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Listening for Learning

Performing a Pedagogy of Sound and Listening

Chris McRae

Whoosh, crunch, buzz, inhale, exhale . . . Listening for Learning: Performing a Pedagogy of Sound and Listening presents sound, listening, and pedagogical interactions as performances that create relationships, ways of being and knowing, and that provide an opportunity for transformations of existing and taken-for-granted practices in the classroom. By using performative listening and performative writing this book presents fragments of sound and listening as sites of learning and knowledge production. The written fragments throughout this book are offered as performances that listen for and hear sound as a central feature to educational practices in terms of bodies, classrooms, and pedagogy. The goal in sharing this performance of listening is to create opportunities for recognition, to invite further listening in educational contexts, and to employ listening as an opportunity for transforming and re-imagining educational spaces and interactions.

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Part 1. Listening to Bodies: Many Kinds of Sounds


Deborah Underwood’s children’s book The Quiet Book illustrated by Renata Liwska presents a descriptive series of some of “the many kinds of quiet” that might exist over the course of a day in the life of a child (1). The illustrations present anthropomorphized animals moving through a day at home, in school, and with friends as they encounter and produce these different scenes and sites of quiet. The short sentences offer instances for reflection and for hearing personal connections: “Coloring in the lines quiet,” and “Last one to get picked up from school quiet.” Throughout this short children’s book, school is presented in multiple moments and illustrations as a place that is full of moments of meaningful quiet.

In The Loud Book by Underwood and with illustrations again by Liwska, school is again offered as a scene where the characters and the descriptions of the “lots of louds” are made meaningful including: “Burp during quiet time loud,” and “Fire truck day at school loud.” In both The Quiet Book and The Loud Book sounds are evocative of a range of experiences and emotions that might occur in relationship to schools. Likewise, schools are presented as sites that are characterized and experienced through the production of sounds ranging from quiet to loud. And as these sounds are made, they are also heard, felt, and experienced as fully embodied performances.

For example, one of the many quiets includes: “Others telling secrets quiet.” The illustration shows one of the...

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