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written by the The PhET Project and Trish Loeblein
This PhET "Gold Star Winner" is an instructional unit on the topic of Waves, created by a high school teacher.   It was designed to be used with interactive simulations developed by PhET, the Physics Education Technology project.  Included are detailed lessons for integrating labs, simulations, demonstrations, and concept questions to introduce students to properties and behaviors of waves. Specific topics include frequency and wavelength, sound, the wave nature of light, geometric optics, resonance, wave interference, Doppler Effect, refraction, thin lenses, wave addition, and more.  Activities are aligned to AAAS Benchmarks.
Editor's Note: This could be a very useful resource for teachers in grades 8-12, allowing them to quickly customize a module which meets new content standards on Waves, outlined in the NextGen Science Framework. In its entirety, the unit is 4 weeks in duration. However, teachers of Grades 8-9 physical science could easily pull out 4-5 lessons addressing fundamental wave properties and the basics of refraction/reflection.  All lessons include objectives and teaching tips, plus "clicker" or warm-up questions, worksheets, and unit tests with answer keys.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Modeling
- Geometrical Optics
Oscillations & Waves
- Oscillations
= Simple Harmonic Motion
= Springs and Oscillators
- Wave Motion
= Doppler Effect
= Interference and Diffraction
= Longitudinal Pulses and Waves
= Transverse Pulses and Waves
= Wave Properties of Sound
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Upper Undergraduate
- Collection
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Best practice
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Laboratory
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Unit of Instruction
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- Laboratory
- Assessment
- New teachers
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© 2006 The PhET Project
Fourier, Fourier Analysis, PHET, Phet, clicker questions, homework problems, labs, lesson plans, sound waves, wave superposition, waves
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created April 17, 2008 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 18, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 31, 2008

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M2. Something can be "seen" when light waves emitted or reflected by it enter the eye—just as something can be "heard" when sound waves from it enter the ear.
  • 6-8: 4F/M4. Vibrations in materials set up wavelike disturbances that spread away from the source. Sound and earthquake waves are examples. These and other waves move at different speeds in different materials.
  • 6-8: 4F/M5. Human eyes respond to only a narrow range of wavelengths of electromagnetic waves-visible light. Differences of wavelength within that range are perceived as differences of color.
  • 6-8: 4F/M6. Light acts like a wave in many ways. And waves can explain how light behaves.
  • 6-8: 4F/M7. Wave behavior can be described in terms of how fast the disturbance spreads, and in terms of the distance between successive peaks of the disturbance (the wavelength).
  • 9-12: 4F/H5ab. The observed wavelength of a wave depends upon the relative motion of the source and the observer. If either is moving toward the other, the observed wavelength is shorter; if either is moving away, the wavelength is longer.
  • 9-12: 4F/H6ab. Waves can superpose on one another, bend around corners, reflect off surfaces, be absorbed by materials they enter, and change direction when entering a new material. All these effects vary with wavelength.
  • 9-12: 4F/H6c. The energy of waves (like any form of energy) can be changed into other forms of energy.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
  • 9-12: 11B/H3. The usefulness of a model can be tested by comparing its predictions to actual observations in the real world. But a close match does not necessarily mean that other models would not work equally well or better.
11D. Scale
  • 6-8: 11D/M3. Natural phenomena often involve sizes, durations, and speeds that are extremely small or extremely large. These phenomena may be difficult to appreciate because they involve magnitudes far outside human experience.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

High School — Functions (9-12)

Interpreting Functions (9-12)
  • F-IF.4 For a function that models a relationship between two quantities, interpret key features of graphs and tables in terms of the quantities, and sketch graphs showing key features given a verbal description of the relationship.?
  • F-IF.5 Relate the domain of a function to its graph and, where applicable, to the quantitative relationship it describes.?
  • F-IF.6 Calculate and interpret the average rate of change of a function (presented symbolically or as a table) over a specified interval. Estimate the rate of change from a graph.
  • F-IF.7.a Graph linear and quadratic functions and show intercepts, maxima, and minima.
Building Functions (9-12)
  • F-BF.3 Identify the effect on the graph of replacing f(x) by f(x) + k, k f(x), f(kx), and f(x + k) for specific values of k (both positive and negative); find the value of k given the graphs. Experiment with cases and illustrate an explanation of the effects on the graph using technology. Include recognizing even and odd functions from their graphs and algebraic expressions for them.
Trigonometric Functions (9-12)
  • F-TF.5 Choose trigonometric functions to model periodic phenomena with specified amplitude, frequency, and midline.?

This resource is part of 2 Physics Front Topical Units.

Topic: Wave Energy
Unit Title: Teaching About Waves and Wave Energy

This is a unique, standards-based unit of instruction on Waves created by a high school teacher to be used with PhET interactive simulations on wave motion.  It includes comprehensive lesson plans, lecture presentations, and assessments with answer keys.  Be sure not to miss the "Clicker Questions" -- great introductory material. NOTE: Only registered PhET users can access teacher-contributed materials, but registration is free and easy.

Link to Unit:

Topic: Wave Energy
Unit Title: Wave Properties: Frequency, Amplitude, Period, Phase

This exemplary unit of instruction was developed by a high school physics teacher to be used with PhET simulations.  It includes six complete lesson plans that explore wave properties, the physics of sound, Fourier analysis, and wave phenomena such as reflection and superposition.  Most of the lessons require that the simulation be open on a browser while students work. Don't miss the Clicker Questions, which can be readily downloaded for classroom use.  Entire unit will take 2-3 weeks, but components may be pulled out separately. NOTE: This resource is available only to PhET registered users, but registration is free and easy.

Link to Unit:
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The PhET Project and T. Loeblein, (2006), WWW Document, (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3023).
The PhET Project and T. Loeblein, PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit (2006), <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3023>.
APA Format
The PhET Project, & Loeblein, T. (2008, March 31). PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3023
Chicago Format
The PhET Project, and Trish Loeblein. PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit. March 31, 2008. https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3023 (accessed 22 June 2024).
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The PhET Project, and Trish Loeblein. PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit. 2006. 31 Mar. 2008. 22 June 2024 <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3023>.
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@misc{ Author = "The PhET Project and Trish Loeblein", Title = {PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {22 June 2024}, Month = {March 31, 2008}, Year = {2006} }
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%Q The PhET Project %A Trish Loeblein %T PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit %D March 31, 2008 %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3023 %O application/pdf

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%0 Electronic Source %A The PhET Project, %A Loeblein, Trish %D March 31, 2008 %T PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit %V 2024 %N 22 June 2024 %8 March 31, 2008 %9 application/pdf %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3023

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PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit:

Supplements PhET Simulation: Sound

One of the PhET simulations which the author intended to be used with this particular unit of instruction for high school physics students.

relation by Caroline Hall
Is Part Of PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Browse Activities

This is the full collection of teacher-created lesson plans and labs designed to be used with specific PhET simulations.  Each resource has been approved by the PhET project, and may be freely downloaded.

relation by Bruce Mason

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