Guided Listening Teaching Tips

From Dr. Kay Edwards, Miami University

Learn More About Dr. Kay

1. Make the experience active:

  • Give students specific things to listen for or do beforehand. This can include students writing down answers to questions posed in advance.
  • Facilitate multiple experiences with the music that use different learning modes (listening, singing, moving, playing instruments, and/or writing).
  • Divide the class into smaller groups for each student to have a turn at participating in moving or instrument playing (or for assessment). This can occur over several class periods, for multiple hearings, or for different selections within one class period.
  • Solicit and incorporate students’ creative ideas to provide own­ ership of the listening experience with opportunities for self­expression, musically or otherwise (within specific parameters).
  • Allow time for class discussion of the listening experience.
  • Have students reflect upon the listening experience by using a music listening journal, as age appropriate. This can be handwritten or using an application such as Flipgrid on available electronic devices.

2. Keep the experience focused:

  • Allow students to fully focus on the listening or video. Resist the temptation to talk over the music; pause the recording be­ fore asking questions or making a statement.
  • Model good listening behavior.
  • If you will need to cue the students while the music is playing, usea non­verbal cue (such as a hand gesture) or an instrumental/auralcue (such as a triangle) introduced to the class beforehand.Have students “Freeze” when the music stops.
  • Pause the recording as needed in order to divide a longer selection into smaller chunks or sections or to give a different group of students the opportunity to play instruments or to dance/move.
  • Follow district, school, and copyright guidelines for using music videos from the internet. Before showing, cue videos past any ads.

3. Use the best quality sound system available:

  • If using a computer for playback, connect it to a sound system capable of playing from very soft to very loud without distortion.
  • If an adequate sound or video playback system is not available for budget reasons, ask the parent­teacher organization or student council to purchase a sound system or substantial Bluetooth speaker, or check with the media specialist in your school or district for one that you can borrow.

4. Encourage positive attitudes about listening:

  • Incorporate music listening experiences throughout the school year.
  • Allow unfamiliar music to become more familiar by playing it when students enter and leave the classroom. Multiple hearings will give students the opportunity to become more familiar with new music and develop greater appreciation and enjoyment
  • Encourage students to be Music Detectives who listen carefullyand respectfully and who keep an objective, open mind about new or less familiar music. Facilitate making connections between music and other subject areas.
  • Model and guide students to use words such as special, unique, different, or interesting instead of weird or strange when hearing unfamiliar music.
  • Use active listening experiences with world music as opportunities to change inaccurate preconceptions about other cultures; all known cultures have music!
  • Remember this thought: “ADD to the music already valued by the student.” (Shared by Jacquelyn Boswell, Arizona State University)

5. Provide opportunities to talk and write about music using academic language:

  • Allow students to reflect upon and apply their learning by sharing ideas or opinions and discussing with others in small groups, with a partner, or with the whole class. Encourage students to describe or share opinions about the music they hear using academic language and accurate music terminology, both verbally (conversation, discourse) and in writing as age appropriate. Other methods can include recording student comments using an application such as Flipgrid or on a YouTube channel.
  • Create a cumulative Word Wall of music or other vocabulary that the students have learned, referring to and reviewing it regularly.

6. Extend learning:

  • Small group learning centers with ear buds or headphones provide a different type of shared communal experience with the music and promote social­emotional learning (SEL). Select individual tracks from the Classics for Kids library or create a playlist of favorite selections for individual and small group listening. Check with your media specialist for the best way to use available resources and technology.
  • Encourage students to learn more music, musical styles, composers, and music history on their own from the Classics for Kids website.