At my school now, we've been taking weekly field trips to Seattle parks all summer, at which I had already introduced some listening exercises. Who could ever imagine 15 boisterous K-3 students practically bouncing off the trees one minute, that the next they could be sitting in a wide circle with their eyes closed, counting all the different sounds they hear on their quiet fingers and their concentrated faces?!
... Which is why I felt, by this point in the summer, that they were ready for the Sound Map. And this is how I found myself with fifteen clipboards, sitting in the tall grasses of Magnuson Park with the kids ...
I struggle with the initiation of activities, because I don't like to detract from the kids' motivation to explore something by imposing my motivation to explore it in a way I prefer. However, when I sat down with my clippboard and pencil, and began drawing ... all it took was a question:
"Avery, what are you doing?"
"I'm beginning a sound map. Do you remember counting sounds at the Arboretum? This is like that, but instead of counting, I try to draw pictures of the sounds I hear and place them in a map around me..."
We were off.
I began the Sound Map by drawing myself in the middle of the paper. Then I asked, "What do we hear around us here?" As each child suggested something, I invited them to add a picture of it to my map. We began with birds and airplanes, which are easy enough to visualize for a picture. And then we came to the wind.
"How do you draw the wind?" someone asked.
"How do you draw the wind?" I reflected with them. There was no way I was going to make any suggestion whatsoever.
"I know!" declared a second-grade girl, "You could draw it like the pictures in the weather, with curves and stuff." She added the wind.
After our collaborative sound map was well on its way, I invited the kids to take their own clipboard and find a quiet spot to make their own sound map. If they didn't want to focus on sounds, they were welcome to draw a picture of something where they were sitting.
Once engaged, they were quick to focus their attention on the task they had chosen, and were able to decide when they were finished, and when they needed to continue. Some left their clipboards behind completely, and became engrossed in exploring the tall grasses.
I usually like to let children's drawings speak for themselves, but I just can't resist sharing: at the very bottom of this picture, the student drew "the wind rushing through the grasses"
What I most enjoy about this activity is that it allows me to get in touch with each student as an individual. There is no rubric, no expectations connected to this exercise - it is a way I get to know my students, just as they are. Their expression is invaluable to me, because it reminds me that, though we may all hear the same sounds and draw the same pictures, there are as many ways to show what we know as there are ways of knowing.