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Is This You? Building Perceptual Awareness in Listening

This past week, a few friends and I were chatting about various ways to increase students’ listening skills and I thought perhaps I would share this lesson that I have done with my students (high school).  I have done this multiple times and have experienced great success each time!  I hope you find it helpful and might be able to use it in the future 🙂


Play Debussy’s Claire de Lune as students are walking into the classroom.  Ask how the music made them feel.  Explain that sound and music are extremely important in setting any dramatic scene.

Part 1 – Perceptual Awareness:

  1. Have students sit with their team of 4 students.

  2. Play the “Is This You?” clip from Amelie WITHOUT showing the actual scene (sound only). Youtube Link:    (2 + minute)

  1. Ask the students to write down everything that they heard. They may discuss with their team (2 minutes).  Write all of the sounds they thought that they heard on the board.

  2. Discuss with students the importance of the music in setting the mood. Ask them what kind of a mood it sets.  Why?  What other music might set a similar mood? (5 minutes)

  3. Listen to the clip once more and this time, point out the times that sounds came into the scene. Ask students to guess what those sounds were.  Stop and start the clip as often as you like so that students are refining their observations each time.  They may discuss with their team and with the class (10 minutes)

  4. Now, show them the clip with sound. Write down any sounds that they may have missed.


Part 2 – Creative Interpretation

  1. Each team will pull five actions from the hat at random. They will have to create this sound effect using items around the room and record them.

  2. Students may have 20 minutes to record their sound effects onto a smartphone.

  3. Remind students to save each recording as what exactly they are supposed to represent.

  4. Each team will also pull one mood from the other hat at random. They will have to find an appropriate song or piece of music to represent this mood.  This can be from youtube, their own playlist on their phones, or Spotify.

amelie 2

Part 3 – Dynamic of Performance

  1. Teams will take turns playing their recordings for the class. The other teams will try to guess what sounds they are trying to represent.  Each recording will be given only 60 seconds for others to guess.

  2. Keep score for which teams guess the sound correct.

  3. For each recording that has been guessed within the 60 seconds, the performing team will also get a point.

  4. The team with the most points will earn the prize!

Part 4 – Critiquing

  1. Discuss with students how closely they came to recreating the sounds appropriately.

  2. Discuss what they might have done to create the sounds more effectively.

Questions to guide the activity:

  1. What kind of mood does the music set from this clip? Does it change throughout the scene?

  2. Why does this music convey this mood? What other pieces of music or songs might work well in this scene

  3. Partner Work: What kind of music/sound might you use for a funeral scene? For a circus?  For a hospital?  Why?

  4. Group Work: What kinds of materials might you need to mimic the sounds of a garbage truck, a deer running through the woods, or a laundromat? Where could you find them?

  5. Critique: What did you like about your own recordings and musical selections? In what ways did it show the mood of the scene?  Are there any suggestions for further ways to show the mood and setting through sound and music?

amelie marker

* Sparklers: Note the students that show the following signs of potential talent:

  1. Clearly connects the sound from the clip with the real action.

  2. Initiates creative use of items around the room to create sound effects.

  3. Emerges as a clear leader of his/her team.

  4. Has a unique ability to find appropriate musical sources for the mood.

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