ALEX Lesson Plan



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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Hannah Bradley
System: Dothan City
School: Carver Magnet School
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35562




This lesson will begin with students brainstorming methods of communication using a web graphic organizer. Next, students will collaborate with a partner to create a basic cup phone set. Then, the teacher will lead students to develop a revised cup phone set using a variety of different materials. Lastly, the students will design and construct a revised version of the cup phone and test its effectiveness as compared to the first cup phone set.

This lesson results from the ALEX Resource Gap Project.

 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:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

  • Students will design and construct a device that uses sound waves to send a communication signal over a distance. 
  • Students will work collaboratively with a partner to create a scientific model. 

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

61 to 90 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Student Materials (per student)


Phone-a-Friend Assessment Handout

Student Materials for Cup Phone Sets (per partner group)

36” pre-cut cotton string

2 paper clips

2 paper cups

Additional Materials for Revised Cup Phone Set (per partner group)

24” pre-cut cotton string

36” pre-cut fishing line

2 styrofoam cups

Teacher Materials

Chart paper and markers OR interactive whiteboard

Technology Resources Needed:

No technology resources are needed for this lesson.


Student Background Information:  This lesson will allow students to apply their knowledge of sound waves in an engineering project. This concept is related to the First Grade Alabama Course of Study Standard 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).

Prior to teaching this lesson, the teacher should ensure that students have conducted investigations related to sound waves and that students can describe how vibrations of matter can create sounds and how sound can make matter vibrate.

Teacher Background Information: Prior to teaching this lesson, the teacher should ensure that all materials for the design and construction of the cup phone sets are located. The teacher will need to cut the cotton strings to a length of 36 inches and 24 inches, being sure that there are enough pre-cut strings for each partner group. In addition, the teacher will need to cut the fishing line to a length of 36 inches, being sure there is enough pre-cut line for each partner group. The teacher will need to make copies of the assessment handout for each student in the class.

The teacher can visit the following link to learn more about the functioning of paper cup phones:

This lesson was adapted from “Waves: Light and Sound” by Sue Bishop, Erika Olvey, and Annie Grammer. Additional lessons related to these concepts can be found in this packet.


Before Strategy/Engage: 10 minutes

1. The teacher should draw a web graphic organizer on the chart paper or the interactive whiteboard. The teacher should write “Communication” in the center of the web.

2. The teacher should ask students to share some ways that they are able to communicate with other people. Possible answers may include, talking, gesturing, texting on a phone, etc.

3. The teacher should tell students that they will construct a device to transmit sound waves over a distance to communicate with a classmate. 

During Strategy/Explore & Explain: 30 minutes

1. The teacher should divide students into partner groups and distribute the materials needed for the cup phone sets (pre-cut 36-inch cotton string, 2 paper clips, and 2 paper cups).

2. The teacher should demonstrate how to create a cup phone set, then allow the students to create the model.

- Use a pencil to punch a hole in the bottom of each of the paper cups.

-Put one end of the string through the hole in the cup, then tie the paper clip to the string on the inside of the cup (this is to prevent the string from falling out of the cup).

-Repeat this same step for the other cup, now both cups should be connected by a string.

3. The teacher should designate one student in each partner group as “Student A” and one student as “Student B”. The teacher should gather all of the “Student As” in the class and provide them with a secret phrase (such as, “First grade is amazingly awesome!”). Then, the teacher should gather all of the “Student Bs” in the class and provide them with a different secret phrase. The teacher should be sure that the different phrases are kept private to ensure a fair scientific test.

4. The teacher should allow the partners to regroup and test their cup phone sets using the secret phrase. For example, Student A would whisper their assigned secret phrase into the cup phone, while partner B holds their cup phone to their ear to listen.

5. After students have had time to test their cup phone models, the teacher should regroup students together as a whole class. The teacher should ask for student volunteers from each group to share what they heard through the cup phone to determine the ability of the cup phones to transmit sound accurately.

Note: Most likely, some students misheard the secret phrase or couldn’t hear their partner well, which will give students an engineering purpose in the next part of the lesson.

6. Next, the teacher should create a chart titled “How can we make our cup phones better?” The teacher should show the additional materials that will be provided for the revised cup phone sets: 24-inch pre-cut cotton string, 36-inch pre-cut fishing line, and styrofoam cups. The teacher should write these materials down the left side of the chart, then ask for student volunteers to share why these materials may make better cup phones.

After Strategy/Explain & Elaborate: 30 minutes

1. The teacher should allow each partner group to choose the new material they would like to use to design and construct their revised model of the cup phone set.

2. The partner groups should follow the same basic procedures to create their cup phone set, just replacing their newly chosen material.

3. Then, the teacher should provide the “Student As” and the “Student Bs” with a new secret phrase. The students should test their new cup phone set using their newly assigned secret phrase to determine if the new material made a better or worse cup phone.

Note: The assessment handout will require students to write the secret phrase they heard from their partner. The teacher should be sure to choose a secret phrase that the students will be able to write. 

4. After students complete their tests, the teacher should give each student a copy of the assessment handout. The teacher may allow students to work on the assessment independently or with their partner. The assessment will require students to reflect upon their revised cup phone set and determine if the revised cup phones worked better or worse than the original cup phones. 


Assessment Strategies

Formative Assessment: The teacher should informally assess students in the before strategy as students share methods of communication to complete the web graphic organizer. The teacher should informally assess students as they construct and test the first cup phone model with their partner in the during strategy to ensure that students understand that the vibration of the string between the cups creates the sound. The teacher should observe students as they create their revised cup phone set during the after activity to be sure students are constructing an appropriate model and testing the model correctly.

Summative Assessment: To formally assess students, the teacher should review each student’s completed Phone-a-Friend Assessment Handout to ensure that students designed and constructed a revised cup phone set. The teacher can assess the accuracy of the students’ new cup phone set by determining how well the students heard their partner’s secret phrase.


To expand their understanding of the concepts of this lesson, students requiring acceleration can design and construct an additional cup phone set using a different variable than the first set created during the lesson.


The teacher should be sure to provide additional scaffolding to students requiring extra preparation while students are creating the cup phone set with a partner. Also, the teacher can carefully assign partner groups to ensure students who require additional help are paired with a supportive peer while creating the cup phone set. After the lesson, the teacher may wish to read the assessment questions to students who require intervention. In addition, the teacher may wish to dictate the student's answers, if needed. 

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.