Introducing “sounds”

I began this topic as I do with others, asking children what they already know (about sounds). Their answers usually guide me to areas where they still have questions or to aspects of the topic they haven’t previously considered. When I have a sense of their prior knowledge, I have a better idea about what vocabulary to introduce and which activities would have just the right amount of challenge.

In the past, I’ve included ‘sound’ lessons as part of a unit on the five senses. It is new for me to offer this topic as an exploration over multiple weeks.

When I asked, What do you know about sound? I was surprised that many of the children were unclear about the word “sound” itself. One boy told me, A dinosaur makes a sound, and a lion and a cat. When I asked if he could make a sound he shook his head, No. Trying to help him make the connection that voice = sound, I asked, Can your mother make a sound? Again he shook his head, No.

Many of the children got hung up on animal sounds and told me the names of different animals that made sounds, or imitated the animal sounds themselves. So the discussion could progress, I next asked how sounds are made.

One child interjected, I can make a sound!  I can make a sound! and she proceeded to snap her fingers. Well, that’s a very good sound, I said. Can you show our friends how you did that?  I liked that she demonstrated the rubbing of her fingers together.  This model would be important information for them to have as we begin to discuss vibration’s relation to sound.

Destiny wanted everyone to know she could make bird sounds.


Jonathan thought for a moment and then said, You can make a sound by stamping. He proceeded to demonstrate, then said, Yeah, that’s a sound.

Iliana picked up a cereal box and began to shake it. Well there’s a different sound, I commented.

Lilly demonstrated a sound she could make with her mouth by clicking her tongue.

Xavier said, Instruments make sounds, like a drum or a kazoo. I wanted to investigate Xavier’s comment a little further, since he had named two very different instruments. How can you make a sound with a drum? You hit it with your hand, he said. And how do you make a sound with a kazoo? You blow air into it, was his reply. Hmmm, I thought aloud. Those are two different ways to make sounds.

We completed our “K” chart (What we Know), listing all the children’s responses.

The PEEP animated video we watched was called Sounds Like.  In it, Chirp struggles to find a quiet place to show Peep his bird imitation. They end up getting lost and use sounds to navigate their way back.

Since the children were so interested in animal sounds, I located a lotto listening game. It came with a CD that played farm animal sounds and the children had picture game boards to cover (much like BINGO). Some struggled with this; being city children it was hard for them to tell the difference between a goose, a turkey,  a rooster, and a chicken. It was a quick learn, however, and they enjoyed the game and asked to repeat it. One thing I noticed is that the dual-language learners really excelled at this game. I think they have become very trained listeners over the year, as they try to make sense of an unfamiliar language.

Visit the Sound unit in the PEEP science curriculum. I also think children would enjoy the Where’s Quack game on PEEP’s website. In a game of hide and seek, you find Quack based on the sound of his voice.


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