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Week 8- Audio For A Social Studies Class

Week 8- Audio For A Social Studies Class

In Social Studies 7 I spend quite a bit of time on two different curricular outcomes: 1) developing research skills like note-taking strategies and 2) examining the neolithic revolution and the rise of agriculture.

I like to teach students how to create multi-media notes that incorporate both visuals and text. If students are creating media that they can refer back to in a way that is worthwhile and helpful for their learning, they might as well incorporate some of Mayer’s principles (Mayer, 2014, p. 390). We talk about coherence in our notetaking and students are asked to eliminate any unnecessary or extraneous words, focusing on key words and important phrases. Multi-media notes with spatial contiguity are the goal, with words and visuals both used to record information, and the placement of images next to text looked at as extremely important.

If you haven’t used sketch note taking before, consider looking at the work of Doug Neill, who has some accessible videos on youtube.com that explain the technique and provide some guidance for teachers and students about how it can be used in the classroom. You can watch his introduction to the series below.

I wanted to find an audio clip that I could use to practice sketch note development with my Social Studies students that would be relatively short and without vocabulary that was overly technical or complex (while still speaking informatively about the topic). As Carter’s article puts it, “sentences that are long and difficult (complex) are extremely demanding on short term memory” and “no matter how smart the listener may be, he or she can only hold so much information in short term memory,” (Carter, 2012, p. 56). I chose a 3 minute and 15 second clip about the beginning of agriculture, found on The Internet Archive, that was uploaded by user Robert Brady in August of 2012. The audio clip is of good quality, with a “news report” style and relatively relaxed, or conversational tone. It has a relatively clean soundscape, without music or sound effects, which helps the listener focus on the “foreground sound” (Carter, 2012, ph 57), and the lack of pauses or inclusion of filler words like “um” and “uh” helps keep the listener engaged. I felt the topic of the clip was appropriate for students with some previous background knowledge about early hunter gatherer societies, and the initial conditions which led to the rise of agriculture in many parts of the world after the recession of the last glacial maximum.

Have a listen to the clip here:


To use this clip, I would ask students to listen to it once without doing anything actively, just to get a sense of the topic, and the general progression of the speaker’s thoughts. Then I would ask students to take sketch notes while they listened to the clip at least twice more, thinking about text and visuals that might highlight key points the speaker was making. Finally, after students have listened several times I would ask them to reflect on what they heard and add in any details that they thought were important that they might have missed, and think about how they could use colour or other techniques (bolding, underlining, etc.) to highlight the most important pieces of information from the clip.



Mayer, J (2014) Multimedia Instruction. in J. Michael Spector, M. David Merrill, Jan Elen, & M. J. Bishop. (2014). Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology: Vol. 4th ed. Springer.

Carter, C. (2012). Instructional Audio Guidelines: Four Design Principles to Consider for Every Instructional Audio Design Effort. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning56(6), 54–58. https://doi-org.ezproxy.tru.ca/10.1007/s11528-012-0615-z

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