Highlights from our light and sound unit

It’s actually several months since I taught this Year Three unit, but I was thinking about how much I enjoyed it and realised that I never wrote a blog post about it, so here it is! The unit was an exciting combination of science and art, allowing students to apply their understanding in creative ways.

Central Idea: Understanding how light and sound work enables people to use them to create and express dramatic effect

Lines of Inquiry:

  1. How light and sound are used to express dramatic effect
  2. How light and sound work
  3. Creating dramatic effect using light and sound

Related Concepts: Light, Sound, Effect, Creativity

As I look back on this unit, here are some of the highlights that spring to mind:

Sound provocation

I picked up this trick from Manish Jain at the Toddle Learning Jam. It raised a lot of great questions and a lot of laughter! My students really struggled to describe the change in sound. Initial suggestions were that the volume changed, or that the sound somehow became softer. Then, a student who plays the piano made the connection to pitch. We followed it up with a Mystery Science lesson on sound waves. But how does this straw instrument work? That’s a fun inquiry on its own!

To make your own straw instrument, you first need to flatten one end and cut it into a little triangle shape. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials if you’re interested. Please be careful when using scissors so close to your face!

Foley artists

Foley is a filmmaking technique for adding audio in post-production. With excellent timing and attention to detail, Foley artists create sound effects using everyday objects. The audience should not notice the inauthentic sounds because the picture and audio appear to match seamlessly.

My students downloaded royalty-free video clips from Pexels and attempted to add their own sound effects using Foley techniques. Using iMovie, they detached and deleted the original audio and added their own Foley effects instead. I also showed them how to do the Picture in Picture overlay, so keep watching the videos above to see how my students made those sounds!


When planning this unit, Attraction came to mind immediately as artists who use light and sound to excellent effect. For those of you who don’t know, Attraction is a shadow theatre company that won Britain’s Got Talent in 2013. Attraction performances famously pull at the heartstrings!

My students were blown away by the performances and I enjoyed watching their jaws drop and certain moments! They analysed the performances and thought deeply about the creative choices that went into them. To be honest, my students didn’t really understand why the audience was crying. The emotional impact was somewhat lost on them (perhaps it would work better with older students), but they were still inspired by the artistry!

MERGE Explorer

Using Merge Cubes and the MERGE Explorer app, students were able to visualise and manipulate sound waves. They enjoyed experimenting with the amplitude, wavelength and frequency, and hearing how those changes affected the sounds.

After, we allowed the students to play with the Morse Code activity. We thought that it would be a bit of fun at the end of the lesson, but we underestimated its value – students were obsessed with it!

micro:bit and LED strip

Firstly, there were some unexpected copyright issues with this Instagram post because the laptop in the video is playing music by Ed Sheeran and AC/DC. It seems to work for some people but not others (I think it depends on your location).

For those of you who can’t play it, the LED light strip is connected to micro:bit V2 and is coded to sync with the music. This was an exciting technology integration project with the help of one of our Technology and Innovation Coaches, Fred Yue. What a cool example of how light and sound can work together!

Digital storytelling

Finally, the students used light and sound in intentional ways to create dramatic videos. Beyond that expectation, the task was wide open and allowed students to make many creative choices independently. I loved how wonderfully different they all were!

As you can probably tell, we had a lot of fun in this unit! If you teach a similar unit, I hope that this blog post offers some useful ideas. If you have any other lesson ideas, please share them in the comment section below.

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