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Ministry of Education.


Learning Outcomes | Teaching and Learning | Assessment and Evaluation | Printing Version

Writer Warren Bruce and Scott Wolfe
Year level Years 5-8 (Levels 3 and 4)
Who are my students and what do they already know?


Tin Can Telephone

What You Need

The ideal is to have enough equipment for one between two students.

  • Two empty tins (420g spaghetti tin)
  • Lengths of cotton string

What You Do

Prepare by puncturing a small hole in the centre of the base of the tins. This hole needs to be just big enough for the string to pass through.

Push the string through the hole of one can and tie two large knots to stop the string being pulled back through the hole. Take the other end of the string and put it through the base of the other tin and tie two knots.
The string must fit tightly into the holes on the inside of the each tin. When using the phones the string must be able to be pulled taut.

  • Get two students to demonstrate how to use the phones.
  • Get the two students to each hold one tin making sure the string is taut and then, while they are holding the tin to their ear, pluck the string. Ask the children what they heard when the string was plucked? They will hear a loud sound. What did the others observe happening to the plucked string? The string went up and down.
  • Discuss how the two listeners were able to hear the plucked string. How did the sound reach their ear?
  • In pairs allow time for the students to explore and try out their tin can phones.

Explore what happens if you pluck the string harder.

Is there any connection between the volume and the size of the pluck?

  • Try using the tin can telephones to send messages to each other. What differences do you notice between talking loudly and then whispering when using the tin can telephone?
  • Get the children thinking about how the voice gets from one telephone to the other.

What to Look For

  • Are the students making the connection between vibration and sound?
  • Can they make the link between the size of the vibration and the loudness of a sound?
  • Are they able to explain that the sound caused by the vibrations must reach our ears so that we can hear?

Learning Outcomes

(What do my students need to learn?)

Learning area(s) Science, English and Literacy
Curriculum achievement objectives for:  
  • English

Speaking Writing Presenting

Level 3
Select, form, and communicate ideas on a range of topic.
Use language features appropriately, showing a developing understanding of the effects.

Level 4
Select, develop and communicate ideas on a range of topics.
Use a range of language features appropriately, showing an increasing understanding of their effects.

  • Science

Nature Of Science

Investigating in Science
Ask questions, find evidence, explore simple models, and carry out appropriate investigations to develop simple explanations. e.g. the students are observing and sharing their ideas like scientists do.

Physical World

Level 3 and 4
Explore, describe and represent patterns and trends for everyday examples of physical phenomena. (Sound)

Overall language and literacy learning outcomes

Literacy Learning Progressions

End of Year 6

generate content that is usually relevant to the task, supporting or elaborating their main ideas with detail that has been selected

with some care;

selecting vocabulary that is appropriate to the topic, register, and purpose (e.g., academic and subject-specific vocabulary appropriate for specific learning areas or precise and descriptive words to create a mental image);

End of Year 8

Create content that is concise and relevant to the curriculum task, often including carefully selected detail and/or comment that supports or elaborates on the main points;

Using language that is appropriate to the topic, audience, and purpose (e.g., expressive, academic, or subject-specific vocabulary) and discussing these language choices using appropriate terms, such as register and tone;

Teaching and Learning

 (What do I need to know and do to meet the range of identified learning needs of my students?)

1-2 related professional readings or relevant research
Learning task 1
Learning task 2
Learning task 3
Learning task 4
Learning task 5
Learning task 6

Assessment and Evaluation

 (What is the impact of my teaching and learning?)

Provision for identifying next learning steps for students who need:

  • further teaching and learning opportunities
  • increased challenge

Assessment is ongoing and embedded in each of the tasks at a self, peer and teacher level.

An expectation that students understand and explain how scientists work.

An expectation that students can use science specific vocabulary in the correct context by explaining their ideas and understandings in oral and written form

Teachers adapt and modify content based on key questions from the Teaching as Inquiry Model
Open ended investigative possibilities - posing questions to these ideas in the real world

Opportunities for new knowledge to be shared across the class by students based on experiences

Class use and understanding of scientific vocabulary in context with tasks

Multiple opportunities for learning and of reinforcement of conceptual understandings.

Tools or ideas which, for example, might be used to:

  • evaluate progress of the class and groups within it toward the identified outcomes
  • evaluate student engagement
  •  changes to the sequence

Oral, Peer and Self Assessment opportunities in relation to the Learning Intentions and learning tasks

Students ability to comment on their own understandings in relation to the tasks

Students ability to share and justify their understanding with peers in relation to the tasks

Resources to complement this unit

Picture Books

  • Moses Goes to a Concert by Isaac Millman ISBN 0 374 453667
  • Ruby Sings the Blues By Niki Daly ISBN 1845072804

MOE Teacher Resources

  • Ministry of Education (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum Science Learning Area - Nature of Science. Wellington: Learning Media.
  • Ministry of Education (2010). The Literacy Learning Progressions. Wellington: Learning Media.
  • Ministry of Education (2009). Learning Through Talk Oral Language in Years 4 to 8. Wellington: Learning Media.
  • Ministry of Education (2001). Building Science Concepts – Exploring Sound 18 Wellington: Learning Media.
  • Ministry of Education (2001). Building Science Concepts - Properties of Sound 19 Wellington: Learning Media.
  • Ministry of Education (1999). Making Better Sense of the Physical World.
    Wellington: Learning Media
  • Anderson, K. (1998) “Amazing Sound”. Connected (2) 1998.
  • Bonallack, J. (1985). “Make a Bottle Organ”. School Journal 3 (2) 1985.
  • Evans, B. (2006). “The GHB”. School Journal 3 (2) 2006.
  • Glensor, T. (1996). “Listening through Your Teeth”. School Journal 2 (4) 1996.
  • Kaa, O. (2001) “Make a Pūrerehua” School Journal 1 (1) 2001.
  • MacGregor, J “The Call of the Conch”. School Journal 3 (2) 2010.
  • Nunns, R. (1997). Make your own Kōauau”. School Journal 4 (2) 1997.
  • Parker, J. (1994). “Singing Trees”. School Journal 2 (1) 1994.
  • Temara, T.(2009). “Taonga Puoro”. School Journal 2 (2) 2009.
  • Learning Media (1996). “Musical Cake Tins’. School Journal 1 (3) 1987.
  • Walker, V. “Paper Plate Tambourine”. School Journal 3 (2) 1985.

e-asTTle Writing Indicators

For each writing purpose, the writing indicators comprise:

  • progress indicators developed to help teachers understand and evaluate their students’ progress and achievement in writing (scoring rubric)
  • annotated examples
  • a selected glossary of terms

e-asTTle Teacher Resources

Teacher Resource Support

Online Teacher and Student Writing 

Other Websites

Ruby Sings the Blues book, postcard and science activities

Printing this unit:

If you are not able to access the zipped files, please download the following individual files.

Published on: 20 Jan 2011