Sound Science for Early Elementary

14 January 2017
Teaching the science of sound to young students can be frustrating and difficult for teachers because our little learners are still concrete learners, and it's hard to illustrate sound when it is invisible! Every year when it is time to teach sound to my second grade classroom, my colleagues and I usually begin our planning with, "Ugh... Not this again."

Over the years I have learned that teaching sound doesn't have to be painful. It will get noisy, but it is a productive noise. My first year of teaching sound, I began and ended by reading one book. It was ineffective to say the least, and I knew it. I just wanted to target that standard and say that I "taught it" because quite frankly, I didn't know how to teach it.

Last year was the first year that my students and I both enjoyed learning about sound. I can say that I felt like they truly understood the concept, and the best part about it, is that they were excited to share their experiences about it with their friends and families! Without further ado, I am going to share some ideas for each multiple intelligence so that you can differentiate and target every learner.

I. Musical/Rhythmic: My kids love this Fun Science - Sound video. Not only is this kid hilarious, but he actually demonstrates sound through art on his video so the students have a nice visual. They have no clue they are learning and they LOVE it! It is sure to give your students a good laugh!

II. Bodily/Kinesthetic: This experiment is so simple. All you will need is a working voice box and your hand. Have the students place their fingers on their throat, then have them whisper anything like, "Sound science is super!" Using a triple vinn diagram, list descriptive words of what it felt like. Using the same method, have them say the same thing in a famous mouse (with really big ears) voice, and a deep manly voice. List descriptive words for each on the triple vinn diagram and compare and contrast each. Students will be able to FEEL the vibrations moving quickly and slowly. This is also a good time to discuss pitch.

III. Naturalistic: Take your students outside and observe different animal sounds. You will notice that smaller animals typically make higher pitch sounds while larger animals typically make lower pitch sounds. This is because there is less space for the sound vibrations to move in smaller animals while there is more space for it to move in larger animals. You can probably make some predictions about different animal pitches and organize them from highest pitch to lowest pitch based on size; however, this does not always hold true. An enormous whale can create very high pitched sounds.

IV. Verbal/Linguistic: Reading is always helpful for this multiple intelligence. This non-fiction read aloud on Youtube has a great example of a story you can read to your class. You can also use these Sound No-Prep Worksheets that I created to help reinforce vocabulary. My kids enjoy these because they feel like they are playing games.

We've only discussed four MI, so to target the next four MI I use these Sound STEM activities.
V. Visual/Spacial
VI. Logical/Mathematical
VII. Interpersonal
VII. Intrapersonal

These STEM activities are super engaging and rich with opportunities to dig deep about sound in creative ways.

To start with, I always begin by having the students create a three pitched instrument. I don't tell them whether it has to be string, percussion, or wind. I simply let them get creative and choose their own instrument. Warning: the classroom can get a little noisy and messy, but it is worth all of that! You will be amazed at how creative the kids can get. Then, I always let them demonstrate their instrument and improve on it. We create a class band and try to play hot cross buns. It's always fun and we usually never sound that great, but the kids enjoy it, and that's all that matters.

The next STEM activity I introduce is for determining how sound travels best. What material is the best conductor for sound to travel? We make the cup telephones, but use different materials for the string such as floral wire, ribbon, yarn, string, etc. Then we test out the materials and organize them from best to worst.

The next STEM activity I introduce is for determining which is the best insulator for sound. I always tell my students about the experiences I had with my Dad as a little girl when he was recording music. The walls, the floor, and everything else were covered in materials because they were preventing echoes in the song being recorded. My students create a sound proof box. I have an apple watch, so I place my phone inside the box, and I play a song. The students get really quiet and listen. After we have tested, improved, and tested again, we then organize the materials from best to worst insulators. Then we can compare the insulators with the conductors.

Finally, I like to get that cultural piece in there, so I read The Rainstick A Fable and we create our own rainsticks out of a piece of the cardboard paper towel holder, tape, and different sized beans, rice, and pasta noodles. We use floral wire for the inside, but you can also insert toothpicks through the paper towel holder for the beans. After we place the wire inside, or put the toothpicks through, we select a variety of beans, noodles, and rice to place inside to fill it up about a quarter to a third of the way. Then, we tape up the top and bottom of the paper towel holder, and students can decorate the outside of their paper towel holder. They look forward to this every single year.

I hope that these ideas give you some inspiration and help you look forward to teaching Sound Science. Below are the following resources that were mentioned above.


Fun Science - Sound
non-fiction read aloud on Youtube
Sound No-Prep Worksheets
Sound STEM activities 
The Rainstick A Fable

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