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Learning Resource Type

Lesson Plan

Tuning Forks and Vibrations

Subject Area





This is an inquiry-based lesson that allows students to investigate how vibrations of matter can create sound and that sound can make matter vibrate. 

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 1


    Conduct experiments to provide evidence that vibrations of matter can create sound (e.g., striking a tuning fork, plucking a guitar string) and sound can make matter vibrate (e.g., holding a piece of paper near a sound system speaker, touching your throat while speaking).

    Unpacked Content



    • vibrations/vibrate
    • matter
    • sound
    • evidence
    • experiments
    • conduct
    • create


    Students know:
    • Sound can cause matter to vibrate.
    • Vibrating matter can cause sound.


    Students are able to:
    • Conduct investigations to provide evidence that sound makes matter vibrate and vibrating matter makes sound.
    • Make observations that can be used as evidence about sound.


    Students understand that:
    • Sound can cause matter to vibrate.
    • Vibrating matter can cause sound.
    • There is a cause/effect relationship between vibrating materials and sound.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Planning and Carrying out Investigations

    Crosscutting Concepts

    Cause and Effect

    Primary Learning Objectives

    Learning Targets:

    I can use a tuning fork's vibrations to make sound.

    I can make water vibrate using sound.



    The students will turn to their partner and ask a question while holding their hands to their throats. If the students are having trouble feeling the vibrations, then ask them to speak louder.

    Discuss as a class what the students felt.  Discuss the vocabulary term vibration.


    Divide students into small groups.  Pass out the needed materials to each group.  Demonstrate how to properly use a tuning fork.

    Allow the students to strike a few objects (desk, book, etc.) with the tuning fork to explore how to use it and what sounds are created from different objects.  Discuss with the class what they think is making the sounds.

    Ask the students to strike their desks with the tuning fork then touch their cheek with the tuning fork.  Discuss what the students heard and felt. Reiterate that the vibrations are the back-and-forth movement created by striking the tuning fork.  Students should connect that the vibrations are creating the sound.

    Ask the students to strike the tuning fork on their desk then gently touch the top of the water in the cup.  Pose the following questions to the students.

    • What did you hear?  
    • What did you see?  
    • What made the tuning fork make a sound?  
    • What happened to the water when the vibrating tuning fork touched it?

    Students should explain that they could see the water "jumping" from the vibrations of the tuning fork. 

    Allow the students time to clean up any water with the paper towels.


    The teacher should lead a class discussion after each step of the exploration to discuss that vibrating matter can create sound and that sounds can make things vibrate.


    One student will hold the ping pong ball by the thread in the air in a stationary position.  Another student will strike the tuning fork on the desk and then gently touch the stationary ball. Ask the students the following questions.

    • What did they hear?  
    • What did they see?
    • What happened to the ball when the vibrating tuning fork touched it?  

    The students should discuss the movement of the ball as an effect of the vibrations made by the tuning fork.  Why did the ball move back and forth?

    Assessment Strategies


    This is an introductory lesson so ongoing formative assessment should take place throughout the student discussion time to determine if students can provide evidence that vibrations of matter can create sound.

    Here is another formative assessment that can be used:

    What will happen if a book is placed on top of a radio and the volume is turned up as high as it will go?

    The students may give an oral or written answer to ensure that students can provide evidence that vibrations of matter can create sound.


    Allow the students to repeat the above activities striking the tuning fork gently then striking it with a little more force.  The student should discuss how the difference in force affected the amount of vibrations on their cheeks, the water, and the ping pong ball.


    It may be helpful to preview the vocabulary that will come up in the lesson. Providing the terms on cards would help students to visualize the word as they hear you say it during the lesson (sound, vibration, tuning fork).

    Approximate Duration

    Total Duration

    31 to 60 Minutes

    Background and Preparation


    Prepare student workstations with the materials listed in the Materials and Equipment section. 

    Materials and Resources

    Materials and Resources

    Per group of students:

    1 tuning fork

    1 cup of water

    paper towels

    ping-pong ball on a thread