Guided Listening

       We all know that asking young children to listen to an entire orchestral work is very difficult.  Not to mention the fact that they don’t really get anything out of it.  When listening to musical examples, students need to focus on something.  They need guidance for what to pay attention to. 

Today’s post is designed to teach you how to create your own guided listening experience for  your students.  Enjoy!

Choose a piece of music that you love!

       Listen to the piece, one time, and write the top three things that jump out at you (instruments you hear, volume/dynamics, pattern/form, mood, etc…)

       Listen to the piece once or twice day for a couple of weeks.  Have it as background music, in the car, or sometimes more focused listening.  The more the music “gets in your head” the more ideas will come to you to share with the students.  I call that “putting it in the crockpot and setting it to simmer.”

       Determine the most important elements you want the students to listen for, and share them with the students.  Allow them to listen and demonstrate through movement or sign language, which they hear and understand.


Sample: Symphony No. 4 in G, Surprise Symphony,” Haydn


This song uses two volume (dynamic) levels, soft (piano) and loud (forte).  When you hear the music played softly, use sign language to make a letter p.  When you hear the music played loudly, use sign language to make a letter f.  Show me that you understand.”  Play the music, and watch the students pay attention for longer than you imagined possible!


A beautiful extension of this is to allow the students to create their own guided listening activity for the class.  Select a piece of music that you know the students will like or have heard before (Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons, Anything from Carnival of the Animals, or the Nutcracker Suite).  Allow them to listen and share what jumps out at them and come up with a plan for how they will show that they understand.  They could share it with another class.


One response to “Guided Listening

  1. This is so true! Dancing is also a great way to show what happens in music through movement. By copying the teacher’s dance moves they learn what to listen for, even though you don’t actually tell them. I usually make it an optional activity. Those that want to sit it out can do so, but eventually the entire class participates. And then, once they’ve had enough experience, I have them come up to the front and lead the class one student per week at a time. It’s great.

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