The Storying Sounds Toolkit is now in the final stages of production. It includes the Toolkit (pictured here) as well as accompanying booklet of drawings of sound created by young children (aged 3 and 4). This blog post is based on reflections of how these resources were used by children.
As a co-investigator on this project with two daughters (3 and 7 years) I wanted to share some personal observations about how my children interacted with and made sense of the Sounds of Childhood toolkit. I brought the Storying Sounds booklet home from work with me on a Friday night, and on the Saturday, I took my children to the Storying Sounds launch event, where they had a chance to play with the toolkit. Both the intensity with which the girls engaged with the toolkit and booklet and the different ways they used it, surprised me and will hopefully be of interest to others.
Engaging with the booklet
On a Friday night after school and nursery, the girls immediately picked up the Storying Sounds booklet from my work things, and began looking through it. They spent an intense and extended period of time engaged with the booklet, doing a number of different things:
- Isla (7 years) could read out the captions, so she read them to Nancy (3 years). She tended to read it sequentially like a story – from start to finish.
- Nancy then took the book and also flicked through the pages ‘reading’ them aloud. She decided what the words said based on a mixture of interpreting the pictures and remembering what Isla had said when she read the words.
- Isla played a game where she asked Nancy to guess what sound she thought the picture represented.
- Isla would read out the caption and both children would make the sounds they believed the noises represented (such as laughing flowers playing twister).
By this point, I had told the girls that we were going to the Storying Sounds event the next day, and they were very excited. Isla kept telling Nancy “we are going to draw the sounds”, so this was how the children understood what the event would be about. That evening, and in the car on the way to the event the next day, the girls kept repeating that they were “going to draw the sounds” and also began listing or predicting the sounds they planned to draw. Interestingly, the things they planned to draw were materials objects, such as flowers or animals, rather than sounds themselves.
At the Storying Sounds event
At the event, the girls were immediately drawn to the toolkit, and particularly to the blank circles and coloured pens. I think this is because these were the aspects of the toolkit with which they could most obviously fulfil their expected activity which was drawing sounds of their choice. Both children drew rapidly, filling numerous blank circles and placing them in the order they were created on to toolkit template. A little later, the girls acquired an ipad, and with the help of the facilitators, listened to sounds on the ipad. They particularly liked pressing the touch screen themselves to make the sounds play on the ipad. Again, the pattern seemed to be to ‘name’ the sound, and then to quickly draw it. The girls were less interested in the facilitators’ attempts to encourage them to construct the sounds / images into a narrative.
As each circle was created, they declared the name of the sound. It was interesting that what they chose to draw were almost exclusively ‘things’ such as flowers or birds, rather than sounds themselves, or more ephemeral concepts (such as song or wetness). In addition, Nancy’s drawings were not very representational at the time, so she was drawing abstract looking lines, shapes and colours, and them declaring them to be a concrete ‘thing’ “a bird!” without much of an obvious relationship between the lines and the thing.
After the event, the girls continued to be very animated and to talk about the different sounds and how they drew them. In bed that night, they lay together making different sounds, until I told them to go to sleep!
Memories of the event
Several months after the event, took place, Isla remembers drawing:
- big lorry
She also remembered that “You get to listen to sounds and write it” by “Drawing and then labelling them”. She remembers “the lorry one was really loud” and said “My favourite was the fireworks and the snakes. The fireworks were really bangy, and the snakes were like real snakes, but you closed your eyes and you couldn’t see them.”
Nancy added that her favourite was “the rocket one”. After telling me this, she proceeded to zoom up and down the kitchen, arm outstretched in front of her, pretending to be a rocket.
The girls’ drawing of sounds was dominated by drawing of ‘things’. This was the case even for Nancy, whose pictures were not particularly representations at the time. I think this probably reflects how drawing is framed for young children – they are constantly encouraged to draw representationally or realistically, and asked to declare the name of what it is they have drawn. It is interesting to think about the layers of meaning and assumptions in the different aspects of the task children were given through the methodology.
Blum (2015) writes about wordism, that is, the Western focus on words to label the world, and the assumption that more words and labels are better than fewer, when it comes to young children’s speech. I think this focus on the purpose of words as being naming objects, which is strongly emphasised in early years discourses, is related to the way in which the girls drew ‘ things’ and then labelled them.
Here are some ways we observed young children using this booklet:
- Reading out each caption on each page, sequentially like a story.
- ‘Reading’ each page sequentially like a story even when they could not actually read the words.
- Covering up the caption and guessing what sound the picture represented.
- Reading out the caption then making the sound they thing is described by the caption.
- Reading out the caption, then dancing and moving to evoke that sound / thing.
We were interesting in the way children seemed to make links spontaneously between the words, images, sounds and body movements. It was also notable that both children who could read the captions and children who could not could each find multiple different ways to make use of the booklet.
You can access the Storying Sounds booklet here