Telling Stories with Sound

3 Min Read  •  Music

Sound is all around us.  It surrounds us as we go about our daily lives.  At any given moment we could be listening to pleasant sounds or not-so-pleasant sounds.  We become so used to these environmental sounds that, indeed, we become immune to them.  However, that is not the case in the movies.  Sound and music play a huge role in creating the mood or feeling of a scene yet if you have ever spoken to someone in the entertainment industry, such as a director, they will tell you that just the right tune or single sound can make or break a scene in a movie.

As a classroom teacher, I always like to include music whenever possible.  And my favorite time of the year to do that is the holidays – for one special reason.  That reason was Carl.  Who is Carl, you ask?  Why, Carl the Rottweiler dog, star of Alexandra Day’s endearing series.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to become acquainted with these (mostly) wordless books yet, I highly recommend you do so here.  One such book, entitled Carl’s Christmas, is the perfect choice for a holiday activity with your students.

Wordless books lend themselves to countless opportunities for integration.  Students can create their own text or dialogue, but in this case, I would like to encourage you to explore the possibility of using sound to tell the story.

People Really Do That?

The entertainment business employs people who are professional noise makers.  Yes, that’s right, these people actually spend their days in a studio capturing and enhancing the sounds that make a movie scene come alive.  They are called Foley Artists.  Their presence in a movie is so important, yet most of us watching the movie would never know they were even there.  Here is a great video to watch and share with your students:

A Sound Background

Using a wordless book such as Carl’s Christmas provides a wonderful opportunity to allow your students to become Foley artists and make a story come alive and your only limitations are the number of sounds you feel are necessary for the story.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Young students can use body percussion to add sound effects to a class reading of the book
    1. Patting the legs can be the sound of Carl’s steps
    2. Rubbing hands together can be the sound of the snow falling
  2. Older students can use unpitched hand percussions to enhance a reading of the story
    1. Use claves to make the sound of Carl walking
    2. Use shaker eggs to create the sound of the snow falling
  3. Even older students can develop and build their own Foley studio by collecting or creating found-sounds to use

Teachers and students wishing to turn the volume up a bit (pun intended) can also use iMovie to create a presentation of the book and add in their own sound effect recordings.  And why stop there?  If you simply add in the element of ELA by creating dialogue, your students are well on their way to becoming script writers too!  There are countless opportunities to turn a wordless book into a multimedia extravaganza at any grade level.

Have fun turning your classroom into a Foley stage and especially exploring the world of sound with your students.