Sound Wave
Light Sound and Waves

Selecting and developing activities for hearing things

Classroom Activity for 5-11 Supporting Physics Teaching

Suggestions for activities to aid the teaching of 'hearing things' based on the Physics Narrative and the Teaching Guidance.

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 Narratives to find these lines of thinking worked out and then look in the Classroom Activities 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.

IOP DOMAINS Physics CPD programme

New videos on forces

Our first collection of videos gives teachers and coaches of physics a preview of the training we offer ahead of this term's live support sessions.

Find out more