Energy and Thermal Physics

An energy ladder

Classroom Activity for 11-14 Supporting Physics Teaching

What the Activity is for

The purpose of this activity is to enable pupils to build up some idea of the size of the joule unit of energy.

What to Prepare

  • a blank copy of the ladder, A3 or larger

Support sheet

What Happens During this Activity

Place the ladder on the wall, with a few key values on it, then populate it with energies to give a feeling for the size of the joule and the range of energies connected with human activity. You might like to draw attention to the rather special times scale up the side where each interval represents a factor of 10 in the quantity of energy.

You might direct the pupils to provide the examples, perhaps researched for homework. If you do this the pupils will need help converting values from calories (1 kilocalorie (kcal) is 4.2 kilojoule) or kilowatt-hours (1 kilowatt hour is 3,600,000 joule).


Download the support sheet / student worksheet for this activity.

appears in the relation ΔEΔt>ℏ/2 ΔQ=mcΔθ E=hf E ∝ A^2
has the special case Photon Energy
is used in analyses relating to Emission/Absorption Spectra Phase Change
2023 IOP Awards

Teachers of Physics Awards

Recognising and celebrating outstanding contributions to the field of physics education.

Learn more