If you are like me, and have taught beginners how to play instruments in band or orchestra classes for several years, you have realized what a challenge it is to help young students learn and memorize all of their notes and fingerings. It is not enough to just teach them what the notes and fingerings are, and it is still not enough to review them over and over. What students need is assessment: they need to be tested on their notes and fingerings.
Assessments serve two functions: 1) they put pressure on the students, making them feel a greater sense of urgency to learn things...and this sense causes the brain to memorize and retain things at a faster rate, and 2) they allow teachers to see what each student specifically knows (or doesn't know).
I'll never forget when a certain student approached me at the end of his 3-year experience in my band program and stated, "I've never actually learned the notes and fingerings, I just figured out how to play each song by ear and by watching the people next to me." And, if you can believe it, this student's father was a band director at another school! I wondered how it was even possible that he didn't ever learn his notes and fingerings, because I talked about them and reviewed them OVER and OVER, EVERY DAY! I began wondering how many of my other students were faking their way through my band and orchestra classes, all the while never letting on that they can't "read music". With some laborious assessment I was able to find out exactly who was clueless about note reading: about 15% of my students. Unless you assess, many of your students will simply never learn their notes and fingerings. With regular assessment, your students will learn their notes and fingerings, including all the sharps and flats, much faster and more thoroughly.
Now, assessing fingerings is a tremendous challenge, because in your band or orchestra classroom (and I teach BOTH) there are multiple sets of fingerings for each note (12 different instruments in band, and 4 in orchestra). Do we really have time to make 16 DIFFERENT VERSIONS of every question of every fingering test? No way! This is the beauty of the NinGenius Vs Music app. It handles all of the transpositions and different instrument fingering systems for you. And it allows for DAILY assessment of A) Note Names and B) Fingerings for four different levels of difficulty:
1. The Beginning level tests the first 5 notes taught in most beginning method books (like Essential Elements, Strictly Strings, Band Expressions, String Basics, etc.)
2. The Medium level assesses the first 12-13 notes taught in most beginning method books
3. The Advanced level adds 7-9 notes to the Medium level
4. The NinGenius level tests every note in the standard range of each instrument (between 26-31 notes)
What is awesome about this music assessment app is that it can store an unlimited number of users - meaning that every student in your class can enter their name and instrument on ONE iPad. Then you, as the teacher, can access all of their gameplay data - you can see EVERY game that they played, including their score, accuracy, and speed. Wow!! Talk about assessment data!
Whether you want to use NinGenius Vs Music as part of your grading system or simply as a way of increasing your students' sight-reading skills, it will make a huge impact in the music reading abilities of your music students.
The future of musical instrument assessment is here! With NinGenius Vs Music your band and orchestra students will learn their notes and fingerings like never before!
Curtis Winters has taught Junior High Band & Orchestra for 17 years in Orem, UT.
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