Year 9

The Arts Support Materials

Assessment Principle 1

Assessment should be an integral part of Teaching and Learning

Music snapshot: Theme and Variations Analysis

The Arts/Music/Making/Composing and arranging and Responding/Analysis and context

Content Description

Use of a range of invented and conventional notation, appropriate music terminology and available technologies, to organise, record and communicate music ideas

Identification and description of the use and stylistic treatment of the elements of music, comparing and discussing similarities and differences between musical works from a range of styles and contexts

Identification, comparison and evaluation of a variety of music with an understanding of cultural and historic features, stylistic characteristics and associated conventions and music practices

Nature of the assessment

Group analysis task as a precursor to individual theme and variations compositions

Purposes of the assessment

To assess students’ understanding of theme and variation form

Stage in the Teaching sequence

Middle of a series of lessons – formative assessment

Assessment task

Prior to the lesson the teacher had composed a set of two variations, which included deliberate errors. He provided the students with:

  • the original theme
  • two variations that he had composed
  • a tabled list of variation techniques associated with each element of music
  • a sheet containing the criteria to be addressed, based on the elements of music.

Assessment process

The students worked in groups and discussed the effectiveness of the variations and how well each criterion had been addressed. They analysed the effectiveness of each variation, identified the problems or errors and devised strategies for improvement. The teacher provided the following list of discussion points to prompt students to analyse the music in detail.

  • Does the melody start and finish on the tonic, or a note of the tonic chord, and does it clearly fit within the tonality?
  • Does the variation have a clear relationship with the original theme? If so, how has this been established?
  • What do you like about the variations and what works well?
  • What do you think are the biggest problems with the variations and what could be done to improve them?
  • Have you looked carefully at the dynamics and articulation? Are they suitable, and correctly notated, or could they be used differently to make the composition more effective?
  • Is there evidence of suitable melodic contour? If so, how has this been achieved? If not, what could be done to improve it?
  • Is there any evidence of a climax in the melody? Has it been well prepared and is it effective? If not, what could be done to improve it?
  • Is the rhythmic grouping correct for the time signature? If not, which beats need to change and how should they be rewritten?

The teacher circulated amongst the groups, noting students’ understandings of theme and variation form. He then led a whole-class discussion in which he developed points made by students and provided them with strategies to draw upon when composing their own set of variations.

Using the information

The students were given a new theme to use as the basis of their individual theme and variations compositions. The teacher used the anecdotal notes collected during the class discussion and his assessment of the students’ own composition to guide future lesson planning.