K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

To help students build an understanding of sound through the following main ideas:

  • An object must vibrate (move back and forth) to make sound.
  • A vibrating object causes matter around it to vibrate.
  • Sound can move through a solid, a liquid, or a gas.
  • Sounds can be soft or loud.
  • The highness or lowness of sound is called pitch. Pitch depends on how fast objects vibrate (large-slower-lower) and (small-faster-higher).
  • Sound can be pleasant, useful, helpful, or harmful.

The understanding of the goals and objectives is to be developed through a variety of hands-on learning experiences.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

2 weeks


  • Marble Madness—five marbles
  • Tin Can Telephones—hammer, nail, 10–12 feet of string per can, four tin cans
  • Spoon Sounds—1–2 feet of string per child, metal spoon
  • Musical Box—shoebox, scissors, three rubber bands in different sizes (large, medium, small)
  • Sound In Bottles—eight empty soft drink bottles, water, wooden spoon
  • Chart paper and markers


A good activity to help acquaint the students with this unit is the creation of a large wall collage with pictures cut from magazines to show sounds. Some choices might be:

  • Communication–Entertainment–Warning
  • Loud–Soft
  • Harmful–Helpful

Another good activity for getting started is called “Quiet Or Loud” (see attachment)

Through whatever textual resources you have available, make sure students build knowledge of such terms as: vibrate, solid, liquid, gas, high, low, pitch.

Literature selections also provide enrichment and enhance students’ existing knowledge and background. Here are some possibilities:

  • Lizard’s Song by George Shannon
  • The Troll Music by Anita Lobel
  • What Is Sound? by Bob Graham
  • Mr. Whisper by Joy Cowley
  • The Surprise Party by Patricia Hutchins


Below are listed the experiments and instructions for developing an understanding of the six main concepts listed under the section of Goals and Objectives. It is helpful to put these six statements on a chart or overhead transparency for students to use as a reference during their experimentations. Five experiments are described. Choose what will best suit the needs of your class. All the experiments deal with: sound waves, the movement of sound waves through a solid, liquid, or gas, vibration, and pitch.

  1. Marble Madness—Line four marbles (touching) in a straight line on a flat surface. Take the fifth marble and thump it so it hits one marble on the end of the line. (The energy will pass from the hit marble through the others until the last marble to get the energy or wave will roll away leaving the others in their original position—showing that waves of energy will travel.)
  2. Tin Can Telephones—With a hammer and nail make a hole in the end of each can. Thread a string 10–12 feet long through each hole. Tie a big knot at the end of each string. Using two cans as a unit, have two students take the cans and stretch the string between the cans until it is tight. Be careful not to touch the string. Have one student talk as the other listens. With the second set of telephones, have two more students loop and cross the string of the second telephone over the string of the first telephone. Now let one student talk and three students listen. (This will show students that sound waves vibrate, move, and travel through solid objects.)
  3. Spoon Sounds—Use a string 1–2 feet long. Tie a spoon to the middle of the string. Tie each end of the string to the student’s index fingers. The student then places his/her index fingers into his/her own ears. Another student then taps gently on the spoon with a pencil. (This will show vibration and movement of sound waves through solid objects.)
  4. Musical Box—Carefully cut three slits on each end of the shoebox. Stretch each of the three different sized rubber bands around the box. Tuck the rubber bands into the slits. Have a student pluck the rubber bands. (This will show vibration and pitch—big objects vibrate slower and sounds are lower/small objects vibrate faster and sounds are higher.)
  5. Sound In Bottles—Fill each of the eight bottles with different amounts of water. (I pre-marked the bottles at increasing one-half inch intervals and then let the students fill the bottles with water to the pre-marked lines.) Have students arrange the bottles according to the amount of water in each (most to least or least to most). Let a student strike each bottle with a wooden spoon. (This leads students toward an understanding of vibration/ pitch/ and movement of sound through a liquid and a gas.)

Have each experiment’s title on a separate chart. As each experiment is completed, have the students tell what they observed and record the students’ observations. This will provide a record of findings and will allow students to better compare and contrast the knowledge gained from each experiment.


Print worksheets on sound and noise from GIF files and have students answer them.

Supplemental information

Worksheets for assessing students:


My students loved doing the experiments! When the time came for the written assessment, the students’ answers came with ease and much self-satisfaction. It truly made the concepts of sound more easily understood by all of my students.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Science (2010)
      • Grade 2

        • 2.P.1 Understand the relationship between sound and vibrating objects. 2.P.1.1 Illustrate how sound is produced by vibrating objects and columns of air. 2.P.1.2 Summarize the relationship between sound and objects of the body that vibrate – eardrum and vocal...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Science (2005)

Grade 2

  • Goal 4: The learner will conduct investigations and use appropriate technology to build an understanding of the concepts of sound.
    • Objective 4.01: Demonstrate how sound is produced by vibrating objects and vibrating columns of air.
    • Objective 4.05: Observe and describe how sounds are made by using a variety of instruments and other "sound makers" including the human vocal cords.