Online Lesson Plan Radio, Music and Sound!

Online Lesson Plan
Radio, Music and Sound!

lrKathyRadio broadcasting from the 1920s to the 1950s was as popular for families as television is today. Families would gather around the radio every night. They listened to light comedies, live music, drama, the news, and other programs. This time period was referred to as the golden age of radio. This lesson explores the science of this entertainment medium.

Lesson Plan by Kathy Jacobitz, science education consultant, Pawnee City, Nebraska.


Suggested grade level – 5th-8th.

  • standards02Students will investigate simple machines in their lives.
  • Students will be able to identify each simple machine.
  • Students will calculate the formulas used with simple machines.
  • Students will be able to explain; force, effort, and work.
  • Students will be able to draw or build a machine using two or more simple machines.


lrScience0801During the Depression and on into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the radio for informal talks with Americans. The fireside chats were very popular.

Today the United States still has more radios per person than any other country in the world. We use radios for broadcasting, two-way communications, navigation, remote control, data transmission, medicine, bugs for spies, and radio wave to cook food in microwave ovens.

(Note: If you or your students want to build a simple transmitter it would tie to this unit on sound. And/or you may want to work with the music instructor in your school. The music instructor is an excellent resource individual for this unit.)

All sound is made up of vibrations. A person’s voice consists of vibrations of air made from the person’s vocal chords. Sound travels through some medium usually air in this case in the form of sound waves. The sound waves reach a person’s ear. The person then interprets the sound.



  • Having Fun – Radio
  • The Science of Sound by Thomas D. Rossing.
  • On the Air, Radio Broadcasting by Robert Hawkins.
  • Music by Neil Ardley.
  • Sound Science by Etta Kaner.
  • Hear! Hear! The Science of Sound by Barbara Taylor.
  • Primarily Physics – AIMS Education Foundation.
  • Sound Experiments by Ray Broekel.
  • The Story of Lightning and Thunder by Ashley Bryan.
  • Science Arts by Mary Ann Kohl and Jean Potter.
  • The Science Book of Sound by Neil Ardley.
  • Magic School Bus in the Haunted Museum: A book About Sound by Linda Beech.

Vibrations Question/Problem:

What are vibrations we can feel and hear?

Perform a KWL – What We Know / What We Want to Know / What we Learned – on sound. How is sound made? How do we know sound is made? Ask students to journal about the terms music and noise. After students make a journal entry compile a class KWL.

Sound surrounds us all the time. The sounds we hear have one thing in common, vibrations. The vibrations cause the air around it to vibrate. The vibration moves outward in all directions in circular wave patterns. The vibrations enter our ears and the brain interprets them as sounds. A 100% hearing loss means you cannot interpret the vibrations thus no sound.

Set up an investigation to test vibrations or try some of the following explorations.

Part I:


Can you feel the sounds you make? Have the students write a Journal Response.
Possible Procedure

  1. Softly say the sound “ahh” and then softly the sound “eee”. Did you notice the difference in the feel of your mouth and throat? Journal Response.
  2. Try it again only this time notice the difference in the position of your tongue? Journal Response.
  3. Did you change the shape of your lips? Go ahead try it again or look in a mirror later to observe. Journal Response.
  4. Did your nose feel different? Journal Response.
  5. Now, place your hand on your throat and say something in a normal tone of voice. Say something in a whisper. Describe all observations in your journal.
  6. Next, with your hand on your throat try the following sets of letters. Describe the differences you feel after saying each set.a. Say “z” then “s”.
    b. Say “b” then “p”.
    c. Say “v” then “f”.
    d. Say “d” then “t”.
  7. When you feel the sound, do you know what this is called? A speech or language teacher may be a good resource person for the speech patterns.
  8. Place your fingers lightly on your lips and say “mmm”. What is vibrating? Journal Response.
  9. Place your hand on your chest and say “ahh”. What is vibrating? Journal Response.
  10. Place your hand on the back of your neck and say “ing”. What is vibrating? Journal Response.
  11. Put your hand on top of your head and say “eee”. What is vibrating? Journal Response.
  12. Think of some other sounds that you want to explore like the above suggestions. Record observations in the journal.
  13. Journal about feeling the sound you make when you speak. Ask students to say, Old McDonald Had A Farm, eey, eey, oh… record the vibrations and feelings they observe.



Whenever a sound is produced something is quivering, throbbing, or vibrating. Such movements are the basis of the sound we hear. It could be a clock ticking, a violin being played or a person speaking on the radio. In order to hear sounds, the vibrating material must move back and forth at least 16 times per second. The vibrating material may be a solid, liquid or gas.

Part II:

Home Work: Students will be asked to take five minutes in a place of their choice. Close their eyes and listen to all the sounds around them. Record this experience in their journal. Discuss their results in class.

In Class: Ask students to close their eyes in your classroom for five minutes and then record what they heard. No talking during the five minutes.

Next, ask students once again to close their eyes only this time play some music. (Medium Volume) Journal Response: Could they hear the same sounds they heard before? Why? Discuss results.

Close the eyes again, play the music, and have students talk at random and at different volume levels. Journal Response: Now could they hear the same sounds they heard before?

Ask students now to write a definition of the term, noise. Noise is defined as unpleasant, annoying, and distracting sounds.

Make a list of noises in the journal then compile a class list. Is noise the same for everyone?

Thunder is a loud noise. Explain how it is produced and we hear it as noise.


What will sound travel through?

Background Information:

Solids, liquids, and gases are all conductors of sound, but the speed of sound is different for each type of material. Most sounds we hear are transmitted through air. Because the molecules are closer together in solids and liquids, sound waves travel much faster through them than through gases. Ask the students to write an explanation of the chart below.

Movement of Sound

Design an investigation to examine how vibrations move through various materials using the scientific inquiry process.

Assessment Questions:

  1. Sound was the loudest when it traveled through what materials? Why?
  2. Sound was the softest when it traveled through what materials? Why?
  3. What does sound travel through?
  4. Why is sound louder when you hear it through metal or wood then when you hear it through air?
  5. What transmitted the sound the least? Explain.
  6. What would prevent sound from being heard?

Investigative Assessment on Vibrations:

Blow up a balloon and hold it to your mouth. Have someone else touch the balloon while you speak. Then repeat this exercise with the other person holding the balloon next to their mouth. Can you “feel” the person speak? Draw a diagram showing the movement of the vibrations. What do vibrations feel like? Explain your sketch.

Part III:

Making Ripples:

Demonstration of waves in a large container of water.

  1. Place a clear container of water on an overhead projector. Drop a pebble into the container of water. Draw a diagram to show what you observe.
  2. Drop two or three pebbles in the container of water one after the other. Observe and discuss.
  3. Drop a small pebble into the container. Observe and discuss.
  4. Drop a large pebble into the container. Observe and discuss.

Draw a diagram to show the difference between the two different size pebbles. Discuss.
Write how these models relate to sound waves.

Part IV:

Volume vs. Energy:


What is the relationship between the volume of sound and the amount of energy used to produce the sound? Students need to give an answer to this question in their journal before going further.





A Plastic Container With A Lid


  1. Strike your spoon against the table making the loudest sound that you can. Next, strike the table making the softest sound you can. Journal Response. Which took more energy to produce the volume requested? Why?
  2. Strike the pan with the spoon first making the loudest sound then the softest sound. Journal Response.
  3. Put some beans in a plastic container and put the lid on. Shake the container making the loudest sound you can then make the softest sound you can. Journal Response. From what you have just experienced, explain what you did to produce the loudest sound and what you did to produce the softest sound. Journal Response.
  4. Did you have to work harder to produce the loudest sound or to make the softest sound? Relate the experience above to energy requirements to make sound. Suggest a design of your own to show you understand the relationship between energy needed to produce sound. Journal Response and class discussion.

Part V:


Write a definition of music, relate sound to music and tell what you like about music.

Musical Bottles

  1. You will need five empty glass bottles (Soda bottles work great).
  2. Place varying amounts of water in each. From left to right line up the bottles from fullest to the least amount of water. Remember to leave some air space above the water surface area and the top of the bottle.
  3. Blow across the top of each bottle. Record observations of the sound produced in your journal. Which bottle makes the lowest note? Which bottle makes the highest note? What causes the highness and lowness of pitch when you blow across the top of the bottle?
  4. With a metal spoon tap each bottle, gently. What happens to the notes? Why?
  5. What happens if someone blows across the bottles while you gently tap the bottles? Why?
  6. What happens if someone uses a straw and blows air into the water as you gently tap the bottles? Why? Explain how the bubbles influence the sound.



When you play a melody on an instrument you hear notes go up and down. Ask the students to show the class using an instrument they are learning to play or have the music instructor show the class. You are hearing a change in pitch. This happens by changing the speed of the sound.
The air moves across a bottle with a small amount of air inside, vibrates quickly and makes a high note. With a large amount of air and less water the air vibrates slower and the note is lower.
However, when you tap the bottle with the water the water vibrates. The bottle tapped with a small amount of water gives out high notes, and the bottle tapped with a large amount of water gives a lower note.

Journal Response:

Explain why these notes are reversed in air vs. water. Write what you think happens in the investigation where someone blew bubbles into the water while someone else tapped the bottle.

Additional Investigations and Assessments:

    1. Write a song to be played on the musical bottles. Label the bottles and record the order so someone else could play your song. Don’t forget to record how much water you have in each bottle.
    2. Experiment with rubber bands to make a musical instrument. Explain how you make higher and lower notes. How can you make loud and soft sounds?
    3. Construct a musical instrument. Make an instrument that has at least five different pitches, can change the loudness and softness of the sound, and give it a name. Explain in words how your instrument works. Draw a diagram to show how the instrument works to produce sound.
    4. Make Maracas using paper cups, tape, cardboard tubes, and something inside the cups to make noise. Some ideas might be seeds, pasta, beans, or buttons. You may want the students to decorate them. Can other individuals guess what is in your Maracas? No looking inside! Play some music for students to use their Maracas. Discuss how the Maracas are used with some music.
    5. Explain how and why a stethoscope works?
    6. Explain how a megaphone works? Discuss what happens to the sound.
    7. Graph the following data. You may research and add more data. Explain the graph you make in relationship to the sound study. Why do some animals have different abilities to hear sound?

Hz stands for hertz, the number of vibrations of sound per second. Most people can hear sounds about 20 to 17,000 vibrations per second. Elephants hear, 20 to 10,000 Hz; dogs hear 20-30,000 Hz; cats hear 30-45,000 Hz; and bats hear 20-160,000Hz.

  1. Design an investigation using the scientific method of inquiry to answer the following questions. Are two ears better then one to find the direction a sound is coming from. Hint: Blindfold the person being tested so they cannot see where the sound is coming from. Rabbits can swivel their ears to listen for sounds. How does this help them?
  2. Some individuals need hearing aids to help them hear. Explain how a hearing aid works.
  3. Beethoven, a famous composer, composed music at the piano after he became deaf. Research and explain how he was able to interpret the sound of the music.
  4. Investigate echoes and make a sketch showing how an echo works. Bats use echoes to catch insects. Create a story about bats explaining how they use echolocation.
  5. Explain the Doppler effect? How is the Doppler used today?
  6. Why do hummingbirds hum?
  7. How can crickets be used to predict the temperature? What is the equation to predict temperature in degrees C and degrees F?
  8. How far away was that thunder? Discover the equation and give mathematical examples and explain your answer.
  9. Explain how a radio gets a signal?
  10. Have you ever noticed how quiet it is just after a large snowfall? Well it is, please explain this winter event.
  11. Explain the history of the telephone. Stress how sound is transmitted over the phone.
  12. Investigate through research the sounds produced by things in our environment like: jet planes taking off; whispering; telephones ringing; amplified rock band; vacuum cleaner; threshold of pain for humans; and a normal conversation. Show units in decibels and represent with a graph. Write an explanation of the graph. What sounds listed above would not have been heard during the 1930s?
  13. Why must radios be regulated by an agency of the government? What are some of these regulations?
  14. How was radio important to the economy during the 1930s? Today?
  15. In what ways did radio change after the television arrived?
  16. Make a sketch and explain how broadcast waves travel.


Assessment Activities

  1. KWL Charts.
  2. Journal Assessment Rubric.
  3. Rubric for Scientific Research.
  4. Assessment Checklist for the Scientific Research.
  5. Venn Diagram.
  6. Rubric for the Research Paper.
  7. Rubric for Group Work.


Learning Advice

This unit on sound makes a loud room full of students exploring sound. Make sure your fellow teachers and principal know you will be much loader then normal.
Invite the music and speech specialist to work with you on this unit.



Various conclusions will be developed about sound. Revisit the KWL on sound for students to add to it in their journal then compile a class KWL. Discussion is always required for the KWL so you can make sure the correct knowledge was secured during the unit.
AIMS Primarily Physics on page 31 helps students with ideas on the construction of a musical instrument.


General Notes

Ask the famous question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, did it make any sound?” Have fun with this question and allow the students to think about it and journal before you discuss it in class.

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