Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Good Vibrations

Our kindergarten students recently studied sound in their classrooms, so we enjoyed exploring sound vibrations in the music room. 
Here is a list of a few quick and easy ways to help students experience sound waves:
  • Have each child play a gong or hand drum for a classmate to touch gently with fingertips in order to feel the vibrations.
  • Play a contrabass bar and let children touch the sound box or the end of the bar to feel vibrations.
  • Let each child play the vibraslap to see how it shakes when it makes sound.
  • Place paper clips on a conga, tubano, or gathering drum. Allow children to play the drum and watch the paper clips vibrate. I let a few children play at a time. When all the paper clips were off, their turn was over. It did not take long, and then they picked up the clips for the next group.
  • Hold a large hand drum over paper clips that are lying on the conga, tubano, or gathering drum. Play the drum with a mallet and see if the paper clips can move without touching the drum head on which they are resting. This is a good visualization of sound waves moving through the air.
  • Experiment with other items on the drum, such as small finger puppets. See if the vibrations can move the items.
  • Take a string with a small loop tied in the end. Step on the opposite end and put it taut. Place pointer finger in small loop. Lean forward so string does not touch anything. Touch pointer finger with string loop directly in front of ear. (See bottom right picture in the photo collage at the top of the post.) Pluck the string and listen. Experiment with pulling the string tighter and less taut. Kindergartners need help with this activity, but older students can handle it alone. We have a classroom set of strings that we use with upper grades. They can all play at the same time. The individual can really hear their string, but it is almost impossible for the rest of the class to hear. The children love to play along with music.
There are also some great resources available to help as you teach about sound. The Magic School Bus "Inside the Haunted House" is always a favorite with our K-3rd grade classes.
I also found a website with listening exercises that encourage listening skills and require sound discrimination. Although I did not have time in music for these listening games, I sent a link to the classroom teachers and they seemed to like it.

One last note: Never take anything for granted. Although most of the kindergarteners could answer that sound was caused by vibrations, when asked what vibrations are, very few could explain. The cutest answer I heard last week was that it is what bears do when they cover themselves up with leaves and sleep for the winter. Hibernation/vibration: they sound a lot alike! I'd never thought about that before. I wrote both words on the board and we compared letters. Then we discussed that when something vibrates, it shakes really fast. Of course, we had to vibrate. :)

I hope this gives you some easy ideas to demonstrate how sound is created. These activities can be done quickly without taking an entire class period, so get shaking!


  1. Thank you for posting your unique ideas for experiencing sound vibrations. Many of the ideas I have heard before were very limited and I would hate to only give my students one experience or example. I will definitely have to try this out with my K kids. Thanks again.

  2. Emily,
    The students had a blast with these simple activities. Their eyes lit up in amazement when they felt the gong vibrate, and they really loved playing the drum and sending the paper clips flying. They will definitely be asking to do these activities again!

    Have fun!

  3. I'm a preschool Music teacher and have been asked to have a Music class with a science theme for our preschool's summer camp. This post and another at KidsActivitiesBlog.com was the answer! The Science of Music lesson will have stations as outlined in these 2 sites. Other ideas I've added are 1. You tube video of guitar strings in slow motion. 2. Kids will hold balloons by a speaker playing music to feel the tickle. 3. We'll get to experiment with some drums ourselves. 4. We will dance to Jim Gill's Gong Song, dancing slowly to the music, then vibrate when we hear the gong. I'm so excited about it. Sincerely appreciate your inspiration and help.

  4. Play a contrabass bar and let children touch the sound box or the end of the bar to feel vibrations.
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