I give the same first two quizzes each year; as a result, they set the tone for the year as they set every singer up for success.
In my previous blog post, I explained that my choir handbook quiz is the first quiz of the year.
My second (and third quiz) of the year is a Note & Rhythm Labeling Quiz
I give two similar quizzes to reinforce the same skill, add complexity, set them up for musical success, and get some high grades into their academic average.
The Note & Rhythm Labeling Quiz
This quiz is based on steps 5 and 6 of my Sight-Singing Developmental Rubric. While the first 4 levels build upon the development of the ear, the final two are isolated skills. The ability to notate solfege syllables and breakdown rhythm is more a mixture of fundamental math and literacy than it is music-making. When using the Note & Rhythm Labeling Rubric, the ultimate goal is to accurately label pitches at a very fast speedy while being able to perform rhythms. Before this happens, singers need to prove competence in both areas separately. As a result, this is where Quiz #2 and Quiz #3 come into play
Choir Quiz #2 of the year
I print out two 8-measure Sight Reading Factory examples. One exercise is in 4/4 time and one is in 3/4 time. Each example is in a different key signature. I write in the starting pitch, which will be ‘Do’ (abbreviated ‘D’).
First I ask the student to circle the time signature. This ensures they’ve looked at the time signature.
Under each note I ask them to label the pitches using abbreviated solfege (D,R,M,F, etc). Above the notes I ask them to label every beat (1+2+3+ or 1+2+3+4+). Every single beat must be accounted for in every measure. This means, no matter what, I should see 1+2+3+ or 1+2+3+4+ written in every measure.
Choir Quiz #3 of the year
Similar to Choir Quiz #2, the 3rd choir quiz has two 8-measure exercises printed from Sight Reading Factory; this time the two exercises are in 3/4 time and 6/8 time. In terms of pitch-labeling difficulty, there is no difference between Choir Quiz #2 and Choir Quiz #3. I use the same key signature for both exercises.
In terms of rhythm, my goal is get them to recognize and differentiate the difference between 3/4 (1+2+3+) and 6/8 time (123456).
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What is accomplished from these two choir quizzes?
When a student can accurately label pitches and rhythms, we know that they understand what they are looking at. As a result, if a student cannot correctly label solfege and rhythm, they will not be able to sight-sing.
What is not accomplished from these two choir quizzes?
Students who can accurately label pitches and rhythms may still not be able to read the pitches quickly enough to successfully sight-sing to a beat. Students who can successfully label rhythms may still not be able to perform the rhythm to a steady beat. On top of that, they may not be able to sing any pitch correctly. This is where vocal technique comes into play, starting from ensuring every student can match pitch.
As mentioned earlier, the Sight-Singing Developmental Rubric ensures that in addition to the Note Labeling & Rhythm Labeling/Performing skill, students have the proper aural training skills needed to sing the correct pitches.
While many students succeed with note & rhythm labeling right away, there are always a few who struggle. This is where I use the Note Labeling & Rhythm Labeling/Performing Rubric to assess why they are struggling. For the average and above-average singers, the same rubric is used to assess the speed of their pitch-reading and rhythm performance. The faster they can label, the faster they will be able to sight-sing.
Included in the Note Labeling & Rhythm Labeling/Performing Rubric is many printed examples in 3/4, 4/4, and 6/8 for class photocopying purposes, courtesy of Sight Reading Factory. This elaborate packet, along with instructions for the students, allows students to practice until they have mastered these two skills.
Lastly, these two skills are only useful when a singer has a developed ear and vocal technique. A singer can master labeling but sing every pitch incorrectly because they can’t hear or produce the proper sounds. That is why I created the Sight-Singing Developmental Rubric: to help every singer to be able to successfully sight-sing.
Final Words about Quizzes
The handbook quiz and two labeling quizzes set the tone for the entire year. My singers have weekly homework assignments using Sight Reading Factory. They are also given lyric memorization quizzes, and several other quizzes throughout the year. The goal here it to set a foundation for success.
In my opinion, quizzes are there to reinforce a standard level of achievement needed to be successful. They are not intended to recognize greatness. Our job is to inspire our singers to want to do more. This comes from ensuring every student first develops the fundamental skills needed to be able to sing in our choir.