Sunday, February 11, 2024

Confessions of a Primary Music Leader: Melody Maps

So, was my first time teaching a song using a melody map.  I was nervous that it wouldn't go well- kids would be confused, I'd look like a fool, kids would get bored, and then I would've wasted time precious time and feel like a failure.  

I printed off the pre-made map (graciously done by a fellow music leader on Facebook), taped the sheets together, and drew lines between the various symbols showing the rise and fall of the music.  For those who are not familiar with a melody map (I wasn't), it is a sort of puzzle for the kids to figure out as you sing the song.  It looks a bit like those maps on heart-rate monitors at the hospital, you know the ones that have various peaks and drops, except there's dots and images at the points of each peak and drop.  The various dots and images with different colors account for each syllable in the lyrics and represent words in the song. As the notes in the musical score rise and fall, so do the dots/images.  So it's kinda like a way to read music except without notes on a staff and without words.  See?  It's a puzzle.  And can you see why it sounds a bit confusing and like a real risk to try with primary kids?

Well, I had decided to give it a go because these melody maps are so highly spoken of on the music leader Facebook groups I'm part of.

The map was a little small, so I had the kids come right up close and sit on the ground in front of the chalkboard where it was displayed.  The junior primary kids were first.  I was skeptical they'd figure out any of it except the really obvious pictures that represented concrete words in the song.  Boy, did they surprise me.  They figured out every symbol and colored dot and by the end of our 7 minutes learning that song, they were able to sing it with me by following that map.  I was amazed.  Even my little sunbeams were engaged the whole time.  The sunbeams!  Three year olds! 

Next was Senior primary. They did figure things out a little faster than the Jr. primary, but it still held their attention  clear to the end when I had them try to sing the song without me and only use the map.  It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad!  And, that made me excited to see that they have potential to learn music quickly if they're engaged.  That's an epiphany!  After our weeks-long practice of drilling our Christmas song and very little progress made in those weeks, I had determined that teaching new music was going to be a long process.  After this past Sunday, I learned it doesn't have to be.

Repetition by drilling is not only boring, it lacks engagement which shuts down the learning.  That's good to remember.  I guess that should be obvious.  For instance, I can remember all the counties in Utah that I learned in 4th grade by pointing to a map and singing a song with it. But I can't remember the countries of the world that I learned in 6th grade which I learned by drilling for a test.  

I hope to be engaging every week from here on out.

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