Sound Stories

There are a few different types of sound stories.

  1. You enact sound effects as you are telling the story with musical instruments (which are the example below)
  2. You sing a melody or a rhythmical pattern at specific cues in the story
  3. Old radio type stories (my grandad would listen to these)
  4. Stories that use sound words like in We’re going on a bear hunt (sound words: splash, boom, zap)
  5. Audio stories by Anna Christina  

These are 3 (+2) stories that fall in the 1st type. This series of articles focuses on music in nursery schools for ages starting from 4 to 6 months up to 40+ months. Sound stories are fascinating for any and all ages. An easy way to make them more advanced is to reform the language or use a theme that is more appealing to your students. You don’t have to sing for these stories and you can also play a recording of them if talking is considered a COVID-19 risk.

Instrumentation is open. (For nurseries) I would go for small percussive instruments. Tambourines work very well for these stories because of the variety of quality sounds that can be produced; you can tap on different areas of the drum, shake it, tap and shake, swish, use fingernails to gently scrape or fingertips. Plus, you can move around while holding it.

You can also use props for these stories, like a parachute, scarves, objects that are mentioned in the story. Just remember to keep them clean. Even better use objects you can find in the room you are in and minimise transfering germs to different nursery rooms. All children can hold instruments if it’s appropriate for the day’s lesson. Babies can also hold little maracas, egg maracas, bells or other shakers to copy you, the music practitioner. 

Showing pictures is lovely for babies and toddlers. For the older ones, the language you use should be sufficient for them to create the images in their head. I think that is very useful as it feeds their imagination. With babies you can discuss what is happening in the picture and then carry on with the story.

Once the children are familiar with a story and around the age of 2,5 to 3 (depending on the children), try saying it with as few words as possible and let the children take the lead in creating the sounds (might get noisy, but it will also get better in time).

You don’t have to narrate the whole story at once. You can build up to it gradually. There is no right or wrong way to add sounds. Use your voice as an additional instrument, and gestures and face expressions for impact. I will try to guide you with some questions but if you have a better idea go for it!

For me, the sounds don’t have to be literal, we are looking for the feeling and give a general idea of what is happening in the story through sound, more like sound effects. Also, don’t feel that every word has to have a sound, or a different sound. Simple and cute. A bit of a surreal and fantasy situation. These stories are made up. You can use these ones, make up your own, add your own embellishments.

The Water Cycle 

There was a Little Wave skipping across the surface of the sparkling river (what would that sound like?). The Little wave sailed happily. 
Suddenly the water stream was a bit too strong for Little Wave to handle (what changes in the waves movement? You can show that with sound). The current was getting stronger and stronger. The Little Wave was rapidly jumping over stones and swishing through rocks. Until… she slid down the biggest waterfall (maybe you hit and shake the tambourine to resemble a splashing sound?)
And splashed into the dazzling quiet lake.
Little Wave relaxed on the crystal-like surface of the lake.
It relaxed for so long under the hot sun that it slowly started transforming into tiny, tiny droplets of gas and evaporated into the sky. (perhaps tapping gently the tambourine while lifting it higher?)
Other waves started doing the same, evaporating into the sky. And it all formed a big cloud.
A strong wind started blowing and took the wave above the ocean. (simile)
There was a stroke of lightning, then a very loud thunder!
And rain started falling from the clouds. Heavy rain.
Eventually the raindrops were falling slower, and slower on the sea surface. 
Our little Wave was again part of the water. It was on the sea water. The little Wave loved sailing across the sea. It felt the wind blowing behind it and it would rise up, scout the horizon and dive back in the sea, carrying on her journey as a wave in the sea.

Photo by Henry Dick on Unsplash

The Water Cycle | Baby version 

There was a little wave sailing in the river. And suddenly it started moving faster and faster, smashing on rocks until it fell down the waterfall and splashed in the little calm pool. 
The sun was hot and it pulled the little wave up in the sky towards it. 
One quiet night in the forest it started to rain. At first the raindrops were very very light, but gradually there were more and rain got heavier and heavier. Until finally the little wave was back in her river sailing away… 

Sun and Moon

It’s morning. And the sun comes out to warm the earth. The first sun beam falls on a green leaf. And the second one on a slug. The third sun beam falls onto the branch of a tree and the fourth one on a ladybug. The ladybug’s wings spread and she flies to the waterlilies taking the sun with her to shine on the river. The sun rays are gently reflected to all of the forest’s plants. Along wakes up a frog. And with his loud ‘ribit’ he wakes up all the animals. 
The sun was happy. It was a marvelous energetic morning. 
The sun gradually started setting behind the mountains. It is a quiet night. Most animals in the forest have gone to bed, there goes the swan, the goldfish, the bear, the squirrel. The stars are twinkling in the dark sky while the moonlight skips over the river reflecting its glow across the forest. Some animals are still awake. You might hear the owl, the aye-aye, the tarsier, the koala. 

Cherry Tree from Stone to Tree 

Photo by Mike C. S. on Unsplash

A Magpie was sitting on a cherry tree eating its cherries for tea. She gathered a few more to take to her friends sitting over on another tree. They all had a lovely party celebrating spring while eating cherries and throwing the stones on the ground. In the morning there was a pile of stones piled up next to the tree they had their party. The wind started blowing and scattered the cherry stones all around the valley. Then it blew a bit more, and a bit harder and caused the dirt from the ground to cover up all the stones. 
Now it was time for the squiggly worms to get to work and start fertilising the soil around the cherry stones. They munched leaves, and grass and turned the soil upside down, created little pathways for water and air to come through too. This carried on all summer.
In autumn heavy rain began to fall in the valley, pouring rain all over the plants and soil and even the little cherry stones that were well tucked under the ground.
After a long, long time passed a worm saw little roots coming out of the cherry seeds.  Then a stem stretched out to reach above the ground to present the first little leaf of the next cherry tree. 

The (North) Wind and the Sun, Aesop’s fables

This is a fantastic story for all sorts of things. From a sound and music point of view is amazing as well. 
As always don’t be shy from adapting it to suit each group of babies, toddlers and preschoolers you’re working with. 
There is no right or wrong way to represent the sound of the Sun or the Wind. Whatever feels right for you. If I use only my tambourine again, I would use steady beats for the sun and for the wind swishes on the head of the tambourine. And a little shake when the traveller takes off the cloak. 

© Rania Chrysostomou, 2020, lesson plan for nursery schools music 

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