Soundscape Smackdown!

Challenge students to create and perform a story soundscape for your partner class!
Ages 5-14 / 60
min Activity


  • Work together to identify a story and create an accompanying soundscape to emphasize the story’s characters, emotions, and events
  • Meet with a partner class to read your stories together and perform the accompanying soundscape

Supporting Research

When students engage in a collaborative project-based learning activity, during which they take on the role of multimedia designers, research shows that this experience helps foster important skills such as being able to consider others’ needs, work together towards common goals, and recognize diverse competencies. Educators should reinforce the practice of collaboration, diplomacy, and inclusivity throughout the activity as students incorporate everyone’s ideas and work together to design a soundscape to enhance a reader’s understanding and enjoyment of the story.

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.


Activity Partners

Educator Note

Empatico offers an exciting opportunity for educators to connect their classrooms with other classes around the world. Once you have connected with another educator in the Empatico community, you can schedule live virtual exchanges to bring your students together. These cross-cultural experiences enable students to share their stories, explore different perspectives, and make new friends in another community. 

Empatico exchanges are most successful when educators plan and get to know each other beforehand. To do this, please schedule a video call to connect with your partner educator, and use this opportunity to share your goals for this experience, exchange helpful information about your students, and discuss how you will lead the exchange together. Our "Get to Know Your Partner Educator" resource provides suggested conversation prompts for your meeting.

For more tips on leading a positive, cross-cultural experience for your students, please watch our “Teacher Tips” video.

Prepare: plan for the virtual exchange.

  1. Introduce the activity to students. You might say: “Remember when we used Novel Effect to listen to a story with music and other sound effects? How did the soundscape add to the storytelling experience? What did you like about it? Now, our class is going to participate in a challenge: creating and performing a special soundscape for another class! First, we’ll pick a story, then come up with sound effects that would make the story even better!”
  2. Make a list of stories that are enjoyed by your students (e.g., popular folktales in your culture), then work together to select a story for the soundscape challenge. Ideally, the story should be fairly short (about 10-15 minutes when reading it aloud). Remind students to practice kindness and respectful communication as they listen to each other’s ideas and reach a decision about which story to select.
  3. Once students have selected a story, read it together as a class. As you read the story, students should write down the emotions, characters, and events that are portrayed in the text, and potential sounds that could enhance these moments.

    Depending on your class, you might have to read the story multiple times so students can think carefully about their ideas! For example, if there is a particularly exciting event in the story, students might consider upbeat music that captures this feeling. Or, if there is a character knocking on the door, students might include sound effects from tapping on their desks.
  4. After students have finished recording their individual ideas, write them down on a physical or digital board that is visible to everyone.

    Then, work together to identify the final sound effects for your story. The goal is to create a soundscape that helps the reader feel more connected to the story’s emotions and characters, and help them imagine the events that are taking place. Show this video to students as an example of how other students created their own soundscape!
  5. Encourage students to practice creativity and collaboration as they figure out how to create the different sounds! For example, they might gather recyclable materials to make a musical instrument, or use their voices to imitate a stormy wind. Remember, the effects should be easy to create because students will be performing them live for your partner class!

    If students want to explore free digital resources to create their soundscapes, please check out these easy-to-use sites that do not require logins:
    ABCya’s Soundburst
    Chrome Music Lab
  6. Finish preparing for your live virtual exchange by assigning students to perform or play the different sound effects as you read the book to your partner class. 

    If an asynchronous exchange is preferable, you can use video-recording software such as Flip or iMovie to create a video that can be shared with your partner class. 

Interact: meet your partner class over a live virtual exchange.

Facilitate the virtual exchange using Empatico’s built-in Zoom integration, or the video tool that you previously selected, and follow the suggested exchange structure below:

  1. Introduce yourselves and share a fun fact (e.g., one student from each class can say “Hello!” and share about the story that their class selected).
  2. Educators take turns reading their class’s stories, while their students perform the soundscape accompanying the text. Make sure to read slowly so students can listen for their cues!
  3. After both performances, invite students to share gratitude and appreciation for each other’s hard work. For example, they might share a sound effect that they particularly enjoyed, or one that was surprising to them.
  4. Say thank you and goodbye!

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.