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I’m writing this blog post in preparation for a series of workshops that I will lead for the Tuzla English Teachers’ Association in Bosnia and Herzegovina next month.

In these workshops I hope to be able to encapsulate all the work I’ve done up until now on using sound effects in the classroom. I aim to…

  • briefly discuss the theory behind using sound as a stimulus in the language classroom
  • present a series of practical activities that involve the use of sound as a stimulus for language work
  • demonstrate how to make and record sound effects for these activities, and how these can be manipulated (for example, by editing or sharing on social media or other virtual learning environments)

I’ve delivered workshops at various language teaching conferences, from IATEFL in Glasgow to Istek in Istanbul, from ETAS in Zug to TESOL France in Paris, but these have always been relatively short affairs. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to explore things in a bit more depth in these upcoming workshops. I’m also hoping that people come to attend the events ready to discuss how they could take these ideas forward and ready to have a go at getting their hands dirty in working with recording their own sound effects.

To give a bit of a flavour of what is to come, I’d like to elaborate a little on the areas I’ve outlined above and describe what I’d like to talk about and discuss in these workshops. That is not to say that what I write below is going to be an exact representation to what I’ll say, and questions I’ll ask and answer, in Bosnia, but rather that the brief descriptions you’re going to read will be an appetiser for an event and a trip I am really looking forward to.

Theory

I’m advocating the use of sound as a stimulus in the classroom – and in some instances stripping it away from other forms of stimulation, such as the other senses (touch, taste, smell, sight) and (often) preparatory input. As such, the use of sound in this way almost predicates activities and ways of working that are based in using the imagination and being creative. If you can only hear something, your imagination has to ‘fill in’ that which is not presented by the other senses. This leads us to questions about what is the mast effective kind of input in the classroom – is it clearly explained beforehand or not, is it multisensory or only presented through one channel, do these questions depend on what your intended outcome is. We can also briefly look at how language may function in the mind, before it becomes spoken or written words.

Activities

Sound is a really versatile resource in the language classroom. As mentioned above, presenting sound separately, e.g. without any visual accompaniement, means that we almost have to use our imagination. The application of sound effects for activities that lead us into practising language are therefore many and varied. They are also often easy to prepare and require few resources to put into practice.

Working with sound effects

Nowadays, advances in mobile and computer technology, together with social media online, allow us to easily record, manipulate and share sound effects more than ever before. While maybe not as embedded in our practice as language professions as images are, there is potential for sound effects to be used as part of a teaching and learning process that involves the use of these technologies. From asking students to share sound effects from their parts of the world or their lives, to sharing sounds around the world, the possibilities are vast.

I’m really looking forward to these workshops in a part of the world that I’m very excited to visit. As soon as more details are available, I’ll be sure to share them with you.

In the meantime, I have started to put together a collection of the activities that use sound effects as a stimulus on a site: The Sound Book. I’d be very grateful to get your opinions about it.

Click to go to The Sound Book

Click to go to The Sound Book