Using stories to inspire children’s s compositions — stage 5

STAGE 5 — Creating a Song 

Song writing can be very easy!


  • The first stage is to select a focus for the song. What small part of the story will it tell?
  • Next write a few words and phrases; chant them out loud to find their rhythms, stresses, and shapes. 
  • Then join these together to make a simple verse; continue to chant them out loud and improve them. Decide where you are using repetition and make the ends of pairs of line rhyme: repetition and rhyme are really simple ways to make a verse effective and memorable.
  • Four lines are usually enough. If it helps, you can add a simple beat to help the children chant their words. 
  • You may want to write some more words for a chorus. Words in a chorus are often even simpler than those in a verse, repeating a single line many times. Again you should find the time to rhyme.

You might write one poem this way, or you might write several; then you can turn each into a melody. 


Let’s assume that your children have written several four-line poems. Divide the children into small groups, and ask each group to make a song. Help them by setting clear rules. An example of the type of rules you might set can be found at the bottom of this page.

Give each group a simple pentatonic scale. Here are three more you might use:


Be careful that you choose notes that the children will easily be able to sing: children’s voices are most comfortable singing in the range from c’ to d’’ (the D above middle C to the D one octave higher).

Ask each group to work out a melody for the first line. Remind them that good melodies use a great deal of repetition, both within and between lines. It’s good to make a record of the children’s work, either an audio recording, or ask them to represent it on paper. Audio recordings are very easy, and make it possible for the children to listen to and reflect on their own performances; you can also share exciting work with the whole class, school, and wider world. 

Exemplary rules:

  • select just one of the class’ poem
  • chant the poem out loud
  • tap out a regular beat and chant the poem against it; try to remember the rhythm of the words
  • use this rhythm and the notes of the five-note scale you have been given to make up a tune for the first line of the poem. Keep it simple; if you find a good tune or bit of a tune, even if it’s very short, use it a lot 
  • now make up a tune for the second line. The tune might be the same as the first line, or it might be different
  • now make a tune for the third and fourth lines. They might be the same as the first line, or they might be different again
  • once you’ve written a tune for the whole poem and you are happy with it, invent a simple ostinato accompaniment. This is a two- or three-note group repeated over and over. It can add texture to your performance. One of the pair can sing their tune, and the other can repeat the ostinato.

A drawing of the shape of a melody might be called a graphic score.


Using stories to inspire children’s compositions

Stage 1 — the story
The elements of music
Stage 2 — developing a rhythmic piece
Stage 3 — developing a melody
Stage 4 — creating a soundscape
Stage 5 — creating a song
Stage 6 — graphic scores
Painting to music
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