What Is Sound? (KS2)

Young girl playing an electric guitar.
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Sounds are being made all around us all the time.

Whether it be music from your favourite singer, a fire engine siren or even a bell ringing, the things that we hear just like these noises are different sounds. If you're not too sure how to explain what sound exactly is, or maybe your child has started to learn about it in science lessons at school but they just need a bit more help understanding we can help.

We'll cover all the key things you need to know related to sound. Ready to listen up?

What Is Taught About Sound in KS2?

Sound is introduced as part of the national KS2 curriculum in Year 4, where children learn about how sound is made through vibrations and learn about volume and pitch, whilst their understanding of scientific inquiry is developed further in Years 5 and 6.

How Is Sound Made?

As we know, sounds are made around us all the time. It doesn't matter what types of sound or how different sounds may be from another, they are all made the same way.

Sounds are made through vibrations which are something that we cannot see with our eyes all the time, but we can hear when it travels to your ear.

How Do We Hear A Sound?

Mother and son sat on sofa and the boy has headphones on.

When an object (like a bell) is shaken back and forth, this causes the object to start vibrating.

This causes the air (which is made of small particles) around it to also start vibrating.

As the air particles vibrate, move and knock into one another, this carries the sound and causes it to travel through the air as sound waves.

When they reach your ear, the waves travel into the ear until they reach the eardrum, causing it to also vibrate. This subsequently causes small bones in your ear to also vibrate.

These vibrations then continue to travel from your ear along the auditory nerve which sends a message to your brain to tell you that you can hear a sound.

Fun Fact: Sound has to travel through a medium (a substance or matter like air and water).  So, you actually wouldn't be able to hear anything in outer space because there is no air for sound to travel through.

What Is The Difference Between Volume And Pitch?

Well, volume means how quiet or loud a sound is.  It is related to how strong the sound is. The more an object vibrates, the louder the sound it makes is.

Whereas, pitch means how high or low a sound is.  How high or low pitch a sound is depends on the speed an object vibrates at.  If it vibrates really fast, it creates a high pitched sound but if this is done at a slower rate, it makes a low pitched sound.

What Makes Sound Louder Or Quieter?

Boy plays the trumpet and his sister sat next to him covers her ears.

The distance you are from an object that is making a sound determines whether it is loud or quiet.

As you know, sounds are made when an object vibrates. These vibrations carry energy. The further away you are from a sound (like hearing someone singing), the less energy the sound waves are able to carry. This means that the vibrations travelling in the air become smaller.

So, as you move further away from a sound, the quieter the sound will become until no sound can be heard.

Still unsure? Think about the waves losing energy similar to someone becoming tired from running a lot.

As you run farther (or in this case the further the sound waves travel), the more tired someone becomes as they have less energy to run so they become slower- just like a sound!

Why Not Make Your Own Good Vibrations?

Investigate! Get your kids to conduct their own mini scientific sound experiments to get them to understand more about the topic of sound.

Make A Mini 'Guitar'

Use materials like a tissue box along with rubber bands of different thicknesses to discover how the sounds they make differ. Wrap the rubber bands around the box to make a mini guitar, then try pulling them.

Questions to ask your kids:

Can you see them vibrate? How loud or quiet is the sound? Is it a high or low ? (The thickness of the band will change the pitch of the sound!)

Clapping Game

Girl wearing striped top and flower hairband claps.

With your child, play a fun clapping game to get them to understand how loud or quiet a sound can be.

One of you will need to close their eyes, while the other moves around the room, taking turns. The person who is moving needs to clap- you can decide how hard!

The person with their eyes closed has to describe how loud or quiet the sound of the clap is, and guess where the other person is in the room by pointing.

Take it in turns- you could even try this with different musical instruments, or even a song. Try to vary the distance from the person with their eyes closed to keep things interesting!

Keyword Recap

Sound: Made when an object moves back and forth quickly.

Vibrations: Made when something quickly moves back and forth.

Medium: A substance or matter like air which allows sound to travel through. Without a medium, sound can't travel!

Volume: How loud or quiet a sound is.

Pitch: How high or low a sound is.

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