What Sound Is That?


  • Observe sounds made by objects when dropped
  • Create a code of sounds to send a message

The students listen to sounds as they are dropped out of sight. They attempt to identify each object by the sound it makes. The students then use the sounds to make a code and send a message.

Materials You will Need:

  • several object that make different sounds. I like to have a silent sounding object also. I sometimes use a sponge or a cotton ball.
  • Drop Box or cylinder for each group of 4 students. I use a large deep box to drop the items into. I place it o the desk. This gives the sounds a hard surface.

Teacher Background


  1. Have the class shut their eyes and drop an object. Ask the class to open their eyes and guess what it was that you dropped.
  2. Have some students talk about some unusual sounds that they have heard. (A homework assignment could be to bring in photo's of unique sounds or a tape recording sounds.)
  3. Demonstrate the drop box to the students. Explain that each group of 4 students will work in pairs. One group will close their eyes and listen while the other pair of students drops the object.
  4. Now have the students get into their groups of 4. Each group should have two sets of identical objects to drop in the box. I have used blind folds with older children. I have found that some primary children do not like to have their eyes covered so it is up to the teacher.
  5. Tell the students that they should take out the object they drop each time without the other students seeing it.
  6. Start the challenge.
    • One team selects an object and drops it into the drop box, not letting the other team see it.
    • The other team says what they think the object is. They then find it in their own set and drop it into the drop box.
    • Now the other team drops their object again and they see if it is the same.
    • Do this for 5 minutes.

Part 2; Making Sound Codes

  1. Discuss with your class what a code is. Give them an example. (It is a set of signals or symbols that represent letters. My students are used to doing codes in their math class. The answer to a problem is a letter that spells out a word.) Some examples are braille, sign-language alphabet, musical notes etc.
  2. Students work in their groups of 8 (4 and 4) and decide which of their drop objects are the easiest to figure out when they are dropped. Then they should take one of their sets of drop objects and place them on a sheet of paper. They then decide what letter should be by each object. They must choose letters that can be used in many different words. (When students get stuck I give them hints. I have used the letters 'm'e't's'a'r'. These letters can make many words. Be sure they have some vowels.
  3. Now the students send messages. Have one group close their eyes. (Or cover them) The other group should drop their objects being careful to wait a few minutes between drops. As they drop they should write down the word they intended to make.
  4. The other group that closed their eyes now take a few minutes to figure out the word. They write it down and show the other group that dropped it. If they got it right they get 1 point. Now the other group closes their eyes and the activity repeats until the teacher says times up. (I let it go on for 10 minutes.)

Debriefing the lesson;

  1. Have the students write in their journals, lab notebooks or whatever you use "What have they learned?" It could include the following:
    • What does sound tell you?
    • How are the ways they told the sounds apart?
    • What are the best objects to drop codes?
    • What sounds hurt your ears?
    • What sounds make you feel good?

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How Does Sound Travel?


  • Sound can travel through solids, water, and air.
  • Sound receivers detect sounds. Ears are an example of a sound receiver.

The students will work in groups of 4 on mini-activities in centers that they rotate through.. Each activity will introduce a sound source and a medium of sound travel. Students observe and compare how sound travels through solids, water, and air. They record their observations in their lab journal, notebook or what ever you use.

Materials you will need:

Activity #1

  • 2 tuning forks
  • 6 pieces of tag board, 50 by 35 cm long
  • 12 rubber bands
  • 12 paper fasteners
  • 2 wood blocks

Activity #2

  • table
  • toungue depressor

Activity #3

  • basin of water
  • stethoscope
  • alcohol for cleaning the earpieces after each child uses it.

Teacher Background


Activity # 1

  1. The teacher prepares six pieces of tag board into listening tubes and secures them with paper fasteners at each end and two rubber bands in the middle section. Place the three listening tubes, a tuning fork, and a wood block in each of two plastic bags and label the bags with the number 1.
  2. Show the students how to strike the tuning fork on the wood with a medium force, enough to make a strong sound without damaging the fork. Emphasize how to handle the fork by the stem and how to orient the fork when striking the wood. let them know these are scientific instruments and not toys.

Activity #2

  1. The students tap or scratch the underside of a table with their ear on the top side. They listen to the sound.
  2. The students put a tongue depressor on the table. They let one end hang over the end of the table. and one end on the table. Then the students plunk the depressor. The student listens to the sound it makes. They can also listen to the sound it makes hitting the table as it vibrates in the air.

Activity #3

  1. The students will listen to sounds under water. The students place a stethoscope under water in a basin or fish tank.
  2. As one student listens the other students claps their hands outside the basin of water.
  3. Next the student snaps their fingers under water.
  4. Repeat the steps with each student.

Debriefing the Activities:

  1. Have the students write in their journals, lab notebooks or whatever you use "What have they learned?" It could include the following:
    • Do fish make sounds under water?
    • What other times have you heard sound travel through solids?
    • Did you hear sound through the table or water better?

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