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Learning Resource Type

Lesson Plan

Sound Through String Telephones

Subject Area





This is an inquiry-based lesson that allows the students to create a string telephone to investigate how sound can be used to communicate over a given distance.

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

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 1


    Design and construct a device that uses light or sound to send a communication signal over a distance (e.g., using a flashlight and a piece of cardboard to simulate a signal lamp for sending a coded message to a classmate, using a paper cup and string to simulate a telephone for talking to a classmate).*

    Unpacked Content



    • design
    • construct
    • device
    • light
    • sound
    • communication signal
    • distance
    • receive
    • simulate
    • design process
    • ask
    • imagine
    • plan
    • create
    • improve


    Students know:
    • Light travels over a given distance.
    • Light can be used to communicate over a distance.
    • Sound travels over a given distance.
    • Sound can be used to communicate over a distance.


    Students are able to:
    • Use tools and materials provided to solve the specific problem of being able to communicate using signals over distance using light or sound.


    Students understand that:
    • People depend on various technologies in their lives like devices that can be created to communicate over a distance using light or sound.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

    Primary Learning Objectives

    Learning Target:

    I can design and build a device that uses sound to communicate.



    Begin the lesson by having pairs of students conduct a "Think/Pair/Share" to discuss the following questions.  

    • How do you communicate with someone that is in the same room as you?
    • How do you communicate with someone that is in the room next to you?
    • How do you communicate with someone that is in a different house than you?

    Discuss different forms of appropriate communication in each situation.


    1. Divide students into small groups. Give each group the materials needed to build a string telephone.  Do not tell them what they are building.
    2. Ask the students to look at the materials.  Then ask the question:
      • How can we use these materials to build a device that uses sound to communicate?
    3. Have the students draw a "blueprint" of the group's design in their science notebook.  Then have the students construct the device.
    4. Give the students ample time to test out their designs. Note:  You will need to help the students tie the string to the paper clips. 
    5. The students should create a string telephone that will allow sound to travel the distance of the string.  You might have to guide the students to pull the string tight.


    Allow the groups to share their designs with the class. Discuss what worked and did not work with the designs and any changes that needed to be made to allow the sound to travel through the string. Discuss how the device had to be used properly in order for the sound to travel through the string.  If the string was not pulled tight, then the students were not allowed to communicate.


    Allow the students to test their devices by trying to send messages around a corner.  Were you able to communicate using your device around a corner? Why or why not?  Discuss findings with the class. 

    Assessment Strategies


    Ongoing teacher observation should be used as a formative assessment throughout the lesson and discussions to determine if the students can design and build a device that uses sound to communicate. Ask the students to draw their final version of the string telephone in their science notebooks.  This should be the final device after all changes have been made.

    The drawings from the planning of the device and the final device in the students' science notebooks will be used as an assessment to ensure the standard has been met.


    Give students different lengths of string and ask if the lengths of string will affect their device.  Allow them time to test each length of string.


    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, communication, device, blueprint, design).

    Students may give an oral explanation of the design and final product for their device instead of drawing it in their notebook.

    Approximate Duration

    Total Duration

    31 to 60 Minutes

    Background and Preparation


    Students should have knowledge of the basic components of sound and how it travels.  

    Materials and Resources

    Materials and Resources

    Per group of students:

    • 2 plastic or styrofoam cups with holes in the bottom
    • 1 48 inch string
    • 2 paper clips