New and refurbished ideas for LDS Primary Music Leaders (a.k.a. Primary Choristers)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I have on occasion used a melody map to help reinforce the melody of a song either when I introduce a new song or on a repeat week in teaching the song.  Getting children to pay attention to the music seems to help them learn the words to the song faster.  Don’t you find that when you are listening to music at times the music itself captures you and you will listen to it before you will really pay attention to the words of the song?  I know I will listen to the melody of a song over and over before I will start to sing it.  That is one way children learn music.  Understanding the melody helps us to understand how the words relate to it.

SO WHAT IS A MELODY MAP?  It is just a simple way of using shapes, lines or symbols to visually represent the ups and downs and rhythms of how a melody moves in a song.  Although most children in Primary probably don’t read music, a melody map can help them visually understand how musical sounds can be written.  In a sense, they are not just hearing the melody, but also visually putting the melody in their head.

Here is a melody map of “As a Child of God”.  The song is divided into four phrases and there are 3 sheets to each phrase and they are color-coded.  I printed mine on card stock but you can print on regular paper if you prefer.  There are letters along the left side of each page in the file.  Those were just for references in placement of the shield "notes" when I was creating the melody chart.  Cut them off, about ½” on the left side of each page and about 1 1/2" inch off the bottom of each page so each page is about 7” x 10 ½ ” (it will depend on how much margin your printer will require, so adjust how much you cut off accordingly) and then tape the three pages of a phrase together leaving a slight space between the pages so you can fold them for easier storage at the taped sections.  You don't have to cut off the bottom section but I did just to give me a little more room to display on our chalkboard.  You don’t necessarily have to tape them together either.  You could just display them in order.   I would suggest writing a number on the back corner of each phrase section in the order they are sung to help you know the order to put them up.  Very helpful if you ever drop them and they get mixed up.  Not that it has EVER happened to me before.

I’ve also linked a file for a smaller version of the pictures from my flip chart that can be used with the melody map if you like, but you can use the melody map by itself.  I laminated the pictures and put a magnet on the back of each to make it easier to put up and remove.  There are also a few more of the small pictures than in the FC because I did add a couple more for the chorus to put up on the melody chart because it just looked a little bare naked with one picture; added the girl for "As a child of God" and a CTR shield for the end of the song.  There are a couple more CTR shields and another child I just threw in there to fill up space and in case I wanted to use them for something else, so you could ignore them or use them.

Here are some melody map suggestions for use:
  • Explain that each CTR shield represents a word or part of a word we sing in the song.
  • Hold one of the pictures above the first shield (“note”) on the map and as you sing move it over each “note” of the song.  Have the children clap when you come to the “note” that the picture should go on then place the picture over that “note”.  Continue on with each picture. 
  • Have the children look at the pictures you posted off to the side of the melody map and then listen to the song and put some of the pictures above the “note” in the right order as they come up in a song. Repeat until you have all the pictures up.
  • You could mix the melody map up and have a child number them 1-4 in order on the chalkboard next to each.  I have those magnetic letters and numbers that children play with that I use now and again for different activities.  You could use the magnetic numbers to help put in order instead of writing with chalk.
  • If you didn’t tape the phrase sections together, you could have a child put a phrase together in order.  For SR, that can become pretty easy after the first couple of times so have them try to put two or more phrases together before you finish singing the song.
  • You could have the children use their finger or hand to draw the movement of the “notes” in the air as they sing.
  • The children could pitch lead with their hand going up and down with the “notes” or from left to right starting back on the left side for each phrase just like the melody map.  I used a CTR shield on a stick that I made for each child to pitch lead with.  I’m planning on using these for other activities throughout the year.  Stay tuned and I’ll try and post those tomorrow.  They come in some fun colors to "choose" from!
You could use directed listening questions to get them thinking about the relationship the “notes” have with the song as you sing.  Here are some general questions to ask when using melody maps or make up your own.  The questions to use depend on how you did the melody map. (Not all of these questions apply to this particular melody map.)  Use the ones that apply for the given melody map you use.  For the questions that need to be answered by pointing, I have a finger pointer on a stick that they can come up and point with.  After some of the questions, you could sing that part to show them how it relates, for example, have them listen to see if it sounds like it is going down a slide.
  • What do you notice about this melody map?
  • What is the same?
  • What is different?
  • What do these shapes have to do with the song? Sing the song.
  • Show a pattern on the melody map.  Do you see another pattern that looks or almost looks like it?
  • Where on the map do we hold a note longer than the rest?
  • Where do we sing the highest or lowest?
  • Which ones look like we are climbing up stairs or mountains?
  • Which ones look like a slide?
This melody map is color coded by phrase.  It is NOT colored coded for the type of note being sung, e.g. whole note verse quarter note, etc.  That is a version I have made before but did not do it on this one.  Here are a few questions to ask if the melody map being used has color-coded “notes”.
  • What do you think this one stands for? (Could color-code each type of note)
  • Which ones do we hold the note longer for?
  • Which ones do we sing quickly?
 As you can see, there are many things that you can do with a melody map.  Always be patient if your children are not use to thinking through songs.  In teaching the children to sing, there is more than just cramming the words into their little brains to memorize for the program.  It is about understanding and feeling the music along with the gospel message the song brings.


  1. What a great explanation for this resource and even further suggestions for using it. Thanks Nalani, I'm creating a link!

    1. Coming from you, that is a great compliment. It is a little nerve wracking putting something out there for all to see, so thanks for the confidence booster. Thanks for the link too.

  2. I love this, I would love to do it for Choose The Right, are you maybe going to do it for that one? Thanks for your creative ideas.

    1. I've got several ideas of how I'm thinking of presenting and teaching the song next month. The problem is deciding which ones to use. "Choose the Right" is kind of a good one for a melody map with how the music moves up and down. So yeah, I'm thinking about it, so stay tuned and we'll see.

  3. I am SO glad I found your blog! I am new to this calling and completely overwhelmed, but seeing your fun idea is getting me excited to teach As a Child of God this Sunday. I know how time consuming a blog can be and I just want you to know how much I appreciate you taking the time and sharing your talents with the rest of us. I know my 170 primary kids are going to benefit form it! I am Truly truly thankful.

    1. I too was a newby and sometimes I still feel like it, heck, I had never sung in front of others before. SCARY!!! But hey, before you know it, you will be a pro. There are a lot of good ideas out there, use them to help get the creative juices flowing, use the talents you have and most importantly, remember to let the spirit guide you in this calling.

    2. 170 kids!!! Oh my goodness. I thought I had been in some large primaries, maybe 130-140 tops, but 170? My primary has been shrinking every year and now we are down to about 90, but a lot of boys. Do boys count as 2 each???????? ;-)

  4. I plan on using this tomorrow. Thanks so much for the wonderful idea.

  5. Thanks so much for you ideas! I'm the Primary President and the chorister of our little branch and I am so thankful for people like you that make my job easier.

  6. I can't imagine being both President and chorister even in a small branch. I guess it would make it easier to coordinate any singing you want during your sharing time. ;-)

  7. THANK YOU...THANK YOU...THANK YOU!! For posting this idea with links to your chart and pictures! I was called to substitute in singing time today and they wanted to go over this song. I was stressed because I have to get myself and 4 children ready to go by 9:00 am - what a blessing to have come across your site this morning!! THANK YOU!!!!

  8. All I can say is THANK YOU! I just found your blog... I'm so grateful for amazingly talented and sharing people like you! Thanks!