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Teaching Sound and Exploring Abstract Art

This year is a whole new world for me.  I’m teaching science on a daily basis.  I feel like I know nothing about anything science so it’s been a challenge to really feel like I’m doing it well.  It’s been so much fun keeping things engaging.  And, I’ve transferred to a different school in my district and it’s an arts magnet.


As little as I know about science, I know even less about anything arts.  Sure, I like music.  Making music?  Um, no.  Visual arts.  Um, no.  In fact, I was excited about the craftivities I was going to be doing.  Except those aren’t art.  Clearly, I’m learning. 🙂

My partner teacher found this amazing Sound and Light bundle on TpT and it’s saved my life the last few weeks.  It includes detailed lesson plans, engaging projects, a unit test and study guide, vocabulary words, and so much more.  I didn’t follow it to a T but it was what helped me get through.

We’re starting light this week and so I’m so glad to be able to continue our unit with a similar theme.  Click the image above to check it out on TpT.

One of the activities in the unit is creating a straw horn.  I practiced before we got there.  I failed.  I tried with a different straw.  I failed.  I watched this video.

I still failed.

So I decided I’d let the kids try it anyway.  See if they could beat me.  Give them a challenge to be better than their teacher.  To really butter them up, I showed them the day before I let them try and I told them I couldn’t do it.  They came in the next day so excited to tell me that they used a straw at home and were able to do it (without the directions, btw).  WHAT?  But as we passed out straws, we were still hardly getting any horn sounds.

I looked all over and I found some fatter straws and I thought we’d try those out and see if they helped.  And I had one of those instant “IDEA!” moments.  What a perfect way to introduce the scientific method.


So we formed our question together and students chose their hypothesis.  While “easier” isn’t exactly the most scientific of experiments, I thought it was a great hands-on way to introduce it since we were essentially performing an experiment.

We created a graph of our hypotheses.

And then performed our experiment.

We all seemed to agree that the fat horn was easier to use as a straw horn.  But then once we had been successful with the fat straw, the skinny straw was so much easier.

We talked about what vibrates to make the noise, why it might be different in straws, why the sounds are different, etc.  The kids loved it!
I also showed this fun video that I happened to find.
Another idea in the unit is using bottles and water to make sounds.  This helps you explore pitch with students.  It bugged me that our pitch wasn’t perfect with our water levels but I had to give up trying.
We won’t talk about me realizing I needed 6 bottles the afternoon before.  Or, what logo was on the container that I carried these 6 bottles in with….
I had another moment of “IDEA!” and I ran into my storage cabinet and hunted in hopes of finding some food dye.  Clearly, I was successful and it made it so much easier for the kids to see the levels.
Also, it was hilarious to watch them freak out when I took a drink of some of the green liquid in my attempt to get the pitch juuuust right. 🙂
We also watched this fun video to end up our day.
And since it’s Call Me Maybe, the kids loved that it was a song they knew and could sing along to.
Last, to wind out our unit, we did a little art project.  My first art project as a teacher.  My first time using paint as a teacher.  It didn’t turn out so bad if I do say so myself!
I found this lesson from Art Lessons for Kids and it was perfect for us.  It held my hand enough that I was able to teach this in some capacity {whew!}.  We explored Abstract Art for a bit and learned a little about Wassily Kandinsky.  We looked at his Klamm Improvisation as well as a few other pieces.
To lead up to the big project I chose a sound and didn’t show students what it was at all.  It was clearly two dogs barking angrily at each other.  Students drew pictures to represent the sound.  I was so glad we had done this because many of them were very literal and not so abstract.
For our big unit, students chose a mystery sound and then got to work.

They did a much better job staying abstract this time, though I probably need a lot of practice on what exactly abstract SHOULD be.

We let our pictures dry over the weekend.  Then we came in on Monday and added some dimension by using multi-media on their pieces.  Some chose to make them 3D with construction paper.
Others just added some crayon.
Here’s part of our display board.  I love how these turned out!


All in all I think it was a great first unit to start the year!  Do you have any great ideas for teaching sound?


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