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Sound Waves

Teacher Guide by Oliver Smith

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Sound Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Sound Waves Include:

All sound is caused by vibrations. The size and speed of these vibrations determine the pitch and the volume of the sound produced. Humans ears have evolved to collect and process sound, allowing us to hear. As well as hearing, sound is also used for a range of other things, such as medical imaging and sonar. Sound is used by bats to help them hunt their prey at night. By sending out pulses of very loud, very high pitched, sound they can locate insects by detecting the sound waves that have reflected off them.

Sound Waves Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Structure of the Ear


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Have your students label a diagram of a human ear listing the different functions of each part.

This activity can be made easier by getting students to label the ear with a given list of keywords like the ones highlighted in bold below.


Parts of the Human Ear

  • The Pinna is a flap of skin and cartilage collects sound waves and funnels them into the ear canal.
  • The Ear Canal is a tube that connects the pinna to the eardrum.
  • The Eardrum is a thin membrane that separates the outer ear and the inner ear. Sound waves that travel down the ear canal make it vibrate.
  • The Auditory Ossicles are small bones that carry the vibrations from the eardrum to the cochlea. They amplify the vibrations. The three bones are called the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup. They are some of the smallest bones in the human body.
  • The Cochlea is a spiral-shaped chamber that is filled with liquid and lined with hairs. It converts the vibrations into electrical signals.
  • The Auditory Nerve connects the cochlea to the brain. It carries the electrical signals to the brain.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

You are going to use your knowledge of sound and the structure of the ear to label a diagram.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Search for "ear" and drop the diagram into the cell.
  3. Label the main parts of the ear with Textables and arrows.
  4. Add extra information about the functions of the parts of the ear with text boxes.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Parts of the Ear


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An alternative to the "Structure of the Ear" activity would be to have separate cells for each part of the ear, rather than one large diagram. Have your students bring together their ideas about the structure of the ear using this spider map.


  • The Pinna is a flap of skin and cartilage collects sound waves and funnels them into the ear canal.
  • The Ear Canal is a tube that connects the pinna to the eardrum.
  • The Eardrum is a thin membrane that separates the outer ear and the inner ear. Sound waves that travel down the ear canal make it vibrate.
  • The Auditory Ossicles are small bones that carry the vibrations from the eardrum to the cochlea. They amplify the vibrations. The three bones are called the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup. They are some of the smallest bones in the human body.
  • The Cochlea is a spiral-shaped chamber that is filled with liquid. It has hairs that line it. It converts the vibrations into electrical signals.
  • The Auditory Nerve connects the cochlea to the brain. It carries the electrical signal to the brain.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

In this activity you are going to create a spider map to identify and describe the different parts of the ear.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Search for "ear". Pull down the ear diagram into each cell.
  3. Identify the parts of the ear: Ear Canal, Cochlea, Auditory Nerves, Pinna, Eardrum, and Auditory Ossicles and type them into the title boxes.
  4. Each cell should have one part of the diagram colored a different color than the rest, matching the title box.
  5. Write the function of the of the part of the ear below the illustration.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Sound Vocabulary


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Have your students put key vocabulary into practice. One of the things students can find really difficult is using scientific vocabulary correctly and in the appropriate context. Using a visual representation or visual examples as well as a written one can really help students understand abstract concepts.


Example Sound Vocabulary


Frequency

Frequency is the number of waves to pass a point every second, measured in Hertz (Hz). The frequency of audible sound ranges from 20Hz to 20,000Hz.


Wavelength

Wavelength is the length of one wave, measured in meters (m).


Compression

The part of the wave where the particles are compressed together is called compression.


Rarefaction

The part of the wave where the particles are spread out far apart is called rarefaction.


Amplitude

Amplitude is the height of a wave, measured in meters (m). The higher the amplitude, the higher the intensity of the wave.


Other terms include:

  • Wave
  • Vacuum
  • Spectrum
  • Energy
  • Refract
  • Reflect
  • Loudness
  • Pitch
  • Ossicles
  • Microphone
  • Speaker
  • Vibration
  • Medium
  • Notes
  • Eardrum
  • Pinna
  • Cochlea
  • Noise

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of key scientific vocabulary by creating visualizations.

  1. Choose five vocabulary words and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary and write it under the cell in complete sentences.
  3. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to give examples of the words.
  4. Save and submit your storyboard. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Sound Discussion Storyboard


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Discussion storyboards are a great way to get your students talking about their ideas in Science. They allow students to critique and evaluate different viewpoints without upsetting other students. This activity can be used at the start of the topic to elicit any misconceptions students may have.

At first, show students a discussion storyboard like the one below. Ask them to look at the problem on the discussion storyboard. It shows four students who all have an idea about the problem in front of them. Students should think about whom they think is the most correct and be prepared to explain why that person is correct.

Here are some other ideas to use these discussion storyboards in your lessons.

  1. Students add another cell on the end of the example you’ve given them to explain whom they think is correct and why.
  2. Students create their own discussion storyboards to share with peers on the current topic.

Note that the template in this assignment is blank. After clicking "Copy Assignment", add your desired problem and solutions to match the needs of your students.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Read the discussion storyboard that shows four students who all have an idea about the problem in front of them. You are going to give your opinion on whom you think is correct and explain why.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Add another cell at the end of the row.
  3. Use text and images to explain whom you think is correct and why.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Sound Waves


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In this activity students will show their understanding of how an oscilloscope trace relates to what a sound wave sounds like. An oscilloscope is a machine that can be used to visualize sound waves.

When we increase the volume of a sound, the amplitude of the wave is increased. The frequency of a wave is related to its pitch. If the pitch is high, then the frequency of the wave is high. This means that the wave will looked squashed on an oscilloscope trace. Students can modify the wave shape using the crop and resize functions.

You can make this activity more difficult by quantifying the changes in the waves. For example if the wave is twice as loud, then the wave will be twice as high.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

You are going to produce a storyboard to demonstrate your knowledge of how an oscilloscope trace relates to what the sound wave sounds like.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. In the second row, use the crop and resize functions to draw a wave that has the same pitch as the first wave, but is louder.
  3. In the third row, use the crop and resize functions to draw a wave that has the same volume as the first wave, but has a higher pitch.
  4. In the fourth row, use the crop and resize functions to draw a wave that has the same volume as the first wave, but has a lower pitch.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Uses of Sound


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Have your students create a spider diagram showing real world applications of sound. Have students use books and the internet to research these and then display them in a spider map storyboard. They can support their writing with visual elements.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Think of four practical uses of sound.
  3. Write a sentence or more describing each one.
  4. Illustrate the practical application using a combination of scenes, characters, and items, or use Photos for Class.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Teacher Background Information on Sound

Everything we have ever heard has been made by a vibration. A vibration whose energy has been transferred to our ears using longitudinal waves. Longitudinal waves are waves where the particles of the medium vibrate in the same direction as the direction that the wave is travelling in. Sound waves can travel through a solids, liquids, and gases. Sound waves cannot travel through a vacuum, as they need a medium to travel through. Sound waves travel fastest in solids as the particles that make them are close together with strong bonds. You can revise the particle arrangements of solids, liquid and gases using activities from the States of Matter teacher guide. Sound travels at 340 m/s in air, 1560 m/s in water and 5000 m/s in steel. This is a lot slower than the speed of light, which is 3 x 108 m/s (300,000,000 m/s). This explains the difference between seeing the flash of lightning and the rumble of thunder. Like other waves, such as electromagnetic waves, sound waves can be reflected, refracted, and diffracted. Reflected sound waves are more commonly known as 'echoes'.

The volume and the pitch of a sound relates to the shape of the sound wave. The loudness of a wave is related to the amplitude of the wave. The larger the amplitude, the louder the sound. Pitch is related to the frequency of a wave, which is measured in Hertz. A wave with a high frequency has a high pitch. Although we can’t see sound waves, we can use an oscilloscope connected to a microphone to produce a visual representation of the waves. Using an oscilloscope, we can compare the pitch and loudness of different waves.

The range of normal human hearing is from 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz (20kHz). Hearing range varies from person to person, with the hearing range decreasing as humans get older. Sound that has a frequency above 20 kHz is known as ultrasound; sounds that have a frequency below 20 Hz are known as infrasound.

Ultrasound has a range of practical uses. Ultrasound waves can be used to check the the progress of a pregnancy. Unlike X-rays, which are ionizing, ultrasound waves will not harm the fetus. They are also used by some animals such as bats and dolphins to locate things. These animals send a pulse of ultrasound out then listen for the echo. The time difference and the location of this reflected wave gives the animals an idea of where the object is.

Human ears have been adapted to locate sounds well. Having two ears allows humans to work out which direction the sound is coming from. The outer part of the ear, known as the pinna, funnels sound waves down into the ear canal. At the end of the ear canal is a very thin piece of skin known as the eardrum. The sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate. At the other side of the eardrum are three very small bones, known collectively as the ossicles. These three bones are called the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup, called this way because of the shapes of the bones. These bones are arranged in a way which amplifies the vibrations. The stirrup is connected to the cochlea. The cochlea is filled with fluid which converts the vibrations into electrical signals. These signals are then carried to the brain via the auditory nerve.


Essential Questions for Sound

  1. What is sound?
  2. How can you change sound?
  3. Why can’t you hear in space?
  4. How can sound be useful?
  5. Do we hear the same as other animals?

Additional Sound Lesson Plan Ideas

  1. Create a storyboard to highlight the similarities and differences of an ear and a microphone.
  2. Create a narrative storyboard of vibration traveling from speaker to the ear.

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