Using Moshi Sounds to Teach Literacy
We are all aware of the constant presence of noise in a classroom—active young kids using their voices and their bodies to communicate, in addition to pencils being sharpened, chairs being pushed and rulers falling on the floor. And although silence may seem to be the ultimate prize and our image of a truly orderly classroom, in fact, sounds and noises can be the ignition point for learning and engagement, encouraging every child to travel, describe, invent, and tell stories.
We use Moshi Sounds in my first and second-grade combined classroom as an incredibly powerful tool to teach literacy through language and narrative activities.
Here’s how we are using sounds to teach literacy:
Kids gather and remain silent in order to be good listeners and focus all their senses. Then we listen to the Moshi Sound of that day. After a few minutes, some kids raise their hands and say what they hear. I remind them to be precise with the words they use: a fountain is not a stream, for instance.
To structure the activity, I use a series of preprinted cards. These cards contain brief prompts to help guide kids through the steps of the activity, and all the while the Moshi Sound is playing.
- We listen and make an image (or a movie) in our heads. What do we hear?
- We create a setting for this sound. Where is it? When is it? Give a moment of the day, a season or an event (a birthday? or a family gathering?).
- We use our five senses to describe how this sound “feels.” Is it wet? Is it hot? Do we smell something? What do we see? What do we hear?
- We also explore the emotions this sound may trigger. Does it make us feel happy, sad, scared or angry? Why?
- Using the responses from the previous steps, we start to tell a story. We decide on a character, either one that we already know, or a new one. And because it’s a story, we need to introduce a surprising or challenging element in the narration. Could it be an encounter? Or an unexpected object that will require our character to make a decision? All the usual narrative elements are welcome.
When it’s time to tell the story as a class, we review the elements of the story we have decided to tell and we use three of the preprinted cards—labeled beginning, middle, and end of the story—to help the kids build their story in a linear way. Kids help each other with this story-building process. Sometimes we decide who’s going to tell about the setting, then who will tell about how the character feels, and so forth.
This activity has many benefits for the children. Sounds, like music, open a window in the children’s minds, and it’s very interesting to realize how different and personal their visions are: they don’t see the same thing as they listen to the same sound. During the activity, listening skills are also reinforced and valued. In addition, the building of a story induced by the sound brings the whole class together and fosters language skills. As an extension, we could write the story or draw a picture. The possibilities are endless.
To illustrate what the process looks like, here’s a lesson we did this past week:
For the sound, I chose Moshi Washing Machine. The kids closed their eyes and listened. They all identified the sound of the washing machine (one girl said the image of a printer also came to mind). Kids discussed where they usually find a washing machine. Some mentioned the laundry room, which is not familiar to everyone, so we talked about the meaning of the term.
We then talked about the five senses. We heard the engine of the machine, we smelled the detergent and we saw the foam through the door. Next, we decided that the setting would be at night because, as one child stated, “My mom does the laundry at night.”
As the story developed we decided to include two characters that we already knew from a writing activity book, Ludo and Nina. And then came the most fun decision to make: What would happen that would make the story interesting?
After many ideas were given, we told the following story: “Tonight, Mum is going to do laundry like she always does. Ludo and Nina want to help. They pour the detergent into the machine and push start. They smell the detergent, hear the machine, and see the foam through the door. The laundry is spinning. But they poured too much detergent and the foam is coming out of the door! They swim in the foam. Ludo will be punished because he didn’t set a good example for his little sister.” The ending seems to satisfy everyone!