Waves- Sound

TwoBit Circus
Type Category
Assessment Materials Instructional Materials
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.




This 5E unit includes seven learning experiences in which students: 1) observe the phenomenon of sound and develop an initial model to explain how we hear (Hearing Sound), 2) use telephone cups to investigate how sound can transfer from place to place (Telephone Cups), 3) investigate transverse and compression waves (Making Waves-Compression and Transverse), 4) identify patterns in waves to interpret the relationship between frequency and wavelength (Making Waves-Frequency and Wavelength), 5) investigate how energy affects waves and sound (Making Waves-Amplitude), 6) investigate what affects sound in tubes (Sound in Tubes), and 7) develop an explanation on how sound causes objects to move (Air Cannon). In a culminating assessment, students design an instrument meeting certain criteria. They synthesize their knowledge by constructing an explanation focusing on how we hear sound from their instrument.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 4
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

4-PS4-1 Develop a model of waves to describe patterns in terms of amplitude and wavelength and that waves can cause objects to move.

Clarification Statement: Examples of models could include diagrams, analogies, and physical models using wire to illustrate wavelength and amplitude of waves.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include interference effects, electromagnetic waves, non-periodic waves, or quantitative models of amplitude and wavelength.

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
After the students have individually developed their models of how we hear sound, they could be offered an opportunity to share, build on the ideas of others and potentially modify their own model.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
At several points during the lessons and the culminating assessment, students are given chances to revise their models of how we hear. They could be given that opportunity after each experience to capture their thinking as it builds throughout the unit. The teacher could also lead a class discussion at certain points and at the end of the unit focusing on: “How did our models change?” “Why?” “How did our models help us make our thinking visible and deepen our understanding?”

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
After students have a chance to investigate with waves on their own, they could read read and discuss What Are Waves, a book available via Epic (free for teachers).

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Throughout the unit, the teacher can ask students to look for patterns. “What patterns do you notice? How can we use these patterns to make predictions. What other patterns are these similar to?” For example, students could draw and/or explain the patterns they see when investigating with the Slinky.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: In this unit, students investigate waves and their properties to make sense of the disciplinary core idea. A few of the lessons make connections that go beyond the scope of the 4th grade standards, but the teacher can focus teaching and learning accordingly. Students create and revise models. However, the crosscutting concept of patterns needs to be made more explicit. An additional NGSS@NSTA curated resource that could supplement this resource is What Are Waves?

  • Instructional Supports: The unit engages students in authentic and meaningful scenarios (such as how do we hear sound?). Students have many opportunities to share and clarify their ideas. References to differentiation supports such as foldables, Frayer Models etc are mentioned, but details are not provided. To enhance supports for all students, the teacher might provide text and/or video support more frequently during the learning experiences For example Sound Waves from Readworks (a free text available from readworks.org) might be used. Additional modeling and scaffolding may also be necessary to meet the needs of all students.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Formative assessments are woven throughout the unit. For instance, at the beginning of the unit, students are asked to create a model of how we hear sounds. They are given opportunities throughout the unit to revise their models. A summative performance assessment is provided. However a detailed rubric that can be used by the teacher (or perhaps the students for self assessment) is not provided.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.