Junior High Band
Testing Tips

Test Performance Skills

One way to monitor the students' progress is by having regular playing tests. Most of the junior high directors I observed held playing tests once a week during class.

One of the directors I observed counted mistakes. A perfect performance received an A. One mistake was an A-. Two mistakes dropped the grade to a B+, etc. When you are counting false starts, rhythm breaks, and wrong notes as mistakes, few junior high students are able to get passing grades. I modified this approach to be more positive for the students. I ended up using a pass-try-fail system. The students could make two mistakes and still get full credit (100 points.) Often they would get to the last couple of measures having already made their two mistakes and then falter. I would have them play the last measures again, better. If they were able to play it the second or third time without mistakes, they received full credit. If they were obviously unprepared and were making lots of mistakes, they got half credit for trying (50 points.) If they didn’t try they got a zero on the test. But in all cases I did my best to encourage and compliment their efforts. If they played if perfectly I would says things like, “Bravo!” “Terrific!” “That was great!” If they made too many mistakes, I would say things like, “It just needs a little more practice,” “Work on it some more and come and do it for me later,” or “Thanks for trying.” If they didn’t try I would encouraged them to come in before or after school as soon as they could play it.

One test that seemed to motivate the students more than the others was the major or minor scales test, which was used to assign seats each quarter. Points were given for playing the scale accurately and for having a characteristic tone. Extra credit was given for speed, memorization, and for playing more than one octave. This process was much easier when computers became available. Before the test the students’ names, the scales we were playing, etc., were entered into a standard grading program. After a section finished playing, the scores were totaled and sorted, and the new seats assigned immediately. (See Playing Test Lists)

Video Disclaimer

The attached videos are not perfect examples of how each tune should be played. They are recordings of junior high students, some of whom have had their instruments for only a few months. Also, they are not professional recordings. They were taken by band parents using home equipment and naturally focusing on their own children.

I include them for two reasons: (1) To give you an idea of what the arrangements are like, and (2) To illustrate the kind of performance you can expect from your junior high students.