ALEX Learning Activity


Cups & Bands Sound Experiment

A Learning Activity is a strategy a teacher chooses to actively engage students in learning a concept or skill using a digital tool/resource.

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  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Kristy Lott
System:Jefferson County
School:Clay Elementary School
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 1777
Cups & Bands Sound Experiment
Digital Tool/Resource:
Vibrations of Sound Video
Web Address – URL:

Students will explore sounds using plastic cups and rubber bands to simulate a stringed instrument. Students will experiment with the vibration of sounds by plucking the bands and listening to the sounds. They will change the string’s tension and gauge to create different pitches. Finally, students will work with a partner to create a melody on their stringed instrument.

This activity was created as a result of the Arts COS Resource Development Summit.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 1
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).

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
P4.10: Vibrating objects produce sound. The pitch of sound can be varied by changing the rate of vibration.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Planning and Carrying out Investigations
Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect
Disciplinary Core Idea: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Conduct experiments to provide evidence that vibrations of matter can create sound.
  • Conduct experiments to provide evidence that sound can make matter vibrate.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • 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.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Sound, Light, and Sky
Sound and Light, FOSS
Sundial, GLOBE
Sky, Delta
Arts Education
ARTS (2017)
Grade: 1
Music: General
1) Create musical ideas for a specific purpose.

Example: Improvise four-beat patterns in question and answer form.

Unpacked Content
Artistic Process: Creating
Anchor Standards:
Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Process Components: Imagine
Essential Questions:
EU: The creative ideas, concepts, and feelings that influence musicians' work emerge from a variety of sources.
EQ: How do musicians generate creative ideas?
Concepts & Vocabulary:
  • Quarter note, quarter rest, paired eighth notes
  • Strong/ weak beat
  • Steady beat/ rhythm
  • Allegro/ adagio
  • Pitch set: Mi, So, La
  • Steps/ skips/ repeated notes
  • Melodic direction
  • Modified staff
  • Line notes and space notes
  • Rhythmic ostinati
  • Simple bordun
  • AB, ABA
  • Legato, staccato
  • Piano (p), forte (f)
  • Classroom instrument classifications
  • Clarinet, trombone, cello, drum
  • Orchestral music: ballet
  • Non-Western music celebrations
  • Proper singing posture
  • Age-appropriate pitch matching (C4 -C5)1
  • Mallet/ drumming technique — hands together
Skill Examples:
  • Perform original rhythmic compositions containing quarter note, quarter rest, paired eighth notes.
  • Perform original melodic compositions containing quarter note, quarter rest, paired eighth notes and using the pitches mi/so/la.
  • Improvise 4-beat melodic phrases containing mi/so/la, both vocally and on pitched percussion instruments.
  • Construct 4-beat rhythmic patterns using manipulatives, such as note cards, popsicle sticks, or blocks.
Reading/ Writing
  • Read 4-beat melodic phrases on a modified staff on which mi is indicated.
  • Notate from dictation 4-beat rhythm phrases using manipulatives such as note cards, popsicle sticks, or blocks.
  • Identify melodic patterns on a modified staff when played on a pitched instrument.
Responding/ Evaluating
  • Create rubric for evaluation of peer compositions.
  • With guidance, apply peer suggestions to personal compositions. Select an original composition for performance.
Learning Objectives:

Students will experiment with sound by making stringed instruments that transmit vibrations whenever a string is plucked.  Students will create different pitches on their instrument by manipulating the string’s tension and gauge. The students will work with a partner to create a melody on their stringed instrument.


  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

  1. Begin by playing the Vibration of Sound video as a review or introduction to sound waves.
  2. Pass out cups containing rubber bands of three different widths (or gauges). Instruct students to place the bands around the cups stretching from the top to the bottom. Some students will not have enough dexterity to do this on their own and will need help. Take the time to discuss safety while using rubber bands.
  3. Allow students time to experiment with the bands and try out the different sounds by plucking each band individually. I have students hold the cups close to their ears so they can hear the sounds clearly and remind them to hold the sides of the rubber bands around the cup as they pluck so they do not come off.
  4. Ask students which band is the lowest and why. Highest? Why? Discuss how the width (or gauge) of the band affects the sound.
  5. Ask students what they think they could do to make a single band sound higher or lower. 
  6. Discuss how tension affects the sound and how to add tension to the bands on their cups by pulling it tighter or looser across the top of the cup.
  7. Allow students time to experiment with the tension of the bands.
  8. Have students work with a partner, to create a simple melody on their stringed instrument and perform for the class.
Assessment Strategies:

Ask students to play their lowest band. Ask them how they know this band is the lowest. Continue with highest. Ask students what needs to be done in order to make their lowest band sound higher. Ask them to show you how to make it higher. Continue with how to make it lower.

Advanced Preparation:

Gather enough sturdy plastic cups and rubber bands in three different widths for your class. Place one of each size band in each cup prior to class to save time. I use stacking cups that I borrow from the PE department.

Variation Tips (optional):

If you have a stringed instrument, show the instrument to the students and talk to them about the different widths (gauges) of the strings and how using the tuning pegs changes the tension of the strings.

Notes or Recommendations (optional):
  Keywords and Search Tags  
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