In May, August, and September 2015, the Choral Journal featured a three-part article series titled “Notes for Success: Advice for the First-Year Choral Teacher.” As part of the series, 11 choral conductors with teaching experience ranging from 4 to 34 years answered 10 questions related to setting expectations for your first year, classroom management, balancing a successful work and home life, finding repertoire, and more.
In this column, I would like to address question #6: How do I best establish a grading strategy?
As classes dismiss for the summer, there are no doubt some choral educators who have not had as much success as they would like in establishing a working grading system over the past school year. A portion of the suggestions listed in the August 2015 issue regarding this question follow. Please feel free to leave a comment below with a grading strategy that has worked for you (or perhaps one that hasn’t!) so that we can continue to learn from one another.
“Prior to the school starting, sit down with a calendar and make an assessment plan. First, create a rubric for daily or weekly rehearsal technique. Behaviors include tall choral posture while singing, refraining from talking during transitions, use of appropriate vowel shapes, positive attitude, and using solfege or number hand signs.”
“I keep a daily record of points. Each student begins with ten points. Participation, attitude, etc., can affect the number of points a student earns by the end of the day. At the end of the week, I report the total points in the gradebook. Eighth grade seeing percentages on their reports, while the sixth and seventh grades receive a grade for “Respect” and “Responsibility” in the form of an M (meets expectations), P (partially meets expectations), or N (needs improvement).”
“I think grading things like matching pitch and tone production are perfectly acceptable, even with my young singers (ten- and eleven-year-olds). They key is giving positive feedback that helps them improve…. In pitch-matching assignments, I ask the choir to listen to a student sing and not judge on the basis of how well he or she sang but on whether or not the student improved.”
Click here to read the full article that contains the rest of these answers in Part 2 of this series.