Acoustical Society of America



Exploring Sound Physics Index




The following lessons have been gone through two rounds of testing in the classroom but not all have been formatted as “Lesson Plans”.


Sound and Music This is a stand-alone activity. .doc, .pdf, PowerPoint, slides.pdf, videos

Students explore the physics of sound, how the ear hears and how musical instruments work through interactive demonstrations and student activities.  Video clips are included for teachers to watch a section at a time if interested.


Sound and Wave Basics Homework .doc, .pdf

Students first explore the PhET Interactive Simulation “Wave on a String” focusing on amplitude and frequency as well as what factors affect wave speed. Then they investigate the PhET “Sound” simulation to learn how amplitude and frequency affect a sound wave.  Finally students watch the Khan Academy video “Introduction to Waves”.


Waves Stand alone lesson pptx, pdf

This lesson follows up on the Sound and Wave Basics Homework, introduces the terminology used to describe waves, investigates what factors impact wave speed, demonstrates interference, and provides multiple ways to think about natural frequency and resonance.


Investigating How Music is Made Laboratory activity pdf, doc

Students make their own straw instruments and cup instruments to investigate how music is made.  They also blow over the top of bottles and investigate an acoustic and electric guitar.  I used Generalizing Musical Instruments  in class as a necessary follow up to this lab.


Generalizing How Musical Instruments Work Designed to follow Investigating How Music is Made Lab. .doc, .pdf

Small group and whole class discussion lesson designed to guide students in creating a generalization about how instruments make music – source of vibration, way to change pitch, mechanism to amplify the music including resonance and sympathetic vibration.


Simple Harmonic Motion Stand alone lesson .ppt, .pdf

Slides for an interactive lesson on simple harmonic motion including peer instruction and in class practice problems. Approximately 70 minutes of material over restoring force, period and frequency of springs and pendula, equations of motion for SHM and conservation of energy.


Simple Harmonic Motion Lab Laboratory activity .pdf, .doc

Students investigate a spring, a pendulum and pasta w/raisins or marshmallows to determine if the period depends on length, amplitude and mass for each oscillator. Finally students are asked to determine if the pasta w/ raisins or marshmallows is more like a spring or pendulum (the answer is not what they expect!)


Speed of Sound Stand alone lesson .ppt

, .pdf

20 – 30 minute set of slides with peer instruction on the topic of the speed of waves on strings and how helium and sulfur hexafluoride affect the voice.  Brings back the concept of resonance.


Standing Waves Lab Laboratory activity .pdf, .doc

Standing waves are studied experimentally with vibrators and a string. Students are tasked with figuring out a method for determining the density of their string and then comparing results with the rest of the class.  At the end they write up a plan for a more ideal experiment to determine the mass density of their string.


Graphing Waves and Ultrasound Lesson w/ applications .ppt, .pdf

This set of slides lasts 20 minutes and reviews traveling wave pulses and then introduces the idea of translating from position graphs to history graphs.  Medical applications of sound waves are presented next and then a brief introduction to electromagnetic waves and how they relate to sound. Used with CT focused Ultrasound article.


Sound rather than Sight Small group Activity .doc, .pdf

One student at a time is blindfolded and must use only their sense of hearing to identify and locate objects. 30 – 40 minutes


Echolocation Homework Homework Activity .doc, .pdf

Students are asked to watch a couple of videos about humans that use echolocation and then visit the Discovery of Sounds In The Sea website to hear dolphins and whales use echolocation.


Intensity Level Small Group Activity .doc, .pdf

Students use sound level meters to investigate how sound level drops off with distance. 20- 25 minutes.


Intensity and Intensity Level Lesson .ppt, .pdf

50 minutes of slides with group discussion.  Slides include a review of echolocation homework and then discuss intensity and intensity level as well as loudness.  Example problems to be worked as a class are included.


The Doppler Effect Stand-alone activity .doc, .pdf

Students explore the PhET Interactive simulation “Sound” and then experience the Doppler effect through watching videos and teacher demonstrations.  Then students invent an explanation of why the Doppler effect happens – surprisingly effective.


Doppler Effect and Sonic Booms lesson .ppt

, .pdf

Combination of problems and conceptual ideas related to the Doppler Effect and Sonic Booms including Mach number calculations.  Introduction to Standing Waves follows.


Waves and Harmonics Laboratory activity pdf, doc

This lab uses Fourier: Making Waves PhET simulation to investigate auditory perception of various combinations of harmonics as well as how waves add. 


Perception stand alone lesson pptx

This power point includes more than an hour of slides which have a section on speech intelligibility, acoustician careers, follow up to the Waves and Harmonics lab and the Sound rather than Sight activity found above.


Elephant Acoustics homework or take home exam docx

This assignment consists of a series of conceptual questions about a website article on elephant acoustics encouraging the students to connect what they’ve learned about the physics of sound with how elephants hear and make sound.


Spring to Another World Laboratory activity pdf

This lab is by Hewitt and Baird’s Conceptual Physics Laboratory Manual.  It uses the PhET simulation Masses and Springs to investigate Hooke’s Law.  I used it and Simple Harmonic Motion together in one lab period.


Sound Waves Stand alone activity lesson, teacher notes

Students use the Sound  simulation from the PhET Interactive Simulations to understand how different sounds are modeled, described and produced.  They also design ways to determine the speed, frequency, period and wavelength of a sound.

Sound Lab using LabPro Stand alone activity lesson, teacher notes

Sound Lab using Xplorer GLX Stand alone activity lesson, teacher notes

These two lessons each use a sound probe to investigate how wave patterns from different sounds look, including their voices and their straw instruments.


Peer-Instruction type questions for sound Selection of clicker questions related to above activities ppt





Please forward any questions or comments to:


Wendy Adams

Education Coordinator

Acoustical Society of America


Visit our website at for other classroom resources such as career profiles of acousticians, fun educational videos (look for the YouTube icon) and new lesson plans as we get them developed!