ALEX Learning Activity


Chicken in a Cup

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: Ginger Boyd
System:Geneva County
School:Samson Middle School
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 1870
Chicken in a Cup
Digital Tool/Resource:
Vibration Science Video
Web Address – URL:

In this learning activity, students construct an instrument to demonstrate properties of sound. Students use their instrument to help model the transmission of sound.

This activity results from the ALEX Resource Gap Project.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 4
6 ) Develop a model of waves to describe patterns in terms of amplitude and wavelength, and including that waves can cause objects to move.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Developing and Using Models
Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns
Disciplinary Core Idea: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Develop a model of waves to describe patterns of amplitude.
  • Develop a model of waves to describe patterns of wavelength.
  • Develop a model of waves that describes patterns that cause objects to move.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Patterns
  • Propagated
  • Waves
  • Wave amplitude
  • Wavelength
  • Net motion
  • Model
  • Relevant components
  • Peaks
Students know:
  • Waves can be described in terms of patterns of repeating amplitude and wavelength (e.g., in a water wave there is a repeating pattern of water being higher and then lower than the baseline level of the water).
  • Waves can cause an object to move.
  • The motion of objects varies with the amplitude and wavelength of the wave carrying it.
  • The patterns in the relationships between a wave passing, the net motion of the wave, and the motion of an object caused by the wave as it passes.
  • How waves may be initiated (e.g., by disturbing surface water or shaking a rope or spring).
  • The repeating pattern produced as a wave is propagated.
  • Waves, which are the regular patterns of motion, can be made in water by disturbing the surface. When waves move across the surface of deep water, the water goes up and down in place; there is no net motion in the direction of the wave except when the water meets a beach.
  • Waves of the same type can differ in amplitude (height of the wave) and wavelength (spacing between wave peaks).
Students are able to:
  • Develop a model to make sense of wave patterns that includes relevant components (i.e., waves, wave amplitude, wavelength, and motion of objects).
  • Describe patterns of wavelengths and amplitudes.
  • Describe how waves can cause objects to move.
Students understand that:
  • There are similarities and differences in patterns underlying waves and use these patterns to describe simple relationships involving wave amplitude, wavelength, and the motion of an object.

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.4.6- Using given models, identify patterns found in waves.

Learning Objectives:

Students will construct an instrument to demonstrate properties of sound.  Students use their instrument to help model the transmission of sound.

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

This learning activity is best used after teaching a lesson on sound, pitch, and amplitude.  

Show students the Vibration Science Video as a review. 

This chicken in a cup sound activity demonstrates how sound can be made with a string and amplified with a cup. It is a STEM activity that uses a string, a cup, and a damp paper towel to show vibration and amplification of sound.  

After watching the video, explain to the students they will make an instrument to demonstrate the properties of sound. Group students into groups of three. Distribute materials (one 18 oz. yellow plastic solo cup per group, one paperclip per group, one piece of orange yarn cut into 18-inch length per group, one paper towel per group, and a piece of red construction paper per group). Each group will also need a small cup of water, scissors, a black sharpie, and glue.  

To make the Chicken in a Cup Instrument:  Poke a hole in the bottom of the solo cup and thread the yarn through. Tie the end of the yarn to the paperclip to hold the yarn in place. Use the red piece of construction paper and the scissors to cut a rooster's comb out and glue it to the bottom of the solo cup. Use the black sharpie to draw eyes and a beak on the front of the solo cup. Fold the paper towel in half and then fold it in half again. Dip the paper towel in the water to dampen. Hold the paper towel in one hand and grab the string towards the large opening of the cup. Drag the wet paper towel down the string. What happens?  (should make a chicken sound)

Assessment Strategies:

Assess this learning activity with an exit ticket with the following questions:  How does pulling on the string make this sound? What role does the cup play?  

Advanced Preparation:

The teacher will need a computer with internet connection, a projector, and an interactive whiteboard to play the video.  The teacher will also need to purchase the following materials to construct the chicken in a cup:

18 oz. yellow solo cup (one per group)

paperclip (one per group)

scissors (one per group)

black sharpie (one per group)

a half piece of red construction paper (one per group)

orange yarn cut into 18-inch length (one per group)

paper towel (one per group)

cup of water (one per group)


Variation Tips (optional):

This activity can be completed in small groups, pairs, or individually.  Students can try changing the string from yarn to cotton.  What sound do you hear if you change the length of the string?  Does the cup size make a difference? 

Notes or Recommendations (optional):
  Keywords and Search Tags  
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