From musical boxes to iPods

Supports National Curriculum Key Stage 1: Unit 1F and Key Stage 2: Units 5F (view Irish curriculum links)
Suitable for: Years 4, 5 and 6

The time for the basic session is about 1 hour but longer if activities 13,16,17,18 and 22 are included. This can be varied by taking shorter paths through the material. Choices may depend on the apparatus available or the particular needs of the class.

Outline of content
Aims to:

  • Establish what the children already know, using an intriguing demonstration
  • Establish that sounds needs a material through which to travel
  • Show that vibrating objects are sources of sound and sound travels as a wave
  • Demonstrate that sound can travel through metal, string etc. as well as air
  • Associate the size of the vibrating object with the frequency produced through fun pictures, activities and wind instruments
  • Relate their knowledge to other instruments with which they are familiar
  • Show that knowledge about sound has enabled scientists to develop ultrasound scans, modern sound systems etc.

Points to note:
Please read the notes about safety and agree the assessment with the teacher before the session!

Cross references:

  • The slides in the PowerPoint presentation (4.3 MB) are referenced in the table.
  • As the presentation may be running throughout the session some simple slides provide a suitable background, alternatively switch to a black screen.
  • Apparatus details are provided and are linked to the relevant sections.
  • Notes about safety are included with the activities.
  • Vocabulary: The presentation uses expressions included in the KS1 and 2 strategies.

Misconceptions to be corrected:

  • Air moves with the sound from the source to our ears
  • Sound can only travel through air
  • Sound is like light in that it cannot travel through opaque objects
  • When blowing a bottle - the more water the lower the pitch
  • The strings on violins etc. are at very different tensions e.g. they expect the E string on a violin to be at a much higher tension than the G string

Feedback from the trials:
“Thanks for the lesson on sound - the children loved it and were talking about it the next day - a good topic to teach due to the children's interest in sound.”

“They 'loved' the graphics on screen of the animals and examples of musical equipment. They were fascinated by the practical demonstrations, which I personally believe is how children learn and acquire more knowledge more effectively.”

“The children listened intently throughout and were very responsive. I thought the lesson was conducted excellently and the children were enthralled. The information provided was suited to the children’s learning ability (this is important).”

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