Soundwaves 3D

Learning objectives

To listen with attention to detail and recall sounds with increasing aural memory.

Resources needed

  • Internet access
  • Paper or card
  • Pencils, pens and crayons



Task 1a. Listen for the sounds around you:

  • What sounds can you hear from where you are right now?
  • Are they close by or further away?
  • Can you hear the sound all the time, or just now and then?
  • Does closing your eyes help your listening?
  • Can you tell what is making each sound just by listening?
  • Are there any sounds you can't identify? What do you guess might be making these sounds?
Adults – take note of 'ways to include all learners', below.

Busy family home - family around table in a kitchen, courtesy of Getty Images
Sound map layout

Task 1b. Make a map of the sounds:
  • Draw or write the things making the sounds. The closest ones go near the middle and the far-away ones go near the edges of your sound-map.
  • Of all the sounds on your sound-map, which is your favourite? Why?
  • Is there a sound you hadn't noticed before?
  • If you listen from the same place at different times of day, can you hear other sounds to add to your sound-map?

Task 2. If you can, swap sound-maps with people in different places:

  • Share with friends or family by email or video call.
  • Contact the Plymouth Institute of Education, who have contacts overseas, at
  • Try to imagine the sounds on someone else's sound-map. Can you re-create the sounds on their sound-map. You could record this and send it to them. What do they think? Can they do the same for you?

Girl videocalling. 
Owl in a tree

Task 3. Imagine you are

  • An explorer in a rainforest.
  • A pirate on a ship.
  • An owl in a tree.
  • Your favourite book or film character in a particular scene.
    What would they hear? Make a sound-map for this place.

Task 4. Ask someone to play three different sounds for you using a sound library. Where do you think they are? Try to describe them in as much detail as you can.

Search for sounds using BBC Sound Effects.

    Can you suggest a piece of music that would suit each of these places?

    Soundwaves 3D

    How to put the idea into practice

    1. Read through the suggested activities.

    2. Perhaps try them out yourself first, so you are comfortable with them.

    3. Take note of the keywords below and try to deploy them as you talk with children.



    • Sound (and everyday words to describe sounds, such as ‘scratchy’, ‘bubbly’, ‘booming’... there are many!)
    • Pitch. Is the sound high or low? Rising or falling? Sounding like a little tune? Or is it monotonous?
    • Dynamic. Is the sound loud or quiet? Getting louder or quieter? Are any changes gradual or sudden?
    • Duration. Is the sound long or short? Can you hear a mixture of long and short sounds? Does it have a rhythm you could clap?
    • Timbre (pronounced 'TAM-burr' or 'TAM-bruh', the ‘colour’ or ‘flavour’ or quality of a sound). What sort of thing could be making that sound? Does it come from hitting, scraping, sliding, rolling, blowing, humming, roaring. plucking, or some other way?
    • 'Listen for…' A key phrase for adults to use when encouraging active, focused listening.
    • Directional language (left, right, in front of you, behind you, near, far, nearer, further away).


    Ways to include all learners

    • Consider asking children to recreate the sounds they hear using their voices, hands, feet etc., to help them decide what to put on their sound-maps.
    • Some children might like to invent actions to represent the sounds they hear.
    • Children can then choose how to represent what they hear in a visual format on their maps.
    • Challenge older/more experienced children to describe sounds carefully and record their verbal descriptions on their sound-maps.
    • Divide the suggested sessions up into shorter activities for children (and adults!) who find concentrated active listening hard (because it is).

    Download this worksheet as a printable PDF:

    This activity was created by Ruth Atkinson, Lecturer in Primary Education (Music), Plymouth Institute of Education, University of Plymouth.

    Research with Plymouth Institute of Education