Inspiring Future Sound Designers

Novel Effect soundscape designers teach 2nd graders how to work together and observe their environment to make their own soundscape.
Novel Effect's Soundscape Design team teaches 2nd graders how soundscapes are made

Have you ever wondered how Novel Effect Soundscapes are made? Chrystal Burke’s curious 2nd graders wondered the same thing! A hands-on literacy project was born from her question. Members of the design team were only too happy to inspire future soundscape designers!

Chrystal’s 2nd graders learned all about sound design from Soundscape Designers Eric Goetz and Matt Boerner! By working together, they learned how to observe their environment and work as a team.

What is a Soundscape?

You know the sounds you hear when you watch a movie or a cartoon? All that movie music, sound effects, and voice overs are called sound design. Novel Effect soundscapes are just like that, but for your read-aloud!

Creating a soundscape involves music composition, sound design, sound effects editing, interaction design, voiceover scripting, and voice acting. All of this helps support the characters, drama, and setting of the story.

This means that when you read a book with a Novel Effect soundscape, you’ll understand how the characters feel, where the story takes place, and the overall mood!

Parkway's Soundscape Project

We recently spoke with Chrystal, Eric, and Matt about this experience. Read on to learn about the science of a soundscape, and how it follows the design process.

Novel Effect Soundscape Designers Eric Goetz and Matt Boerner hard at work!
Novel Effect Soundscape Designers Eric Goetz and Matt Boerner.

Novel Effect: What were some of the outcomes you planned for the project?

Chrystal Burkes: I wanted them to learn how to work backwards to make sound effects. Also, I wanted to teach them video call etiquette and how to work collaboratively.

Eric Goetz: My favorite thing to teach kids is to observe their environment carefully. Listening carefully helps you identify prominent and background sounds. This helps you determine what to filter out.

Matt Boerner: Photography teaches you to look at the world differently. Sound design teaches you to listen to the world differently.

MB and EG: It’s helpful to think of the microphone as an ear. Location or distance from the microphone will affect how things sound. We used this to show the class how to make sounds with everyday things like slinkies, glasses filled with water, pot lids hit with a mallet, and even rubber bands!

With each object, we explained what we hoped it would accomplish. Some items were chosen to make cartoon sounds. Other items were used to make abstract sounds like thinking or emotions. There are also items used to make sounds that represent real life objects, like lasers and rockets.

Want your students to make their own soundscape? This planning sheet helps them find sound design opportunities in the books they read and adore! 

NE: What made the project a success?

CB: We brainstormed questions before meeting the soundscape designers. As a result, the kids got to practice asking questions.

As part of the project, we used a gradual release of responsibility model. I do, we do, you do. It really helped the kids figure out how to identify and plan for sound opportunities on a page.

MB: It takes a lot of creativity and experimentation. To get the sounds you want, you have to try a lot of different things.

CB: We used the videos on the Soundscape page too! In creating our own soundscapes, they helped us see how to use the design process.

NE: What did this project teach you and the students?

CB: It was great seeing the kids come together and solve problems. Additionally, I learned a lot about helping them persevere when the sound didn’t work the first time.

EG: It’s great to see young kids doing project-based learning that incorporates science, technology, and the arts. It’s also fun to see how media savvy children are. How they use technology to show their inferences about an author or artist’s purpose is inspiring.

More Soundscape Fun

Soundscape design is way more fun when working together! Particularly if it’s a global collaboration!

We’ve partnered with Empatico to create collaborative soundscape opportunities. You can find two activities that use Novel Effect while working with your virtual pen pal. 

Story Soundscapes is an activity that teaches students about soundscape design. Soundscape Smackdown is an activity where you and your partner class create a soundscape for each other.

About Chrystal Burkes

Chrystal is the library media specialist at Parkway Elementary School in Bryant, Arkansas. She uses Novel Effect during her read-alouds when students come to the library. They love the music, sound effects, and voiceovers Novel Effect adds to their read-alouds. Even when checking out their own library books, they want to see if they’re in Novel Effect!
Chrystal Burkes, Parkway LMS

Download the Novel Effect app to bring stories to life with music and sound that respond to your voice. 

Share this post


Supercharge the school year with a Novel Effect School Plan and transform learning!

Transform Summer Reading!

Engage & Inspire Readers with our Summer Reading Program!

Join the Challenge!

Turn the page and discover a new adventure!