binder; you can download by filling out the form at the end of this post.

#3: Intervention

Now that I have a data-tracking binder, I use the binder to help organize students into heterogenous groups for centers. I will be trying to have a variety of learners in each group and then can pull students who are struggling to work with them one-on-one (like detailed in this blog post). This has been SO helpful in figuring out where each student's breakdown of understanding happens! I've seen some students go from developing to advanced just from me working with them one time. Other students, of course, still need quite a bit of individual help and still may struggle, but by sitting down with them, you can not only figure out what is confusing to them, but you can build a better relationship with each student! Looking for more ways to track data? Try these sets:
What has worked for you with tracking data in the music classroom? Feel free to comment below, and happy teaching!

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