We are always looking for new ideas for how to use and develop Minute of Listening.

The suggestions below come from schools who took part in the first trial in Norfolk and from our introductory sessions with teachers around Cornwall, London and Oxford in late 2011.

If you have an idea for a listening activity then do get in touch – we would love to share your ideas with other teachers taking part!

To start you off, this page will cover…

Approaching active listening

An introduction to active or observational listening is a great way to get your class thinking about how they listen and preparing their ‘Minute of Listening ears’ to explore sounds during the project.

Create a listening area

At the start of the project, invite your class to create the ideal ‘listening area’ or space they can use during Minute of Listening. What do they think might help them to listen? Should it be a space with comfortable cushions to sit on? Do they think there should be room for them to lie down and listen? If you have access to a good set of speakers, set them up in this area for the duration of the pilot.

Listening to the room

A really useful way to introduce silence and focused listening before approaching Minute of Listening. For 1 full minute, ask your class to simply listen to the sounds around them, really focusing on all the different things they can hear, but might not normally notice. After a minute, ask the class to list all the things they heard in the school environment around them. Ask them to think about what the sounds might be, how near or far away they were, whether they were discrete or continuous, natural or man-made. Listen again to pick out more details and encourage deeper listening. You could use this as a basis for a ‘sound mapping’ activity, asking each child to visually represent what they hear.

You can download a Sound Map template (PDF) or try using a floorplan of your school!

Imagining sound

Sound can be a rich trigger for the imagination. Encourage your class to think about sound by describing an aurally evocative scene and asking them to imagine the sound in their head (this is harder than it might seem!). You could include:

  • A bonfire night party
  • A water fountain in a park
  • A noisy playground
  • Leaves in the breeze
  • The voice of a friend or relative
  • Their favourite piece of music

Give them 10 seconds or so to think of each. After the exercise, share your thoughts as a class. You will probably find that the class found it easier to visualise the description, rather than imagine the sound. You could try this same activity at different points during the project. Do you notice any change in responses and how easy they find the activity?

Talking about sounds

There is no right or wrong way for how you approach talking about what you have heard with your class, however, you may find it useful to challenge your pupils to listen for different kinds of things and try to consider:

  • What do we hear?
  • How do we make sense of what we hear?
  • How do we communicate and discuss what we hear?

You may find it useful to break discussion about the sounds into different areas:

Expressive and emotional qualities

Personal and subjective responses to sounds. These could include words describing the quality of the sounds…

Words describing sounds like click pop and screech

…or words expressing the mood or emotion of the piece…

  • Angry
  • Happy
  • Lonely
  • Exciting

These words could include onomatopoeia and descriptions normally used to describe visual stimuli – there is no right or wrong way to talk about sound!

Try creating ‘sound banks’ of words that your class come up with, by writing sound word cards or keeping a list of descriptions during the project to develop and build on a useful vocabulary for talking about sound.

Technical Qualities

These are ways to talk about and analyse sound in factual terms, supporting the National Curriculum for Music for Key Stage 2. Even if you have a very young class, it may be useful to think about some of the aspects below when you are discussing sounds:

  • Pitch — higher/lower
  • Duration — longer/shorter, steady pulse, beat, rhythm
  • Dynamics — louder/quieter/silence (are sounds continuous or discrete?)
  • Tempo — faster/slower (does this change during the piece? How does it affect the mood?)
  • Timbre — different types of sound (think about your descriptions of different kinds of sounds)
  • Texture — different ways sounds are combined (how does this create different effects?)
  • Structure — different ways sounds are organised (the order that they come in or how the piece is composed)

Being Creative With Sound

Sound diaries

During the project, introduce the idea of keeping a sound diary or logbook. Each child can use their sound diary to record their responses to the day’s minute of sound. This could be a drawn response – particularly for younger children – or a written response, or a combination of the two. Several teachers in our first pilot used sound diaries to encourage children in their class to reflect on what they had just heard through drawing quietly for a minute, before discussing the day’s recording as a class and sharing their visual responses.

An example of a Sound Diary activity by a Year 6 pupil during the trial in Norfolk:

Example of a worksheet with a drawing by a pupil of a fireworks party

You can download a templates for a Minute of Listening Sound Diary (PDF) for Key Stage 2.

Create sound stories

Some sounds lend themselves to being explored in terms of a narrative – particularly some of the field recordings made in busy places like markets. Ask the class to listen to the day’s recording. Based on what they heard, ask them to imagine:

  • a character
  • a setting or scene evoked by the sound
  • a story or narrative that might be taking place during the minute

You can turn this into an extended literacy activity by using these questions as a basis for a film pitch. In groups or individually, ask children in your class to listen to a minute of music or sound from the project (search ‘Music’ in the Sound Themes section for some ideas). Listen again, asking them to imagine it is the soundtrack to the opening sequence of a film. Thinking about the different elements outlined above, ask them to write a description of this opening scene. Share with the rest of the class by pitching their film idea!

Sounds and pictures

Some of the minutes you will hear in the project are fantastic stimuli for creating pictures and graphics to represent sound. To introduce the idea of representing sound with visuals, draw some shapes or patterns on your board and ask the class what sorts of sounds the symbols might represent (there are no right or wrong answers!)

Listen to one of the minutes, thinking about shapes and patterns that could represent what they hear (some of the ‘Electronic’ sounds in the Sound Themes section are particularly good for this). Listen again, and this time try drawing or making these shapes, using different colours or materials. This works particularly well in groups. Use big paper to create a classroom display!

a score drawn using shapes