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Guided Listening Teaching Tips
Dr. Kay Edwards, Miami University

A Few Helpful Hints:

  1. Keep the listening experience an active one; involve the students in a variety of ways that encourage and provide multiple hearings. Give them specific things to listen for or do. Solicit and incorporate their best, most appropriate, creative ideas; give the students some ownership of the listening experience, within specific parameters.

  2. Do not talk over the music; resist this temptation. Allow students to focus fully on the listening. Whenever asking questions or pointing out something in the music, pause the recording.

  3. Model "listening behavior" for students. Use non-verbal cues or instrument cues that are not used in the recording (perhaps a hand drum, triangle, or finger cymbals) when needed.

  4. Use the best-quality audio playback equipment for the most excellent recordings available to you. When playing our free online Naxos audio files (or another recording of the same musical work) for the students, do not just play the recording from a computer without quality playback that is the equivalent to at least a large ‘boombox’ or small stereo with external speakers. These must be capable of hearing clearly a wide range of volume from very soft to very loud without distortion.*

  5. Consider re-using listening materials with their respective recordings in a listening center or station in your classroom, with 2–6 individual headphones or ear buds connected to the same playback source. This will encourage children to be "independent listeners." For very young children, put a red coding dot on the "STOP" button and a green coding dot on the "PLAY" button in a listening center.

  6. Encourage children to describe or evaluate music in musical terms, and to be respectful listeners.

  7. Break large works into small portions by only listening to a section at a time or a movement at a time. When moving to music, break class into smaller groups for each to have a turn at moving while others watch during sections of a longer work. (Give the Watchers something to evaluate.) Rotate instrument players, movers, or watchers on subsequent hearings of the selection, or pause the recording to switch and take turns.

  8. Remember this adage: "ADD TO the music that is already valued by a child."

  9. Take advantage of reasons to listen to a selection again and again, making the music more familiar - because we "like what we know" inasmuch as we "know what we like."

    *Our society is used to very high quality sound reproduction available commercially everywhere – so we must provide that in our music classroom! (If this is not currently available to you for budget reasons, consider asking your parent–teacher organization or school’s student council to purchase this for your classroom. It is something every student in your school will benefit from. Some teachers purchase their own.)

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