Guest post by Tracy Williamson
Tracy Williamson is the General Music, Choral and Steel Band Director at Gorham Middle School in Gorham, Maine where she has taught for 15 years. She has a Bachelor of Music in Flute Performance from Boston University and a Master of Music in Flute Performance and Education from Boston Conservatory. She is also the webmaster for the Pan New England and the District 1 Maine Music Educators websites, an Apple certified educator, Certified Soundtrap Educator and Certified Soundtrap Expert.
Collecting evidence of learning in most vocal and instrumental music classes involves students making some kind of video or audio recording to show their skills. In the past my students and I have struggled with creating quality, concise assessments to really capture the essence of where they are in their vocal or instrumental performance. Students would get confused by all the directions or components of the assessment: PDFs of sheet music, accompaniment mp3 files, written directions, etc. they were expected to juggle and keep organized for this one recording. I would end up with 30 minute recordings during which the students spent the majority of the time trying to figure out what to do next. It was very time consuming not only for them to record but for me to listen to or watch and try to decipher what to assess!
This year my school purchased Soundtrap for 6th graders who had moved from MacBook to Chromebook and I have discovered an amazing efficient assessment tool for my Chorus & Music Class instrumental units.
Assessing Keyboard and Guitar Performance
My students spend about three weeks learning their choice of either guitar or keyboard. We learn chords, how to read and perform a few notes, some classic rock guitar riffs and chords progressions for simple songs. At the end of the unit I need a way for them to show what they have learned. I created a template in Soundtrap for students to record in. I set up two tracks for them: one for their voice and one for their instrument. Guitarists record in an audio track and keyboardists use a MIDI track so could also see the notes they were playing in the Piano Roll.
I gave students a sheet with directions and written prompts for them to follow. There were prompts to answer questions and reflect on each song we learned as well as prompts to perform the components we had worked on. I was able to send the template out via Google Classroom so all students had their own copy and each assessment was saved in a collective folder in my Soundtrap account.
Soundtrap to Assess Singing
This worked so well with my instrumental students that I decided to try it with Chorus for their first quarter performance assessment. This time, instead of writing out the directions, I recorded prompts with my voice right into the Soundtrap template and left space for them to fill in their recordings in a separate track. I was able to import MIDI accompaniment for them to sing along with. Every assessment was the exact same length (less than 4 minutes!) and very easy for me to listen to and grade. When the students added their recording and saved, I got an instant notification that their work was ready! Using the Soundtrap template in conjunction with the Google Classroom feature to select certain students for certain assignments allowed me to differentiate by changing starting pitches for different voices or adding different prompts based on each student’s prior choral experience.
I was able to give feedback directly to the students in the chat window and they could then redo any part of their assessments as needed.
All of my students assessments are automatically collected in folders in my Soundtrap account with their names so they don’t have to worry about uploading anything or saving work with the correct file name.
I am extraordinarily pleased with how these assessments have turned out and excited to continue using Soundtrap to assess student music performance! The future applications are endless!