Sound #18

(grades 7-12)
Soft-bound, 56 page book, 20 reproducible task cards, full teaching notes.

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Generate wave trains across greased glass with a tuning fork. Study amplitude, wavelength, and frequency. Discover relationships between intensity and amplitude, pitch and frequency. Generate longitudinal and transverse waves with a cleverly cut index card! Experiment with resonance and beats. Build a musical instrument.

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Table of Contents for #18 Sound:

Preparation and Support

A TOPS Model for Effective Science Teaching • Getting Ready • Gathering Materials • Sequencing Task Cards • Gaining a Whole Perspective• Long Range Objectives • Review/Test Questions

Activities and Lesson Notes

  1. 1. Sources of Sound
  2. 2. Pencil Waves
  3. 3. Hair Pin Waves
  4. 4. Frequency
  5. 5. Wave Train
  6. 6. Tuning Fork Waves
  7. 7. Intensity
  8. 8. Pitch
  9. 9. Sound Mediums
  10. 10. Two Kinds of Waves
  11. 11. Longitudinal Waves
  12. 12. Pitch Problem (1)
  13. 13. Pitch Problem (2)

  15. 14. Resonance
  16. 15. Beats
  17. 16. Octave Rules
  18. 17. How Low Can You Go?
  19. 18. On the Record
  20. 19. Reed Music
  21. 20. Speed of Sound

Supplementary Pages

frequency strips • metric rulers


Complete Master List for #18 Sound:

Key: (1st/2nd/3rd) denote needed quantities: (1st) enough for 1 student doing all activities; (2nd) enough for 30 students working in self-paced pairs; (3rd) enough for 30 students working in pairs on the same lesson. Starred* items may be purchased below.

  1. * 1/5/10: lower tuning forks stamped with frequency
  2. * 1/5/10: higher tuning forks stamped with frequency
  3. 1/10/10: drinking glasses or beakers
  4. * 4/20/40: bobby pins
  5. 4/40/40: medium sized cans
  6. 2/10/20: soda bottles or equivalent
  7. 1/10/10: scissors
  8. 4/40/40: 4x6 index cards
  9. * 1/2/2: rolls adding machine tape
  10. * 2/20/20: straight pins

  11. * 1/2/2: rolls masking tape
  12. * 3/15/30: clothespins
  13. * 3/30/30: rubber bands
  14. 1/1/1: jar petroleum jelly
  15. 1/10/10: panes of glass, approximately 10 x 10 cm
  16. 1/20/50: pennies
  17. * 1/1/1: spool of thread
  18. 1/10/10: meter sticks or metric rulers
  19. 1/1/1: wall clock with second-hand sweep (or wrist watches)
  20. 1/10/10: hand calculators
  21. 1/3/10: Ping-Pong balls (marbles)
  22. 1/6/10: dinner forks
  23. 1/1/1: roll of string
  24. 1/5/10: hammer and nails (optional)
  25. * 7/70/70: straight plastic straws
  26. * 0.2/1/2: cups of clay
  27. * 2/15/20: paper clips
  28. 1/1/1: bottle cooking oil (baby oil)
  29. * 1/1/1: roll of thin bare wire, about 22 gauge
  30. 1/1/1: wire cutters (optional)

  31. 1/4/10: tuna cans or equivalent
  32. 1/4/10: old phonograph records
  33. 1/1/1: paper punch tool
  34. 1/1/1: pairs of wood blocks (or a spoon and pan)

Convenient Shopping:

Adding Machine Tape

2-1/4 inch x 100 feet

Adding machine tape.

Bobby Pins

2 inches long

The classic hair gizmo, needed for #18 Sound.

Clay - modeling

oil-based, non-drying

Sold by the 100 gram stick, about 1/4 cup, in assorted colors (our choice). One stick serves a whole classroom for TOPS applications.

Gram Pocket Scale

digital, pocket size

Digitally weighs up to 500 grams, plus tare container. Sensitive to 0.1 gram in multiple weight units. Durable, but not childproof. Comes with two AAA batteries to get you started.

Paper Clips

size #1, steel, box of 100

Paper clips have 1001 uses in TOPS experiments, and science in general. Feel free to use paper clips you already have, but be aware that different brands come in different sizes and weights. In experiments where uniformity is important, don't mix brands.

Stopper - rubber

black rubber, size #6, no hole

Used in #09 Floating and Sinking, #14 Kinetic Model, and #22 Machines.

Straight Pins

steel, one and 1/16 inch long

Used in many TOPS experiments. Sometimes required for their magnetic properties. Don't purchase aluminum straight pins by mistake.

Straws - straight

plastic, thin

Any length straw, between 0.20 and 0.25 inches in diameter is suitable. Grocery stores generally carry straws with flexible "elbows." You can use those if you cut off the bendable section before using.

Tape - masking

3/4 inch x 55 yd roll

A handy science supply used in most TOPS modules.


light duty, 25 yd spool

Just plain old thread. Used in many TOPS titles, especially in Pendulums #34.

Tuning Fork - long

aluminum, low C, with 128 c/s frequency stamp

A pair of tuning forks, one long (lower frequency) and one short (higher frequency), are specialty items used in #18 Sound. Also a must for teaching about sound in general.

Tuning Fork - short

aluminum, middle C, with 256 c/s frequency stamp

A pair of tuning forks, one long (lower frequency) and one short (higher frequency), are specialty items used in #18 Sound. Also a must for teaching about sound in general.

Wire - 22 gauge iron

bare wire

A specialty item used for #18 Sound.

Teaching Tips for #18 Sound:

We encourage improvisation - it's one of the main goals of our hands-on approach! You and your students might invent a simpler, sturdier or more accurate system; might ask a better question; might design a better extension. Hooray for ingenuity! When this occurs, we'd love to hear about it and share it with other educators. Please send ideas and photos to

Lesson by Lesson Objectives for #18 Sound:

  1. Lesson 1: To recognize that sound is produced by vibrating objects.
  2. Lesson 2: To build a device that generates waves. To produce waves of different lengths.
  3. Lesson 3: To record the vibrating end of a bobby pin as a wave train by streaking it across greased glass.
  4. Lesson 4: To measure frequency by counting cycles over measured units of time. To express frequency in cycles per second or Hertz units.
  5. Lesson 5: To calculate the speed of a wave train, knowing its frequency.
  6. Lesson 6: To determine the speed that a tuning fork sweeps across creased glass, knowing the frequency of the wave train it leaves behind.
  7. Lesson 7: To understand that sound intensity increases with the amplitude of the vibrating source.
  8. Lesson 8: To appreciate that the pitch of a sound increases with the frequency of its vibrating source. To experimentally determine the ratio of frequencies for 2 tuning forks of different pitch.
  9. Lesson 9: To identify mediums of sound. To recognize that sound is transmitted as its medium vibrates.
  10. Lesson 10: To study differences between transverse and longitudinal waves.
  11. Lesson 11: To understand how longitudinal waves transmit sound energy.
  12. Lesson 12: To examine 3 ways to change the pitch of a vibrating string.
  13. Lesson 13: To account for changes in pitch as water is added to a bottle. To identify 2 distinct sources of sound.
  14. Lesson 14: To observe how objects with the same natural frequency resonate as one is sounded in the presence of the other.
  15. Lesson 15: To hear beats between interacting tones with slightly different pitches. To understand why the beat frequency decreases as tones converge to the same pitch.
  16. Lesson 16: To investigate the mathematical relationship between vibrating wires that sound octaves apart.
  17. Lesson 17: To confirm the octave rule for long vibrating wire. To explore the lower threshold of sound.
  18. Lesson 18: To build a working model of a phonograph. To understand how it works.
  19. Lesson 19: To build a reed instrument. To experiment with variables that change the pitch.
  20. Lesson 20: To experimentally calculate the speed of sound in air.

National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996) for #18 Sound:

TEACHING Standards

These 20 Task Cards promote excellence in science teaching by these NSES criteria:
Teachers of science...
A: ...plan an inquiry-based science program. (p. 30)
B: and facilitate learning. (p. 32)
C: ...engage in ongoing assessment of their teaching and of student learning. (p. 37)
D: and manage learning environments that provide students with the time, space, and resources needed for learning science. (p. 43)

CONTENT Standards

These 20 Task Cards contain fundamental content as defined by these NSES guidelines (p. 109).
• Represent a central event or phenomenon in the natural world.
• Represent a central scientific idea and organizing principle.
• Have rich explanatory power.
• Guide fruitful investigations.
• Apply to situations and contexts common to everyday experiences.
• Can be linked to meaningful learning experiences.
• Are developmentally appropriate for students at the grade level specified.

Unifying Concepts and Processes

NSES Framework: Systems, order, and organization • Evidence, models and explanation • Constancy, change, and measurement • Form and function
Core Concepts/Processes: Sound is transmitted by the mechanical vibration of matter.

Science as Inquiry (content standard A)

NSES Framework: Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations. • Design and conduct a scientific investigation. • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data. • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. • Think critically and logically to connect evidence and explanations. • Communicate scientific procedures and explanations. • Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry.
Core Inquiries: Generate sound vibrations • Correlate amplitude with intensity • Correlate frequency with pitch

Physical Science (content standard B)

NSES Framework: Position and motion of objects • Structure and properties of matter • Interactions of energy and matter
Core Content: Wave trains • Wave lengths • Wave speed • Transverse waves • Longitudinal waves • Resonance • Beats