ALEX Lesson Plan


Sound through String Telephones

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Stephanie Carver
System: Cullman City
School: Cullman City Board Of Education
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34791


Sound through String Telephones


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.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 1
4 ) 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).*

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

NAEP Statement::
P4.2: Objects vary in the extent to which they absorb and reflect light and conduct heat (thermal energy) and electricity.

NAEP Statement::
P4.9: Light travels in straight lines. When light strikes substances and objects through which it cannot pass, shadows result. When light travels obliquely from one substance to another (air and water), it changes direction.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Disciplinary Core Idea: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Use tools and materials provided to design and construct a device that uses light or sound to communicate signals over a distance.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • 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.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Sound and Light (Foss)
Sundial, GLOBE
Sky, Delta

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.1.4- Participate in the construction of a device and/or activities that use light or sound.

Local/National Standards:

Scientific and Engineering Practices: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Primary Learning Objective(s):

Learning Target:

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

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

31 to 60 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Per group of students:

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

Technology Resources Needed:



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



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.

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.