What's All the Noise About?

Helen Pashley, PhD
Type Category
Instructional Materials Assessment Materials
Model , Unit , Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Assessment Item
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 is a mini-unit that is part of the NSTA Publication " Science for the Next Generation". It is a 5 E model unit with each activity ranging in time needed from 30-90 minutes. In the Explore section, students observe a thunder drum and wine glass "singing" to form questions. As they move into Explore, they have 8 "sound centers" where they look for patterns in the ways various kinds of matter vibrate and what happens when they do. In Expain, students look at waves in particular, using a salt-drum and slinky. They then make tin-can phones in the Elaborate phase and finally, in Evaluate, they make an authentic communication device using all of their knowledge. A rubric is provided for the evaluation portion.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Grade 1
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

1-PS4-1 Plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound and that sound can make materials vibrate.

Clarification Statement: Examples of vibrating materials that make sound could include tuning forks and plucking a stretched string. Examples of how sound can make matter vibrate could include holding a piece of paper near a speaker making sound and holding an object near a vibrating tuning fork.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This full unit addresses this performance expectation in full, as well as provides background knowledge for teachers prior to teaching the unit. This unit addresses the full performance expecations using the 5-E unit model. In the Engage phase, students make observations about sound in their environment, asking questions about a teacher- led activity involving a salt drum. In the Explore phase, students are able to make the connection between sound, vibration and matter by visiting 8 "sound centers" where they observe the way various objects make sounds by interacting with the materials. They conduct investations at each of these centers. In the Explain phase, media is introducted to help explain the phenomena they encountered in the prior lesson as well as a slink demonstration to model waves. Using all they have learned, students then create an make a tin-can telephones in the Elaborate phase. Finally, in the evaluate phase, they are provided a variety of materials used in prior lessons to make an authenitc model that is able to communicate over a distance.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The Engage portion of this lesson is explicitly designed to address this practice. Students observe several demonstrations designed to elicity questions they can explore further. These include a "wine glass signing" ( in person or via media links) and a "thunder-drum". Students are given time to share and record their questions and ideas. The teacher is to use these to guide the choices made during the Engage session of the unit.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The practices are explicitly addressed, including background information for the teacher to support implementation.The Elaborate and Evaluate portions of this unit allow students to develop and use models using their knowledge of how sound travels. In the Elaborate section, they make tin cans, use slinkies to show sound waves and then make an authentic model to use sound to communicate over a distance. To meet the full practice, teachers would need to allow students to use models to represent amounts. In the case of this lesson, there is a lesson about pitch and volume so a teacher could expand this section to make comparisons of sounds with observations about vibrations.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The first three lessons in this 5-E model explicitly address this core idea. In Engage, students observe a salt-drum, in Explore, they conduct investigations with various kinds of matter to build evidence about the core idea and in the Elaborate, they test this knowledge by building a cup phone. All of these lessons truly ensure that students have had multiple ways to engage with the relationship between matter and vibrations and fully understand it. Teachers should note that there are specific demonstrations in this unit about physical sound waves (as modeled by a slinky). While this is above the expectation for this grade level, teachers may find it helpful to use for students needing a challenge or who are ready for a more detailed explanation of the vibration movement.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The Explore portion of this unit explitly allows student to explore cause and effect relationships through 8 "sound centers". They use cause and effect to strengthen their understanding that sound can make matter vibrate and vibrating matter can make sound. There are many suggested teacher questions for this unit including a follow up activity specificalyl looking at how students might explain what they saw and heard. One suggested question is, : How might you explain this?". Teachers could provide students an answer stem that forces them to look at the cause and effect relationships as their evidence. For example, the teacher could use a model answer of, " When I plucked the ruler, it caused it vibrate and the effect was that I heard a noise." but if a teacher wanted to have students use the language of the Crosscutting Concept, they could include an answer stem such "When I _________________, ____________ happens." or some variation of that statement.

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
Students are asked to make observations about the way objects are create sound and move in the Engage section of this unit. A suggested teacher question in this lesson is " What did you see adn hear in each case?" Teachers could make the Cross Cutting Concept of patterns more explicty by following up or changing this question to " What patterns did you see/hear?"

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This unit is very deliberate in ensuring that all dimensions are addressed in the mini-unit.

  • Instructional Supports: There are links for teachers to build background knowledge and diagrams to help understand each activity. While there is a rubric included in the Evaluate portion of the unit, there are not model student journals, recording sheets or to go with teh activities. For example, when it says " students record ideas in their journal" in the Explore phase, a model or printable student journal is not included. Teachers would need to ensure to have a science journal protocol and procedure set-up for their own classrooms in advance of teaching this unit.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Student progress is monitored through teacher questioning, student disucssion and journal responses. In addtion, a rubric is provided for the Evaluate portion of the unit.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: There are multiple online resources provided in all sections of hte unit. These include sites where teachers can go to build further background knowledge, and Youtube links to view phenomena that can't be easily reproduced in the classroom. These are not interactice sites for students to use to understand, but they do provide additional examples for students to observe.