What Is A Wave?

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Students will explore the concept of a wave and learn basic vocabulary.

Big Idea

Students will understand what a wave is and the terminology to use when describing a wave.

RAP - Review and Preview

5 minutes

I call students to the gathering area. I tell them that we have learned about light already this year, but we are going to add a little more to our understanding of light and how they travel.

Guided Investigation

30 minutes

I have students sit back-to-back. One member of the pair sits facing the screen, the other facing away. I play a YouTube video of the Queen waving, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJQRTQJL7jQ silently. The student watching the screen must describe to his/her partner what is going on and the partner must try to mimic it. I wander between pairs and tell students when they have it correct.

I call students into a circle and we discuss how difficult it was to describe what the queen was doing accurately. I introduce the vocabulary:

  1. Frequency: The number of times something happens in a given time.
  2. Amplitude: The maximum movement from a position of rest.

Now that we know this vocabulary, we can describe that the queen waves with high frequency and low amplitude.

Before we move on, I also introduce the vocabulary term, wave.

  1. Wave: repeated oscillation around a point.

What exactly does this mean? This means that waves move from a point of rest to a maximum point and then back again.

I tell students that there are two kinds of waves. We are going to make these different waves using a slinky. I have students sit in pairs facing each other. They each take an end of the slinky and stretch it out on the floor (this works best on floor and not carpet).

To Make Longitudinal Waves:

  1. Once student holds the slinky still against his/her chest.
  2. The other student holds and pulls several coils towards her and lets go.
  3. The wave travels back and forth along the slinky.

To Make Transverse Waves:

  1. One student holds his slinky still on the floor.
  2. The other student moves his slinky back and forth, sideways on the floor, quickly.
  3. A transverse wave is made.

I gather students back into a circle and we talk about the different waves. I tell students that sound waves are longitudinal waves and water waves are an example of a transverse wave.

Now that students know how to make different waves, I ask them to make high and low frequency waves and also with large and small amplitude.

Wrap Up

10 minutes

I ask students to turn to a shoulder partner on their right, and describe what they observed today in the wave simulations. They also ask each other what other things might create waves.