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Composing, improvising and doodling


When writing stories, we do not expect children to write a novel to rival Charles Dickens or even Harry Potter; we celebrate their ideas, which are often related to what they have seen, heard, imagined or experienced. We offer nuggets of help by offering suggestions or by asking questions and then they may go through a limited about of redrafting, although as teachers, we are often happy that the learning through the process has been successful.

In music, we need to have similarly realistic expectations, and so do our pupils. Their songs are not initially likely to sound like those produced by the bands they know and love, and neither are they likely to sound like a Beethoven Sonata. More likely, their music will be a smörgåsbord of the music inside their head. It will draw on music and ideas with which they are familiar, in much the same way their stories will. It might not sound complete, or perhaps even totally ‘original’. Yet, we need to help them craft their ideas are ensure that we – and they – are excited by making up their own music and celebrate their work. This means providing opportunities and structures in which they can learn through the process and be encouraged to cognitively engage with their music and the choices they make. Capturing ‘their music’ via audio is extremely important, particularly if we are trying to encourage some redrafting. Unlike a story, which is written down in from of them, their music happens in the here-and-now. This means what they produced (and probably performed, even if informally) has been and gone. If we want them to develop it, we have to find ways to help them remember it and to be able to critically engage with it. It also serves as an aural record of what they have done – part of their own musical soundtrack.