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Shake and Listen

Compare the sounds made by different objects inside similar containers.


  • plastic containers with lids (for example, food storage containers, yogurt containers, vitamin bottles)
  • 6–8 identical opaque containers with tightly fitting lids (for example: film canisters or yogurt containers)
  • small objects to put inside containers (for example: dried beans, beads, paper clips, binder clips, pompoms, buttons, pencil-tip erasers, rubber bands, packing peanuts, cotton balls, tissue paper, etc.)

Key Science Concepts

  • Different objects make different sounds.
  • An action has to take place for a sound to occur.
  • A sound becomes louder when the force of the action that is creating the sound is increased and softer, or quieter, when the force is decreased.


Encourage children to use descriptive words such as same, different, loud, louder, loudest, soft, softer, softest. Help them describe what they are doing with words such as listen, compare, predict, notice, discover.


Tell children that today they will be comparing and contrasting different types of shakers.

  1. Hand containers to three children and invite them to each choose one small object to put inside their containers. Have classmates predict which object will make the loudest sound and which will make the softest sound. Write down the predictions. Let the three children put the lids on their containers and shake. Ask:
    • Were their predictions correct, or were there some surprises?
  2. Have the three children open their containers and put more of the same objects inside. Have them predict how the sounds will be different. Then have the three children close their containers and shake. Any surprises?
  3. Give containers to another three children and ask them to choose the object that they think they can make the quietest sound with. Let children predict which will be quietest and then listen while the three children shake their containers. Ask them,
    • Do you think we could tell what was inside a shaker just by listening to the sound? How would we know?
  4. Display the identical opaque containers. Let children choose one type of small object (paper clips, beads, dried beans, etc.) to put in a container. Help them put a lid on the container, then shake and listen to the sound. Make a matching shaker by putting the same number of the same kind of object in a second container. Cover and shake. Ask,
    • Do the two shakers make the same sound or different sounds? Why do you think that is? How would you describe the sound that (paper clips) make?
  5. Have the group make three to four pairs of matching shakers. Mix them up and challenge children to shake and find the matching pairs. Then invite them to guess what is inside each pair of shakers, based on the sound.

Reflect and Share

As children are exploring and discussing the sounds their shakers make, encourage them to think about what discoveries they might want to share with the group. You may want to jot down their words and set aside a special shaker they have made so they can demonstrate it to the group.


Children may also want to document their different shakers by drawing pictures of them and their contents, and rank them according to loudest and softest, highest and lowest, or favorite and least-favorite sound.