Communicating with Sound

14 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT describe how sound travels over a distance.

Big Idea

Two, Four, Six, Eight, who do we appreciate? Cheerleaders know how to make sound go farther. Today we will uncover their secrets!

Instructional Notes

This unit is broken down into two main parts: sound and light.  For the first half, we are investigating the question, "How do we communicate with sound?"  This essential question incorporates two NGSS standards as we are beginning to investigate the properties of sound and also moving towards the culminating engineering design product. 

  • 1-PS4-1. Plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound and that sound can make materials vibrate.
  • 1-PS4-4. Use tools and materials to design and build a device that uses light or sound to solve the problem of communicating over a distance.

Students have now discovered the properties of sound waves.  It's time to move towards 1-PS4-4.  To develop an understanding of this skill, we will learn over this lesson and the next how we communicate with sound.  Today, we will test our our voices at a whisper, talking volume, and with a megaphone.  

Throughout this unit, I use a KLEWS anchor chart to record our new learning.  This is a science-specific type of KWL chart designed with primary students in mind!  Check out this video I like to call KLEWS chart 101:


After our communication investigation, we will use the KLEWS chart to reach the conclusion that devices help us communicate with sound by making the volume louder.


5 minutes

As a warm-up today, I read a nonfiction text about sound.  This text summarizes and reinforces the properties of sound (like vibration) that we've been learning over the last few lessons.  I also have numerous books about sound that I display on the back board for students to read any time of day!

Then, I review the KLEWS chart after the previous lesson and set the purpose for today's lesson.  

In the text, we saw that may ways to communicate with sound.  Today, we will also communicate with sound over a distance. 

Exploration ~ the wave crest

20 minutes

Today we are building a concept that increasing the volume of a sound will increase the distance it will travel.

Friends, if I wanted to speak to the person next to me, I could whisper like this, (whisper voice) "Hi, Kaden, how are you feeling today?"

What if Kaden was not right next to me?  How could I communicate with him if he was in the classroom library?  What about if he was in the hallway, and the door was closed?

I have students turn-and-talk to share their ideas.  Turn-and-talk allows all students to share their thinking and begin forming solutions, rather than only the few that I call on.  Then, I ask for friends to share as a group.  Turn-and-talk also gives more students confidence to share, as they are rehearsing their response with a partner and also hearing additional ideas.

Let's add the word volume to our KLEWS chart under "S" or Science Stuff.  Volume means how loud or quiet a sound is.  Let's practice a low volume by whispering.  Now, let's turn up our volume to a ROAR!

Then, I tell students about a problem that cheerleaders have.  I chose this example because it connects to sports (which appeals to most students) and also specifically to girls (since most cheerleaders are girls).  It's important to provide real-life problems and also to connect STEM to a girl's perspective.

Cheerleaders have a problem.  They want to get the crowd to cheer, but the stadium is a loud place with so many people walking around and talking.  How can they communicate to the audience?  Let's watch this video to see how some cheerleaders turn up their volume!

In the video, we saw cheerleaders all chant together and also use megaphones.  How do you think a megaphone works?

Students will probably respond that the cone shape helps the sound travel, but they may not understand how.  The sound waves travel through the small hole and bounce off of the inside, which helps it travel out in an expanding motion.  I explain the science behind megaphones to them.

Next, today, I want students to test out volume and see how we can make sound travel farther.  I take students out to our bus parking lot (baseball fields work just as well).  First, I whisper and tell them to walk backwards until they can no longer hear the whisper.  We measure using paces how far they could hear the sound.  Next, students make predictions and repeat as I talk (test).  Again, the rest of the class moves until they can no longer hear the sound, and we measure with paces.  Lastly, I use a megaphone (not battery-powered, it's a good old-fashioned cone).  We measure one last time.

While we measure, students are drawing and writing to record in their science journals on a data recording sheet.  I use marbled composition notebooks throughout the year.  By actively recording, students are more engaged and are also accountable for their observations.  Here is some student work:


5 minutes

When we return to the classroom (or the next morning, if time does not allow), we record our measurements on the The KLEWS chart under "E" evidence and observations.  

We take our observations and come to the conclusion that the louder the volume, the farther we can communicate with sound.

We also add the word volume to the "S"  Science section of the KLEWS chart.  Volume is how loud a sound is.

Just about every morning, my students have a writing journal prompt.  The morning following this lesson, I ask them, "Which sound would travel farther, a whisper or a shout?  Why?"  This question helps them use the science vocabulary volume and the KLEWS chart as a room resource for spelling.  They also draw a picture to show their thinking!