What's the Matter?

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SWBAT test and analyze how sound waves travel through solids, liquids and gases as well as share which type of matter carries the sound waves the best.

Big Idea

Sound traveling through matter!! Who will be the winner?

Setting the Stage:

Next Generation Science Standards Connection:

Students will be required to research a scientific question by exploring how sound travels through different phases of matter. They will have to analyze and test whether or not sound travels best in solids, liquids or gases.  Using cause and effect the students will demonstrate an understanding of the sound waves ability to travel through the different phases of matter. My students will record their observations and evidence in their Wave: Sound and Light Journals.

Classroom Structures:

In order to support a high level of student discourse within my science lessons I have assigned two different student partnerships.  Turn and Talk Partners are discourse partners that work together to share the deep thinking that happens throughout the day.  Workshop Partners are partners who are matched together for the purpose of working during our independent times.  In this lesson students will be engaged in both partnerships.

Prior Knowledge Needed:

Students should have a basic understanding of sound waves, pitch, and volume.  They should understand that sound is made by sound waves (vibrations) and sound can make matter move. 

Home-School Connection:

I LOVE involving parents in the learning in my classroom.  This parent letter is both an introduction to our next two units as well as a request for supplies. Many of the items used to teach this unit are recyclable items so I ask for help from parents and colleagues.


1. 6 quart size bags filled with sand, water and air

2. Popsicle sticks

3. science vocabulary

4. Science Journals - I use blank paper in my journals so my students have more space and freedom to experiment with graphic organizers, illustrations, etc.

5. What is best for sound travel? (8160 Avery Address Labels)


5 minutes

To begin this lesson I want to activate student prior knowledge by reminding the students what they learned in our previous lesson about sound.  I will remind my students that we have spent a lot of time studying sound vibrations. We have learned that vibrations and sound waves make sound and sound can make matter vibrate. I refer my students to our "wonderings" anchor chart.

Boys and girls the other day you learned that sound is a form of energy.  It is something we can feel.  You learned that when sounds get louder the matter shakes and moves.  The louder sound get the more it causes the matter to rattle or move about. Do you remember the louder you scream at the sugar the more it rattled? You have learned so much about sound.

We have learned that sound is made from vibrations also called sound waves and those waves travel to our ear drum.  Our ear drum sends messages to our brain that tells us what we are hearing.  You learned that when the vibrations change, the pitch and volume change.  We also learned that sound can make matter move.  

Today we are going to learn all about sound travel.  Let's travel around the room.  Follow me and we will travel to the drinking fountain, now the lockers and back to our meeting area. (I travel my students around the room to add context to that word). Travel means moving from one place to another. 




15 minutes

Now that we have traveled around the room, I want the students to begin their exploration.

Boys and girls today you will answer this question: Can sound travel through matter? This is a very important question for us to answer.  At your tables there are three bags set up for you and your partner.  The sand is the solid, the water is the _____? Yes! Liquid and the air is the gas.  You will need to work together today to answer our question. 

At the tables I have set 6 quart size bags filled with either sand, water and air. Be sure to remove all the air from the bag with sand and water. The partners take turns putting their ear up to each bag while the other gently taps the table with a Popsicle stick.  After the partners have explored sound travel with each of the three bags they record the answer to their question in their Science Journal. After they have finished their work in their journals we meet back at the meeting area to share what we have learned. After the students share their findings with their turn and talk partners I ask the next question.

Boys and girls today you discovered that sound can travel through solids, liquids and gas but I have another question for you to answer today.  "Which is the best for sound travel? Does sound travel best in solids, liquids or gas?  I want you to go back to the three bags and I want you to answer this question.  Once you have answered it I want to write your answer in your science journal.

In this section the students will be recording information, thoughts and ideas in their science journals. I also use their science journals as a great formative assessment tool.


25 minutes

After allowing the students to explore the second question I have them join me on the carpet (our meeting area) to explain their new understandings. I ask the students a question, "Which is better for sound travel: solid, liquid or gas?" I allow the children a few minutes to share their thinking with their Turn and Talk Partner.  As they are sharing I wander the group to listen in the conversations. I encourage the students to state a reason for why. I want my students to listen to all opinions and arguments. As I walk around I listen for both new understandings and misconceptions.  When we rejoin I share out all the smart thinking I heard.

WOW! Boys and girls you have shared so many smart things I don't even know where to begin.  Stimson, you think that solid is the best one for sound travel. You said you could hear the sound the loudest.  Vincent you shared that when you hit the table Patrick yelled because it was so loud.  Which bag was his ear listening to?  The sand? So you agree with Jonah that sound is heard the loudest when traveling through a solid. Who has a different idea?

If you wish to add an ELA Common Core connection you could have the students write a persuasive piece of writing arguing which phase of matter is best for sound travel.

Sample persuasive writing 1, persuasive writing 2, persuasive writing 3

After the student have completed this entry I have them share their persuasive writing in our "Author's Chair."


10 minutes

Research shows that our students are more likely to gain a deeper understanding of the science concepts when they are actively engaged in doing science. I believe that technology can allow children to experience this type of learning.  In order to elaborate on the students' learning I will show them this video on sound travel. The whole video is 23 minutes but for this lesson you will only need the first 4 minutes.

I show the students the video and stop the video at 4 minutes and 10 seconds. 

Boys and girls, I have a very important question for you.  Why did the sound travel through the brick wall and through the metal fence?  Does any one have any thoughts to share on why she could hear the tapping on the brick? I allow the children to share their thinking.  You learned that sound can travel through matter.  So, if sound can travel through matter how can this help people to talk to each other if they are far away? Please turn and talk and share your thinking.

As my students share their thinking I will be going around from partnership to partnership listening for any ideas that help people communicate.  

As we sit in our meeting area I conclude by saying, "Boys and girls you learned that sound can travel through matter.  This is very important to know. If you put your ear up to a table and your friend taps the table the sound is so much louder than if you didn't have your ear on the table. You discovered that sound travels best through solids. I want you to listen to me tap my ladder. Does that sound very loud to you? Now put your ear up against the end of my ladder. Does that sound louder!  YES! It is a lot louder because sound travels best through solids. 


15 minutes

In wrap up I want us to reflect on all the great thinking and learning that happened today.

In order to check for understanding, Today I asked you which is the best for sound travel? Does sound travel best in solids, liquids or gas? I want you to think for a minute and see if you can answer our question today.  Please share with your Turn and Talk partner. After a brief discussion I ask my students to record their new learning in their science journals.

Boys and girls will you take a minute to write the answer to our question today in your science journal? Great! Off you go!

As my students work I walk around and confer with each group naming and noticing the smart thinking happening. Conferring is the process of listening and recording the work the student or students are doing and then compliment the work. As I listen, I research a teaching point and then work to provide clarification through questioning, modeling and re-teaching. 

I conclude by saying, Boys and girls today and everyday when you hear sounds or make sounds I want you to know that your sound waves can travel through matter.  When you want to talk to someone far away you can use a telephone that sends sound waves through matter to the person you are talking to.  If sound waves didn't travel through matter we wouldn't have telephones!  So you can see sound waves are very important.