Activity Ideas for Multimodal Writing Class

3 Modes of Sound:

Have students go outside and listen to sounds and write down what they hear. Then they come back in and we write down the sounds on the board. Then ask students to put the sounds in categories, before sharing the 3 modes of sound: casual, semantic and reduced.

Explain that sounds are usually described based on causation: dog barking, car screeching breaks, etc. Ask students to go back outside and record sounds without referring to causation.

Wrapping up: point out that it’s important to think about sound as more than causality because sound is often used in media for their semiotic connotations, affect, timbre, color, etc.

I got this idea from Karen Collins’ amazing article, Sound Design for Media.

Sonic Mood Board

Show students a visual mood board so that they get the gist of what this is and how it works. Then show them where to get free sound effects and ask them to create a sonic mood board. Each student could be assigned an emotion, or choose an emotion, but we wouldn’t want every student doing the same one. Students who present the sound board in any form. I should check and see if they can insert the sounds on their blogs?

In Collins’ piece, she teaches students to create effects before doing this assignment. She has a good example in the piece of a sonic board that seems to portray urgency and fear, like the sound of an ambulance. These sounds are layered. I’m not sure how easy it will be teach students to import the sounds and add effects.

During the next class period, students would have to guess the emotion portrayed.

Story through Sound Effects

This might be going a bit too far for our purposes as it seems like it would take at least a week, but I could ask students to create a story based on one of 5 different narratives (arrive home, dog barking, vase breaks OR walking down street, start to cross, almost hit by a car, etc).

***Need a lesson on creating your own sounds. Need a device that will allow them to record sound accurately and without outside noises…


Enunciation Activity:
To consider tone, pitch, emphasis: read the following sentences emphasizing the underlined word and consider how meaning and tone changes as a result of emphasis.

I didn’t tell her you were stupid.” (Somebody else told her.)
“I didn’t tell her you were stupid.” (I emphatically did not.)
“I didn’t tell her you were stupid.” (I implied it.)
“I didn’t tell her you were stupid.” (I told someone else.)
“I didn’t tell her you were stupid.” (I told her someone else was stupid.)
“I didn’t tell her you were stupid.” (I told her you’re still stupid.)
“I didn’t tell her you were stupid.” (I told her something else about you.)

The following from HERE:

Pitch is the frequency of the sound waves you produce. It is about hitting high or low notes with your voice.

Become aware of pitch and learn to refine it, phrase-by-phrase. Questions, for example, should end on a higher note. Conversely, affirmative statements should end in a level or slightly lower pitch. The ending of statements on a high pitch can create doubt in your listeners.

Timbre is the emotional quality of your voice. It’s the attitude behind a word or a phrase. Listeners perceive a speaker’s attitude and use their perception to build comprehension.

Use timbre to enhance your meaning or express the emotion or attitude you want to create. Choose words and phrases that support that attitude.

NY Times article on voice and pitch and effect on audience. Also listen to short podcast on side of article.


Process Journal (Prompt Ideas)

  1. Sound Journal:

Step 1 (Listen and Record):  Go sit somewhere (outside) for 15 minutes. Write down all the different sounds you hear. You can start just by describing the sounds (“bird chirp”, etc.), but then after a few days, try to re-focus that listening by describing them in terms of their acoustic properties (“short, sharp staccato burst or long echo with static, for example.) If you are having trouble identifying sounds, try closing your eyes for a few minutes and just listening.

Step 2 (Reflection): Think about the sounds in terms of their connotation. What do they signify to you? What might they mean to a listener if taken out of context? (For example, a certain type of bird chirping might signify “morning, daybreak, warmth, sunshine, spring” but another type of bird squawk might connote “danger, fear, warnings, etc.)

From this experience, what you have learned about sound, about yourself and sound, about listening, etc?

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