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Sounds of silence

I have recently begun developing new ideas for key stage 3 geography using sound in different ways. Sound as a stimulus can be used in the classroom and as fieldwork. Students are surprised when they are required to stop, be silent and really listen.

In one Year 8 55-minute lesson, each student was given a recording sheet consisting of two concentric circles with a dot in the centre. The dot represented the student, the inner circle a radius of five metres and the outer a radius of 20m. The class then visited three recording sites in the school grounds, which I selected because I believed each would give different sonic experiences.

At each site the students stood in silence to listen for three minutes.

They were told to identify the sounds they heard and map them on their sheets. They had to identify where the sound was coming from, whether it was close by (within 5m), fairly close (within 20m) or further away. They also had to find ways to map whether the sound was static or moving, and whether heard once, intermittently or continuously. At the end of the three minutes, students had to complete their recording in a way that was "most meaningful to them".

In class we talked about the experience. I was pleasantly surprised at the positive reaction as students talked about the number of noises they could hear and how these usually go unnoticed. Their recordings were interesting and showed how students can interpret their world very differently when based only on sound.

As homework they were given fresh recording sheets and asked to represent their sonic maps using only images and symbols, such as those found on Ordnance Survey maps. This proved very successful.

David Beresford

AST geography, Coleridge Community College, Cambridge

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