Sound Wave
Light, Sound and Waves

Selecting and developing activities for hearing things

Classroom Activity for 5-11 Supporting Physics Teaching

Teacher Tip: Based on the Physics Narrative and the Teaching and Learning Issues

Ideas to emphasise here

  • the physical aspect of the transmission of sound
  • the source-medium-detector model
  • the spreading of the vibrations
  • the to and fro vibrations
  • prepare the ground for frequency and amplitude being the fundamental characteristics
  • vibrating objects, as sources and detectors
  • reinforce the source-medium-detector model
  • represent the vibrations of the source
  • represent the vibrations in the medium
  • represent the vibrations of the detector
  • account for reductions in intensity with distance from the source
  • link delays in hearing sounds to the trip time of propagation from the source
  • show sounds travelling through solids and liquids, as well as gases

Teacher Tip: Work through the Physics Narrative to find these lines of thinking worked out and then look in the Teaching Approaches for some examples of activities.

Strategies for supporting learning

  • put the source-medium-detector model to use
  • connect vibrating objects to travelling vibrations
  • connect hearing to the source-medium-detector model
  • separate the to and fro movement of the particles that forms the vibration from the propagation of the vibration, which is also a movement
  • showing large-scale, slow vibrations producing a sound
  • emphasising that all sounds have a source
  • tracing the chain from source to detector, via medium, often
  • explore the range of hearing, along both the amplitude and frequency axes
  • connect human hearing to what other species can hear
  • ensure that the need for particles as a medium is always there
  • link each sound heard back to the source, via the medium

Teacher Tip: These are all related to findings about children's ideas from research. The teaching activities will provide some suggestions. So will colleagues, near and far.

Avoid these

  • using specious energy descriptions
  • drawing or showing transverse waveforms
  • asserting that sound is a wave without clarifying explanation of the idea of a wave – this is hard
  • showing waveforms on an oscilloscope or computer
  • introducing wavelength

Teacher Tip: These difficulties are distilled from: the research findings; the practice of well-connected teachers with expertise; issues intrinsic to representing the physics well.

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