Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Teaching Primary Science: Physics. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds [INTERPOSING VOICES]

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds TEACHER: [INAUDIBLE] [STRIKING GLOCKENSPIEL] OK.

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds STUDENT: And this is a higher– [STRIKING HIGH NOTE]

Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds TEACHER: OK. So now you’ve found that out, what do you notice about the– what’s different about them?

Skip to 0 minutes and 21 seconds STUDENT: This is–

Skip to 0 minutes and 22 seconds STUDENT: The colour.

Skip to 0 minutes and 23 seconds TEACHER: OK. The colour–

Skip to 0 minutes and 25 seconds STUDENT: It has different letters.

Skip to 0 minutes and 27 seconds TEACHER: OK. So the–

Skip to 0 minutes and 27 seconds STUDENT: And this one’s more bigger, and that one’s more smaller.

Skip to 0 minutes and 31 seconds TEACHER: Oh. This one’s bigger–

Skip to 0 minutes and 33 seconds STUDENT: And that one’s smaller. [STRIKING LOW NOTE]

Skip to 0 minutes and 35 seconds TEACHER: OK. [STRIKING HIGH NOTE] That’s interesting.

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 seconds STUDENT: But these two are the same. They’re the same, look. [STRIKES LOWER NOTE THEN HIGHER NOTE]

Skip to 0 minutes and 43 seconds TEACHER: Is one higher– was one a higher pitch than the other one?

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 seconds STUDENT: I think that was a bit higher.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds TEACHER: OK. Let’s measure them. So it’s the purple bit and the white bit. Are they the same size?

Skip to 0 minutes and 52 seconds STUDENT: They’re similar. This one’s only just smaller.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds STUDENT: Just a little bit smaller.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds TEACHER: Just a little bit bigger, a little bit bigger. And this one’s a higher pitch sound, did we say? [STRIKING DESCENDING NOTES]

Skip to 1 minute and 2 seconds STUDENT: Yeah, smaller ones make it higher, and big ones make it like lower.

Skip to 1 minute and 7 seconds TEACHER: Oh. I wonder, when we got another instrument in a second, if you could investigate that and see if that’s the same for the other instruments. [STRIKING BOOMWHACKERS] [PLUCKING GUITAR STRING] [STRIKING GLOCKENSPIEL]

Skip to 1 minute and 29 seconds STUDENT: Oh. I think, from that string, that string, that chord, and that one, they’re all– no, that one–

Skip to 1 minute and 43 seconds STUDENT: High pitched.

Skip to 1 minute and 44 seconds STUDENT: –that one, and that one are all the high pitch.

Skip to 1 minute and 47 seconds STUDENT: I think, because that’s right at the end, that’s the smallest, and that’s high pitched. This is very small, so that’s high pitched. And this is very high pitched. But as you go up, it’s– yeah. It’s high pitched. But these two have–

Skip to 2 minutes and 4 seconds STUDENT: No, it gets more low pitched.

Skip to 2 minutes and 5 seconds STUDENT: Yeah. But these have a pattern, because you start from here, and you’re going, like, down, so it goes more low pitched. But then when you go up to here, it’s like going up to this one on there, because that’s very, not that– that’s very low pitched, and this is low pitched as well.

Skip to 2 minutes and 22 seconds STUDENT: So from the loudest–

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 seconds STUDENT: So as you go– because we said, as you go on every string, like, you go this way from here, it gets lower and lower on every one. [STRIKING DESCENDING NOTES]

Skip to 2 minutes and 37 seconds STUDENT: Yeah. That’s the loudest.

Skip to 2 minutes and 41 seconds STUDENT: Does that mean this is the loudest?

Skip to 2 minutes and 45 seconds STUDENT: That one’s the loudest.

Skip to 2 minutes and 46 seconds STUDENT: That’s high pitched– this is high pitched, and that’s the last string. This is the last one, and that’s high pitched. This is the smallest, and this is high pitched.

Skip to 2 minutes and 55 seconds STUDENT: Right.

Skip to 2 minutes and 55 seconds TEACHER: Have you got a communication person on your table that would like to feedback Ms. Eames? Go on then, Preena.

Skip to 3 minutes and 3 seconds STUDENT: When we did the boomwhackers, when you– the green one is bigger, so it makes– it’s– the sound is lower. And the red one is smaller, so it makes a higher, higher sound.

Skip to 3 minutes and 25 seconds TEACHER: Lovely. Did you notice any differences with any of the other instruments. So that was a go about the boomwhackers. If it was a bigger boomwhackers, it made a lower sound. And the smaller boomwhackers made a higher pitched sound. So did you notice that with any of the other instruments?

Skip to 3 minutes and 40 seconds STUDENT: Yeah, so the recorder, the more holes you covered, the higher the sound was.

Skip to 3 minutes and 46 seconds TEACHER: Oh. On the recorder, the more holes you covered up– so on the recorder, the more holes you covered up, was it a higher sound or a lower sound?

Skip to 3 minutes and 54 seconds STUDENT: Lower?

Skip to 3 minutes and 55 seconds TEACHER: A lower sound. And if you let– [INAUDIBLE] and if you let some– if you uncovered the holes, what happened to the sound then or the pitch then?

Skip to 4 minutes and 2 seconds STUDENT: It got higher.

Skip to 4 minutes and 3 seconds TEACHER: Got higher. lovely. Does anybody know why? Did anybody else find anything out like that? Any similarities to Preena’s findings? Who are our communication officer on that table? Go on then, Biddy.

Skip to 4 minutes and 15 seconds STUDENT: So what we found out is that if you– so all the instruments, the bigger– the bigger ones, the shorter ones and the thicker ones, they were the low pitched sounds. So we tried all of them. And we tried another one, so we– on the guitar, we put our– one finger. So we moved one finger from one side to the other to see if there was a difference in the sound.

Skip to 4 minutes and 42 seconds TEACHER: OK. So what was your findings on the– sorry, so you said if it was a bigger piece of instrument, what kind of sound did it make?

Skip to 4 minutes and 51 seconds STUDENT: So what I meant is, on the instrument, like the glockenspiel, if the tile is longer, that makes a lower pitched sound. If it’s shorter, then it makes a high pitched sound.

Skip to 5 minutes and 2 seconds TEACHER: Lovely. OK. So it seems like everybody felt the same sort of idea. So we’re saying it’s a smaller instrument or a smaller surface area– so the smaller boomwhacker, the smaller pieces on the glockenspiel and the xylophone– it makes a higher pitched sound. And if it’s a longer piece of material– so longer on the glockenspiel or xylophone, or it’s a longer boomwhacker, it makes a lower sound. Is that what we’re all saying?

Skip to 5 minutes and 30 seconds STUDENT: Yes.

Skip to 5 minutes and 31 seconds TEACHER: OK.

Exploring sounds

Challenging misconceptions can be most successful when children are given the time to explore and challenge their own thoughts and ideas.

If children have a pre-constructed idea that small things only make quiet sounds, then this is easily challenged. Allow them a chance to explore numerous instruments, including homemade ones. What do they discover?

In the video above, a class of Year 4 children who were given a variety of instruments to explore and reach their own conclusions. At the end of the session, the teacher asked them to report their findings. Careful questioning by the adults in the class led the children to practise the correct vocabulary and to ask their own questions about what they were hearing.

Sometimes children may also need a chance to have another go with the activities, as they may decide the results are due to something being wrong with the instruments or how they are playing them.

Alternatively, children can experiment with a bottle orchestra by filling glass bottles with different amounts of liquid and tap on each bottle to hear the sound it makes. Colouring the liquid makes it really clear to see the difference between the bottles, but plain water works just as well. Can they work out how to play a simple tune by varying the amount of water in each bottle? Is the sound different if they blow over the bottle rather than tap it?

After completing the activities, you could ask the children to return to their true/false statements that were introduced in the last step and see if they still agree with their original ideas.

Suggest

What questions would you ask the children while they are carrying out activities like these to allow them to practice using scientific vocabulary?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Physics

National STEM Learning Centre