2. Working in groups to investigate sound

Sounds are made by vibrating objects. The vibrating object causes the air particles to move closer together (compress) and then apart in a regular pattern –this is called a sound wave (see Resource 2: Sound waves ). Thus the air carries the sound to our ear.

In Activity 2, you ask your pupils to use everyday objects to make sounds and see how they can change these sounds in different ways. The pupils should carry out this investigation in small groups. (See Key Resource: Using group work in your classroom [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .) Spend some time at the end of the investigation talking to your pupils about how the groups worked; do they have ideas about how they could work together more effectively in the future?

In Case Study 2, a teacher uses an interesting set of questions to encourage pupils to think about their work –another way of involving them in assessment.

Case Study 2: Measuring how far sounds travel

Mrs Antwi organised her multigrade class into groups of six pupils of different ages. Each group was given some wooden blocks.

She asked them to find out how far the sound of blocks clapped together travelled. Each group organised their own investigation. (See Key Resource: Using investigations in the classroom.) When they had planned their investigation and decided who would carry out each task, she let them work outside. Groups recorded results on a poster.

After they had completed their investigations, Mrs Antwi gave them the following questions to discuss in their groups:

Did they get an accurate answer to the question (results)?

Were they happy with their data?

What would they do differently next time?

Mrs Antwi knew this was a good way of helping her pupils to reflect on their learning. The pupils came up with some excellent ideas, including that the wind varied and affected the results, not everyone’s hearing is the same and that other noises were distracting.

Activity 2: Exploring changing sounds

Organise your class into small groups to investigate ways to change the sounds made by a range of objects. Give each group one set of equipment –here are some ideas:

Use different-sized upturned tin cans as drums. Fill five identical glass containers with different levels of water and tap them with a pencil.

Blow air over bottles of four different sizes.

Use four identical plastic bottles filled with different amounts of sand as shakers.

Pupils could also choose something for themselves.

Ask your pupils to think about and then carry out investigations to find out:

  • How are you making the sounds?
  • How can you make the sound higher? lower? louder?

Each group records their results on a poster, including any patterns that they found. They also discuss:

  • how well they have worked together;
  • how they might organise themselves next time;
  • how happy they are with the group ideas on changing sounds.

Groups could swap equipment if they want to do more experiments, but make sure that they have first recorded their results on the poster or in their book.

You may like to use Resource 3: Ideas pupils may have about working in a group to help your pupils with their discussions at the end of the experiment.

1. Using stories and games to introduce sound

3. Exploring musical instruments