Can You Hear Me?

Can You Hear Me? lesson plan

What wonderful item did Alexander Graham Bell invent? History and technology come together in this recycled construction.

  • 1.

    Many areas of the world like to claim Alexander Graham Bell as their own. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland; lived in London, Ontario, and Boston, Massachusetts; and vacationed in Nova Scotia. He truly was a man of the world---who was primarily interested in helping people who could not hear well. The whole world benefited from his dedication.

  • 2.

    Find out what challenges Aleck faced before he got to that fateful March 10, 1876, when he said into a mouthpiece "Mr. Watson – Come here – I want to see you" and was heard through a receiver in the other room by his partner. Here's one way to build an authentic model of that first telephone. You can use your own ideas, too. Look at pictures because Bell's model didn't look anything like today's phones.

  • 3.

    With black construction paper, roll two cone shapes. Glue the paper's edges with Crayola® School Glue. Air dry.

  • 4.

    Glue the two small ends into each other to create an hourglass shape for the speaker mouthpiece. Air dry.

  • 5.

    To make the membrane transmitter, crimp up the edges of a paper plate. Glue into a dish shape. Air dry.

  • 6.

    Cover your art area with newspaper. Paint the crimped outer edge of the membrane with gold Crayola Premier Tempera and Paint Brushes. Paint several craft sticks gold as well. Air dry.

  • 7.

    Cover the outer bottom of the membrane with a light color of Crayola Washable Multicultural Paint. Air dry.

  • 8.

    For the reed receiver and battery, cut a recycled paper towel roll into two sections: one a spool-sized section and a slightly longer one (to fit between the membrane and a support stick holding the battery).

  • 9.

    Cut the longer cardboard roll section in half down the middle. Tightly roll up and glue into a small pole. Paint these the same colors as materials used in the real instrument. Air dry.

  • 10.

    Cut a recycled black foam produce tray into a mouthpiece.

  • 11.

    Connect all pieces to painted craft sticks; poke sticks through the mouthpiece at one end, followed by the transmitter, and the battery hanging on the pole through a support stick. Push other collage materials through foam for electrical connectors. Use c


  • Students learn about the life of Alexander Graham Bell.
  • Students study the technology of early communication instruments and gain an understanding of the symbiotic relationship of inventions.
  • Students design and construct a historically authentic 3-D model of the first telephone, using problem solving during the fabrication process.


  • Write a skit to recreate the famous moment when telephone technology first worked. Present it along with other snapshots of moments of discovery that changed the world.
  • Learn more about Aleck's deaf mother and the work his father did involving speech. Analyze how those early experiences may have influenced his life's work. Think about your early experiences and imagine how those will affect your adult life.
  • In his lifetime (1847-1922), Aleck Bell was granted 18 solo patents plus 12 for shared work. Research some of his other inventions, including the hydrofoil. In what else was he interested?
  • For older students: Bell founded the National Geographic Society in 1888. What are the similarities between inventors and explorers? What about teachers? Bell always listed his profession as "teacher of the deaf." In what ways are these professions connected?
  • Debate the argument that inventions happen in a laboratory. What is the effect of other inventions upon the process of discovery? Could the telephone have been invented without telegraph technology? What other inventors helped to make Bell's invention pat