Category Archives: Today In Class

Science & Pitch with Sprinkles On Top


Have you seen this?



I saw this video about a year ago and became obsessed with making a Chladni plate. The problem is Chladni plates are actually pretty complicated to make and I’m not all that mechanically inclined.  But I kept thinking, “There has to be a easier way to make one.”

And guess what …

I found a way.

Here’s what I used …


I bought the putty, steel sheet, and speaker on Amazon.  Here is exactly what I ordered…


The steel sheet is 12 gauge, which is important because you need it to be solid yet thin enough to vibrate. The speaker needs to be a vibrating speaker with a flat surface for mounting the metal plate. There were more expensive speakers but I decided to start cheap and it did the job.

The assembly – if you can call it that – is very simple. Put a dab of putty in EXACTLY the center of the metal plate, then position the center of the speaker on the putty. Getting it centered is the most important (and the hardest part) of this.  If the plate isn’t centered everything will run off to one side.  You’ll be able to tell if it’s centered in the next step.

Now you need to generate pure tones. I used this This website, although there are others and even apps. You could also use a tuner that plays pitches.

Pure Tone Generator

Connect your speaker to the pure tone generator using an aux cord or blue tooth.  Turn it on and put some sprinkles on the metal plate. Most examples I’ve watched of chladni plates use salt or sugar but I found the white material difficult to see. Colored sugar sprinkles were much easier to see, but I recommend using the sugar crystal sprinkles, NOT the tiny round ones as they will roll right off. I put trash bags under the speaker and pieces of construction paper so I could easily catch what fall off the plate and reuse it.

Now, just start experimenting and have fun! You’ll need to adjust the tones up and down to find frequencies that produce a good vibration – not all of them do. As you do this, you’ll see if your plate is balanced. If it’s not the sprinkles will all drift to one side as they vibrate.  If it IS balanced, you’ll get the amazing designs. Just keep adjusting until you get it right.

Here’s a clip of what ours was able to do once it was pretty well balanced.

Aside from this just being cool to watch (which you might want to do to start with), you can use this for science and music concepts. Pitch and frequency is an obvious concept to associate with the tones.  I found it interesting that when the designs are formed the sprinkles go to the places that DON’T vibrate. Also, as the frequency (and the number of vibrations) goes up, the designs become more intricate.

My students often confuse volume and pitch. This experiment gives a good demonstration between the two and how they are related but not the same.  When the pitch is very low and the vibrations are very slow, the tone sounds quiet – perhaps because such a small strain is being placed on your ear drums. You notice, however, that the pitch and frequency will get so high that it makes your ears hurt – not because it’s so loud but because it’s making your eardrum vibrate so fast.

Finally, I don’t want to discount the pure artistic value of the designs that are created. Recreating them or taking photographs could be an amazing art project.

I’m sure your collective knowledge and creativity can come up with even more concepts to be discussed as you do this experiment. Please share what you try with your students!

Teaching the Elements of Music: Texture


Teaching texture to young students (and even older ones) can be difficult. I try to help IMG_2699students create meaning by making sure they have a visual model to go along with the sound.

This year I decided to get students involved in making a visual model by using …. wait for it … PASTA! It worked out pretty well with minimal pasta remnants left on the floor.  At the bottom of this post is the slide show I created with visual and listening examples of Monophonic, Homophonic, and Polyphonic texture.  After several years of teaching texture, I’ve narrowed it down to the basics that I’d like students to understand at this point in their music education.

I made up bags of 3 kinds of pasta – elbow, bow ties, and penne.  Of course, you can use whatever you have available, but I’d advise against any long pasta like spaghetti because it breaks so easily.  We did our models on the floor but you could glue them onto paper to keep as examples. Here’s what my students came up with:

From left to right are examples of monophonic, homophonic, and polyphonic.

Having students create these in “real time” allowed me to correct any misunderstandings they might have had.

Feel free to use the slides in the link below – or create ones that work better for you! There is even an bonus link to a fun review Kahoot!

Texture Slideshow



Sell a Piece of Music!


My students spent the last few weeks learning about the elements of music. We IMG_2851practiced identifying and describing things like tempo, dynamics, pitch, tonality, timbre, and texture. After lots of activities to reinforce their learning, they demonstrated their knowledge by completing a listening analysis of 4 pieces of music (Classic Rock, Jazz, Classical, and a song of their choice) and writing a review of one of the pieces.  To wrap it all up, they used their creativity to create an advertisement to
“sell” one of the pieces of music!

For the analysis, I gave students a choice of 5 songs in each category. To  give students some independence in their listening, I provided QR codes for each song. They were able to preview each piece and pick the one they wanted to analyze.  The review they wrote for one was meant to show their understanding of what they heard and their ability to apply appropriate vocabulary. These activities combined took 4-5 days to complete.

IMG_2859The advertisement  was fun because students got to share about the music and be as outrageous in their ad as they wanted to be.  We warmed up by watching a couple of “as seen on tv” product commercials and clips of infomercials.  We also looked at types of advertising techniques. You can find many websites that have student centered information on this – I used this one. Your ELA teachers might cover this as part of their standards so it may be an opportunity to collaborate! Once you start talking about these kids will come up with all kinds of current examples.

Students created a print ad (on poster or a google slide) or a script for a live commercial. The ad had to describe at least 3 elements of music in the song and use at least  advertising techniques. They had a great time with who could come up with the most outrageous claims!  The ads took about 3 days to complete (including the introduction of the advertising techniques.) You might need one more class period depending on how many students choose to present live commercials. If you have the technology the live commercials could be recorded and played back to the class, too.


We displayed many of these in the hallway with the QR codes so everyone in the school could check out some new music!


Remember that this is how I did things THIS TIME in my classroom. I’m

Here are links to all the materials used in these lessons:

Introduction to Project

QR Codes for Listening

Listening Analysis Grid

Music Review

Review Rubric

Advertisement Directions

Advertisement Rubric