Resource 1: Exploring sound

Teacher resource for planning or adapting to use with pupils

Activity A: Musical questions about sound

Begin with investigating the science of sound with pupils. Explore these questions with your pupils by making different sounds, in different ways, using the objects around you as sound makers: a desk, the floor, a pen, a bottle, chalkboard or window. Remember, talking about sound must always relate to our aural and physical experiences of sound.

  • What is sound?
  • What has to happen for us to hear a sound?
  • How does sound travel to us?
  • What makes something a musical instrument?
  • Can we use our own body as a musical instrument?
  • Why do you think people use instruments to make music? What purpose does it serve?
  • Which musical instruments do you know about? Can you classify them into groups?
  • What criteria did you use to classify your instruments?

Activity B: The science connection – how sound travels

Have you ever seen a ‘Mexican wave’ at a big sports event? Sound travels in a similar way to the movement of a Mexican wave: the air molecules, like people in the crowd, move backwards and forwards, combining to make a wave. The individual molecules do not actually travel from one place to another: molecules vibrate, each about its own position, when something makes the molecules next to them move. These vibrating molecules then attract other molecules, so that they move out of their positions.

Sound can travel through the air or through anything made up of molecules, like water, steel or wood. Sound travels at different speeds depending on the substance it is moving through.

Activity C: Making a sound wave

Make a line of ten pupils next to each other, standing shoulder to shoulder. At one end, ask one pupil to play a loud instrument like a gong or cymbal and another to hold up a big sign saying SOUND. At the other end, ask a pupil to hold up a big picture of an EAR and a sign saying HEAR. The other pupils in the line have signs saying AIR.

The pupil with the gong or cymbal strikes it. The first pupil wiggles back and forth using their body (with the feet planted on the ground); then the next pupil wiggles when they feel the first pupil (not before!), and so on down the line. The last pupil holds up the HEAR sign as they feel the wiggle of the pupil next to them.

Adapted from original source: lessons.html [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (Accessed 2008)

3. Organising a musical performance

Resource 2: Making instruments