Pitch Is Easy to Teach with These Activities

These simple pitch activities are fun and easy to teach. In no time, your third, fourth, or fifth grade students will understand high and low sounds.

Ms. Sneed Prepares to Teach Pitch

Our favorite fourth grade teacher rummaged around in her science cabinet. “Let me grab the materials for our next science station,” she said to her teaching partner.

“Okay,” Mr. Frank replied. “I’ll take a look at our sound lesson plans. So far, we’ve taught that sound is a vibration, how sound travels, and amplitude. We’re working on pitch activities next, right?”

“Yes,” said Ms. Sneed. “This is a super fun set of sound activities, but it requires quite a few materials.” As she moved back and forth from the cabinet, she placed them on the table:

  • box
  • rubber bands of different widths
  • three identical jars
  • metal spoon
  • three bottles
  • disinfectant wipes

The last item she brought to the table was a large jug. As she held it up for Mr. Frank to see, she said, “The kids love this. When we blow across the top, it makes such a deep sound.”

Make a Simple Guitar

Mr. Frank picked up a thick rubber band and stretched it around the empty box. Then he pulled a thin rubber band around the other end. “I remember this activity from last year. We make a little guitar. Then the kids pluck the rubber bands to hear the high and low pitch.”

“Right,” his teammate responded. “They learn that the wider band makes a lower sound.” Playfully, she reached across and plucked each rubber band.

To teach pitch in third, fourth, or fifth grade, make a simple guitar. Simply stretch rubber bands of different widths over a rigid, open box.
Are you feeling “pinspired”? Feel free to pin images from this post.

Pour Water in Jars to Illustrate Pitch

Next, the teachers took the jars to the sink. They filled the first one most of the way; the second, halfway; and the third, about one-third of the way.

“I’ll add a little food coloring, just for a little visual appeal,” Ms. Sneed said.

Mr. Frank picked up the spoon and tapped the bottom of the first jar. Then he tapped the bottoms of the second and third. “Low, medium, and high pitch,” he said.

“Right. In the previous lab, kids discovered that greater force yielded greater amplitude. In addition, bigger waves meant louder noise. But in this series of activities, we want kids to realize that longer waves have lower pitch. In other words, when they have more space, they are lower.”

To illustrate pitch, fill three similar jars with different amounts of water. When kids tap on them, they'll hear different pitches.

Blow Across the Lips of Bottles

Next, Ms. Sneed blew across the lip of each of the jars. “In this final activity,” she said, “we want kids to see that less water means lower pitch. That’s the opposite of the previous lab. Instead, when we blow into the bottle, more air makes more room for the wave to spread out.”

“In my opinion,” said Mr. Frank, “blowing across the tops of these wide-mouthed jars doesn’t work very well. I have some small glass soda bottles in my room that may work better.”

“And then,” Ms. Sneed said with a smile, there’s the mother of all bottles.” She picked up the jug and blew across its mouth.

Mr. Frank chuckled. “Like a fog horn. Yes, the jug provides a great example of how more space allows a bigger wave and a lower sound.”

When kids blow over the openings of different bottles, they will find that bigger bottles produce lower sounds. Kids love this pitch activity!

Enjoy Teaching Sound

The two teachers dumped the water. Then they packed everything into a box. “Materials for the pitch station are ready to go. Next up: materials that conduct and insulate sound,” said Mr. Frank with a smile. “These hands-on physical science labs are so engaging for the kids – and for me!”

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