Ask any early education teacher what resource is a must in their classroom, and they will undoubtedly say music. This has been true for me, especially when teaching ESL students. When using this valuable tool, it is important that we help children establish a firm musical foundation. This means incorporating audiation in our music programs.

Music To Enhance Learning

Musical development through singing is crucial for development. Since a different part of the cortex is used to sing than what is used to generate speech. Thus, the singing voice helps improve brain development at all ages and informs the learning process with a different modality. This is why when teaching in ESL and early education, singing is a valuable tool to learn to speak. Early childhood educators face a number of psychological and physiological challenges when learning to use their voices especially if its development has lain fallow for an extended period. Singing is a major part of a young child’s musical life so some skill in vocal training is essential for educators involved in this area.

What Does Audiation Mean?

First consider what imagination means. It is a visualization in our minds. Since there was no word that is similar to imagine for the auditory, they created a new word. In music education researcher Edwin Gordon coined the word audiation in 1975. Audiation is to sound in the same way that imagination is to images.

Audiation may involve mentally hearing and comprehending music, even when no physical sound is present. It is a cognitive process by which the brain gives meaning to musical sounds. Audiation is also more than musical form of auditory imagery. Developed audiation also includes the understanding of music to enable the conscious prediction of patterns in unfamiliar music and sound.

If you are still not clear about audiation, here is a great video from another passionate teacher. Danny Cruz is an elementary music teacher (or at least at the time he made this video) and breaks down audiation and the importance of teaching it to students.

Thinking is to Language, as Audiation is to Music

Audiation Examples

Although the term is abstract, the actual process is not beyond the depth of early learners. Many will naturally develop this skill on their own. However, as a teacher we can bring this skill to their direct attention and help enhance it. In addition, it adds a great way to mix up songs that children already know.

Recall A Song

Recall A Song

When children listen to a song and then they recall it later, they have to use their imagination to create the music. This is a simple way to build Audiation. If a child always hears the song then you only need to play it without the music during your circle time. Also, if you are walking to an area it is a perfect time to recall a song.

Transform The Song

This is taking the recalling a step further. In addition to recalling the song, they can then sing it another way. They can sing it higher or lower, faster or slower, like an animal, and so on. This is a fun activity that will bring life to any played out song.


My students love when I do this with a song. I will take a tune to a current song that we are singing and then use it to give directions. Children will take the cue and do the same. This helps them use English naturally and creative in addition to building their audiation skills.

Stop and Sing In Your Mind

This is a simple way of checking the entire groups ability. Sing a song all the children know. Then on your cue students will sing the song in their mind. On your cue they then sing aloud and all the students should be at the same part of the song. This may be a little difficult for some, so BINGO is a good song to help transition into.

Act Out The Sound

Whenever I teach a song I always add movement because it helps students learn English and remember the words. Taking this a step further, students can create their own movement to the song. There are great songs to help students imagine what the sound would look like.

With other songs we can act out the instruments from the sound. When we hear the drum, we play our imaginary drum, and so on for all the instruments. It works best if students have a general idea of what the instruments are and what they sound like. This could be an entire lesson on its own. You can have the actual instruments or pictures of the instruments. Have sound files ready that you can play. Have students close their eyes and imagine what the instrument is that made that sound. The sound files can then be played again matching the sound to the instrument.

Play The Song

We can all play music. We may not be Beethoven but we can still play. Using simple instruments like sticks, drums or maracas we can play to the beat of our favorite music. We supplement the sounds we create with the sounds in our mind to recreate our favorite songs.


This is one of my favorite activities. Don’t worry, if you haven’t mastered the art of whistling humming will also work just fine. Simply start out the first few notes of a song and have your children finish it. They will have to listen closely and then identify the song. They thing continue by singing the rest of the song. Usually they have to know the song really well, but if not they can just try and sing the melody or first few parts of the song before trying to guess another song.


More Audiation Examples

Above are some general examples that can be adapted and expanded upon to match your learners. If you have other great examples, please share it with us!

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