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  • Key Stage 3
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  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Practical work
Topic: Sound

Fingerphone is a tiny mobile that looks like a watch. Amazingly, it relies on sound waves travelling through the user's wrist and finger bones to the ear.

Pupils test out the theory behind Fingerphone by doing a very simple, short experiment comparing sound transmission through solids and gases. They then annotate a diagram in an instruction manual to show how it works.

Published: 4th January 2005
Reviews & Comments: 14

Try the activity

You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

11-14 (KS3) Sound and Hearing QCA 8L
Transmission, production and reception of sound.
Vibrations that make sound are transferred at different speeds through different mediums. This can be explained by the particle model. When sound travels it transfers energy.

Running the activity

This activity can be done as a starter, or as a main activity if plenty of time is allowed for discussion.

Page 1 introduces the Fingerphone. It also has instructions for an experiment for pupils to do in pairs (sitting at their tables). Each pair needs paper to tabulate the results, but no other equipment. You could display the results on the board for final addition - pupils should hopefully conclude that the ear with the finger heard better (got more ticks) than the other one. Page 1 can be printed onto transparency or projected.

Page 2 provides details about the working of the Fingerphone in the form of a page from an instruction manual. You might like to discuss the energy changes involved at each stage. This can be projected or printed and photocopied for pupils.

Page 3 is a diagram of Fingerphone from the 'instruction manual' for pupils to annotate. Each pupil or pair will need a copy of this page.

The technology behind Fingerphone links nicely to -
Possible applications for people in space/on the moon/ on Mars
Sonar - sound in water
Vibrations from trains travelling through steel rails
Speed of sound in different media

News links

Simple explanation of how Fingerphone works

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

Fingerphone review

May 8th, 2009

3 Star

Reviewer: Adam Little

worst polluted cities

Sep 24th, 2008

4 Star

I used this website with year 9 mixed ability as part of a using chemistry module. Students were fully engaged and interested in the information . The language used was quite difficult but students asked sensible questions and produced a good summary of projects involvinf air pollution and sulphur dioxide. The plenary consisted of a discussion about why people would live there and whether 'rich nations' had a duty of care to help

Reviewer: Kelly Susan

finger phone

Jun 19th, 2008

4 Star

Great fun with my bottom set Yr8 for sound. It was used as a pleanary at the end of a lesson on sound traveling through diff. mediums. A challenging bunch but they enjoyed this.

Reviewer: susan humphreys

Fingerphone review

Nov 26th, 2007

5 Star

Reviewer: Andrew Jones

Fingerphone review

Dec 5th, 2006

4 Star

I used this as a quick starter activity with my top set year 8 class. They not only enjoyed it but it provided some relevant data that we used to talk about the reliability of data and how to improve an investigation (stretching it out into a quite long starter activity. But well worth the effort.)
Our Languages AST was observing the lesson and couldn't believe the quality (and quantity) of resources available through the upd8 site- and felt a bit envious (to say the least)

Reviewer: Andy Molloy


Oct 1st, 2006

5 Star

this was an easy activity to carry out and understand, that stimulated discussion about the topic and the experimental design. I would reccomend that it is at least worth a try.

Reviewer: Alastair Hilton


May 22nd, 2006

4 Star

I loved this idea! THe links to the website were fab, as was the CBBC video clip (although slightly poor quality). The studetns were very engaged by this point!

They thought it was a joke at first, then as i explained the science behind it, they were amazed! Think this would work well over a double lesson, to give sufficient time to cover all aspects.

The actual experiment gave varying results, although they enjoyed sticking their fingers in their ears and banging on the tables!! (this was more effective than the suggested 'scratching'). Thank you :)

Reviewer: Rysia Kaminski


May 9th, 2006

4 Star

I used this activity with a bottom set year 8, with a large number of pupils with SEN. I found that the first part of the activity and the activity sheet were great at getting the pupils engaged. I got results which i helped them to do some analysis on and we have yet to conclude our - suggested improvements or potential drawbacks of the phone. The activity sheets for the second part were slightly too high a level, but i managed to work around the basic principles in this sheet - recommend trying it!

Reviewer: Colin Devlin


Jan 4th, 2006

5 Star

Great idea, simply packaged.

Add some metal coathangers on strings, poke finger & string in ear and hit coathanger with metal object. Show that sound travels great in solids.

Reviewer: Glen Gilchrist


Jun 22nd, 2005

4 Star

Activity began with a good experiment to show that you can actually hear things through your finger. Children enjoyed the whole activity and really began thinking about possible problems and advantages of this new phone. CBBC article from links provided more little bits of information about the phone.

Reviewer: Jennifer Calvert

finger phone

Jun 8th, 2005

4 Star

The activity sheet began with a simple experiment involving the conduction of sound through a solid. the students were keen to try this out and were actively engaged - brilliant.
The upper group of students were ready for more data / technical information than was supplied but it was a good starting point and the discussion that followed was really interesting. My year 8 group (middle set ) really enoyed it and it even worked well as "set work" when i was out of school for a meeting! Thankyou.

Reviewer: heather west

Finger Phone

Apr 15th, 2005

3 Star

Good way of showing the science applied to life. Pupils found that their experimental results didnt match the theory and thus the exercise became pointless for them. Reinforced theory of sound being transmitted in solids better than air.

Reviewer: Niall Boyle


Mar 30th, 2005

4 Star

Children enjoyed something new, they understood the topic well. this was a high ability set - the activity was pitched at this ability and would require plenty of foundation work for lower ability students.

Reviewer: Jennifer Wallington

Fingerphone review

Mar 21st, 2005

5 Star

Kids really enjoyed it and really understood the topic. Brighter

Reviewer: zOE Wood