1. Using stories and games to introduce sound

It is always wise to start by finding out what pupils already know. Pupils will recognise many different sounds, but they probably haven’t considered different qualities of these sounds like pitch (low notes or high notes) and volume (loud or soft).

In Activity 1, you play a guessing game with your pupils, where they try to identify sounds and explain how they think the sounds were made. This involves pupils scoring their own answers, one way of involving them in assessment.

Don’t dismiss answers that seem incorrect –encourage pupils to explain their responses. You can learn much about their understanding from what they say. Afterwards, think about what they said –was there anything that surprised you?

Case Study 1 shows how one teacher used a local story as a starting point for pupils’ questions about sound. Do you know any stories from your own culture that you could use? Or could you ask a member of the local community to visit your school to tell a story? Could one of your pupils tell a story?

Case Study 1: Using a folktale to start the topic ‘Sound’

Ms Sarpong, who teaches in South Africa, but comes from Nigeria, used a Nigerian folktale about a swallowing drum to introduce the topic ‘sound’ (see Resource 1: Sound story).

When she told the story to her pupils, she beat three different-sized drums to demonstrate the ‘bim’, ‘bam’, ‘bom’ sounds of the drums in the story.

After the storytelling, they discussed the sounds in the story and how they were made.

Some groups investigated how drums make sound, by using grains of dry rice on the surface of the drums to see the vibrations. They also tried to get different sounds from the same drum.

Other groups investigated what happened when they blew air over the tops of different sizes of empty plastic bottles. They made notes of what they found out, and later they shared what they had thought about and learned.

Finally, they made a list of all the questions they had about sound and displayed it on the classroom wall. Ms Sarpong encouraged them to think of ways they could find out the answers for themselves.

Activity 1: A sound guessing game

Gather 10–12 different objects that make interesting noises – include both familiar and unusual sounds. You might include sounds recorded on a cellphone. Before pupils come to class, you will need to set up a screen to hide from view both the objects and the action that makes the sound.

Settle the pupils and explain what you have planned. Tell them that they will be expected to assess their responses honestly.

From behind the screen, make each sound in turn. Pupils need to write down how they think the sound is made.

At the end, show how each sound was made and pupils score the sounds they identified.

Finally, ask the pupils if all the sounds were equally easy to identify? How did they identify the more unfamiliar sounds? What clues helped them to identify the sounds?

Section 2 : Exploring sounds and music

2. Working in groups to investigate sound