Picture Book Soundscape

Years: 1 – 6 The Island

Materials/Resources needed:

  • One box of percussion per group
  • Metalaphone and xylophones
  • Picture Book
  • Photocopied pages of picture book
  • White board and markers to draw and label instruments
  • Graphic organiser for recount

Learning Sequence – Focus on Composition

Warm up:

  • Discuss the way music can tell or add to a story (effect in films, types of instruments, use of dynamics – louds, softs, tempos etc).
  • Read the chosen picture book and ask students to imagine what sounds might be heard in the background if they were watching events from nearby.

Modelled composition:

  • Examine a pre-chosen page to begin with. Discuss what noises might be heard in the depicted scene? Demonstrate those noises using percussion instruments. Read through passage with instrumental noises added.

Guided composition:

  • Using another page, highlight the sounds present on the page. What instruments can be used to make those sounds? Explore percussion sounds together and jointly construct a soundscape for that page.

Independent composition:

  • Form class into groups and appoint group leaders.
  • Seat each group at a table with a box of percussion and one scene (page) to create a soundscape to.
  • Each group explores their box of percussion and group leaders ensure everyone is involved in the creative process.
  • Groups perform their soundscape for the class.


  • Groups can explore further scenes. If time permits most of the book can be done this way and a recording made.


  • Students write a recount of the composition activity and draw (and label) some of the percussion instruments used.

Links to Australian Curriculum (Music):

Stage One:

Sing and play instruments to improvise, practise a repertoire of chants, songs and rhymes, including songs used by cultural groups in the community(ACAMUM081)

Stage Two:

Practise singing, playing instruments and improvising music, using elements of music including rhythm, pitch, dynamics and form in a range of pieces, including in music from the local community (ACAMUM085)


I did this with a K-4 class, using ‘The Island‘ and they loved it. Any picture book will do, but one with a lot of descriptive language will work best. Children are naturals when it comes to using their imagination to generate sounds, so don’t direct them too much beyond the modelling stage, or they’ll become too self-conscious. Provide suggestions if requested or only if they are floundering.