Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Wave Inventions: Sound


K20 Center, Christine Cox | Published: September 16th, 2020 by Oklahoma Young Scholars/Javits

  • Grade Level Grade Level 1st
  • Subject Subject Science
  • Course Course
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-4 class period(s)
  • Duration More 120 minutes


This lesson is the first in a series of lessons, Wave Inventions, related to light and sound waves and inventors. In this lesson, using household objects, students will plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials produce sound. The lesson will culminate with students creating their own instruments that demonstrate how sound is produced.

Essential Question(s)

How is sound made?



Students will use a card sort activity to explore how instruments make sound.


As a class, students will complete an investigation to observe how moving rulers make sound.


Students will discuss the concept "when things vibrate they make sound."


Students will conduct an investigation using various sizes of rubber bands and containers.


Students will design an instrument and present it to the class. They must decide how the instrument fits into the instrument card sort from the Engage activity.


  • Instrument Card Sort

  • I Notice, I Wonder Chart

  • Rulers (a variety of materials: wooden, metal, plastic)

  • Rubber bands (a variety of sizes)

  • Containers that the rubber bands can fit around (different types and sizes)

  • Instrument making materials (rubber bands, containers, string, rice/beans, paper, foil pans, paper towel of toilet paper rolls)


Pass out copies of the Instrument Card Sort. Students should sort the instrument pictures based on their own experiences and understandings of the instruments. Explain to students that instruments are organized into instrument families. Ask students to organize the instruments into groups of similar instruments. Some probing questions might be “How is that instrument played?” or “What are the different parts of the instrument?”

Discuss with the students: How do the instruments make sounds? What types of instruments are there? Where would a piano fit in your sort? Do instruments make only one sound?


Use the I Notice, I Wonder strategy to capture students' observations and wonderings as you use different types of rulers to produce sound. Lead the demonstration with the students and establish safety procedures while investigating. Remind students that we often use our five senses to make observations, but in this investigation we won’t use taste or smell.

  • What happens when we flick the ruler? (Record students' notice/wonder comments.) Sample Answers: I noticed that the ruler moved up and down really fast. I wonder if it can move slow? I noticed the ruler moved so fast it looked blurry. I wonder if it would hurt if I touched it? I noticed it made a sound when it moved. I wonder if it would make a different sound if it moved differently?

  • What happens when we make the ruler longer and shorter? (Record students' notice/wonder comments.) Sample Answers: I notice when the ruler is longer it sounds deeper. I wonder if the sound gets higher if we make the ruler shorter?

  • What happens when we use a different type of ruler? (Record students' notice/wonder comments.) Sample Answers: I notice that the wooden ruler doesn’t move as much as the plastic ruler. I wonder if the sound is different?

Students should draw a picture of what they observe. You can draw an example picture to get them started.