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

Loud sounds are low and quiet sounds are high pitched

The idea that low sounds are always loud, and high-pitched sounds are always quiet a very common misconception as children often don’t understand the difference between the terms pitch and volume.

A good way to find out what they understand is to provide children with some true and false statements and see what they believe at the beginning of the topic.

If you have already completed our course on teaching primary chemistry, you will have thought about how this technique can be used to elicit children’s ideas about materials. Here we would like you to consider how you might use it to support the teaching of sound.

True-false statements

True-false statements are a set of statements carefully written to match the topic you are teaching to check for prior knowledge and misconceptions. In this case, statements had been written which would allow us to explore misconceptions about sound.

In the book ‘Active Assessment: Thinking Learning and Assessment in Science’, Naylor, Keogh and Goldsworthy suggest that this method can be extended with older children to add a third category of “It all depends on…” or “I’m not sure because…”. This allows children to give a little more reasoning to their answers, and helps you to find unanticipated misconceptions.

True-false statements are quick to administer and can tell us a lot, making them a valuable form of assessment. They can be used individually or as a group, where children will discuss answers and quickly realise the statements which have disagreement or uncertainty. This can then be used to inform lesson planning so that these disagreements and uncertainties can be cleared up through enquiry and class discussion.

Statement True False
Sound cannot pass through obstacles    
A large instrument will make a loud sound    

They record at the beginning of the session whether they believe the statement to be true or false. This way you can gain an understanding of what your children already understand and where misconceptions might need to be addressed.

Create

We have suggested two true/false statements about sound which you could use in the classroom.

Can you think of any other true/false statements that could be used to reveal children’s misconceptions about sound or light?

Record them in the comments below.

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Physics

National STEM Learning Centre