Basic Singing Skills Rubric
Table of Contents To the Reader Professional Portrait Artifacts Action Research Portfolio Reflection


The Basic Singing Skills Rubric is a matrix of three skills categories (posture, breathing, and phonation) and four achievement levels. The penultimate achievement level includes descriptions of expected behaviors for the experienced, knowledgeable singer. The highest level includes descriptors of outcomes that exceed the standard expectation. Also included on the rubric is a form for scoring and a space for observer comments. The rubric is designed to be comprehensive and flexible enough to be used both in peer and instructor evaluation situations. Since the rubric is designed to show a student’s mastery of basic skills and behaviors for singing, it is used as an assessment tool within the scope of a standards-based portfolio assessment system. Because the vocabulary in the descriptors is of a fairly high level, this particular rubric is best suited for use with the high school choir.

The rubric is designed to allow an observer to accurately evaluate an individual’s command of basic singing skills. The descriptors in each category are designed to assist the observer by clearly explaining what a competent singer looks and sounds like. A peer or instructor observation will quickly show how well the singer can demonstrate correct singing posture, beneficial breathing techniques, and good phonation (singing). Not only does this rubric allow the singer to demonstrate these skills, but it also creates opportunities for the observer to use good listening and analytical skills. The observer is also encouraged to synthesize this observation by commenting on the areas that need improvement. The scores assigned in each category are not arbitrary, but are specifically described at each achievement level. The rubric is an effective assessment tool because it employs the strengths of rubric design for both the singer and the observer.

Because the singing skills rubric is used to show mastery of skills unique to the discipline of singing, it is also a strategy that can be used to effectively meet the needs of inclusion students in the choral classroom. Students that have special needs can apply the results of teacher and peer observation to skills they do not necessarily use in other classrooms. Because of the individual nature of this rubric, it can be tailored to any skill or experience level.

This rubric demonstrates several connections with core propositions. First, “Teachers are committed to students and their learning.” The fact that I approach each singer’s level of talent and experience individually shows this commitment. The basic skills rubric is a tool that communicates to the students that their individual development is important, not just their presence in the room. The second connection is with the statement that “Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.” The basic skills described and analyzed by this rubric are standard curriculum for a singing class. As a physical activity, and as one of the oldest and most natural human activities, singing has developed over the years into a well-defined pedagogy that includes posture, breathing, and phonation techniques. The rubric allows these techniques to be clearly observed and evaluated. Finally, as an assessment tool and as part of a portfolio assessment system, the rubric gives clear, understandable, and usable feedback about each student’s singing skills. As such, it offers a direct connection with the proposition stating, “Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.”

The use of this rubric in the choir classroom is evidence of a shift toward a more individualized assessment approach. I have learned a lot about my students’ individual mastery of basic skills, and I have had to develop techniques for reinforcing and reteaching those skills that needed more attention. As a teacher, I am more effective because I have used the rubrics to carefully consider how each lesson contributes to the overall growth of my students as musicians and as learners. Another interesting outcome of implementing these rubrics was a comparison between my perception of the students’ mastery of skills and that of their peers. The students tended to be more critical of each other than I was of their skills. In this criticism, however, the students developed the language and attitudes necessary to be constructive and encouraging to one another. They also developed a sense of mutual responsibility and cooperation that was not present to the same degree before we instituted the rubrics.