Familiar Sounds

By Activity Bank on Jun 07, 2013

This activity has been revised and was originally created by Charlotte Cushman and published in the Perkins Activity and Resource Guide (1st edition, 1992).  The second edition is available for purchase.

This activity helps students to identify familiar sounds as well as improve their auditory discrimination. Lessons include Concept Development, English Language Arts, and Independent Living.


Digital recorder


  • Make a recording of familiar sounds in the student’s environment. Include sounds from various categories:
    • Household sounds (ringing phone, running water, knocking on door, flushing toilet, alarm clock, TV, radio, closing door, doorbell, smoke alarm)
    • Musical instruments (piano, drum, bell, guitar)
    • Animal sounds (dog, cat, bird)
    • Transportation sounds (car motor, siren, car horn, airplane, train, helicopter – these can be found online at YouTube, or other online resources)
    • Tools (hammer, saw, drill)
    • Common toys (music box, jack-in-the-box)
    • Kitchen sounds (timer, blender, teakettle, pouring liquid, washing dishes)
    • School sounds (schoolbell, kids playing on the playground)
  • Design your recording according to the specific levels, needs, and interests of your students. For example, some students may be able to distinguish among a wide variety of musical instruments (tuba, saxophone, trumpet), while others might only be able to identify very basic sounds which they encounter daily. Include sounds which have meaning for individual students.
  • Your recording can simply be a series of sounds in random order, or it may be arranged by categories. Similarly, the recording may be just the sounds themselves, or it may include a narration with the clues. For example, “Listen carefully. This is something you ride in. You start it with a key and then drive it. Can you guess what it is?” (Sound of car engine) Pause. “It’s a car!”
  • When your recording is ready, have students guess the different sounds. If possible, ask them to tell you about where they might hear the various sounds.


  • Have students help to make their own recording.
  • Play the recording, and then have students make the sound, if possible (e.g. close the door, tap a drum).
  • Have students name what category each sound belongs to.
  • Make special recordings of seasonal sounds: Christmas music, fireworks, shoveling snow.
  • Identify the object that made the sound by choosing the object from a tray (bell, radio, etc.) or by placing a marker on a picture of the item that made the sound.
  • Have students take turns making sounds and asking others to guess what it is.
  • Go on “listening walks” in the neighborhood, school, kitchen or zoo. Talk about what you hear.

Hint: Discuss sounds that students hear throughout the day. Help them to identify common sounds as they naturally occur and to talk about what different sounds mean (e.g. a fire alarm is a danger sound that means you should leave the building immediately).



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