Bite Size Physics: Energy and Waves Bite

Jim Mueller
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.


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The Bite Size Physics website uses humor and simple hands-on activities to teach physics principles. This lesson gives a background lesson on waves, followed by several simple experiments to teach transverse and longitudinal waves, frequency, wavelength, and amplitude. The activities use only a rope, a slinky and colored tape to teach the concept, so they would be easy for the classroom teacher to reproduce for his or her students.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
- none -
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

4-PS4-1 Develop a model of waves to describe patterns in terms of amplitude and wavelength and that waves can cause objects to move.

Clarification Statement: Examples of models could include diagrams, analogies, and physical models using wire to illustrate wavelength and amplitude of waves.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include interference effects, electromagnetic waves, non-periodic waves, or quantitative models of amplitude and wavelength.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This lesson includes information about transverse and longitudinal waves, which should be omitted at this grade level.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
As you are making the model of the wave, discuss the fact that this is a model of a wave and not the real thing. Discuss why we would use a model instead of a real wave (Example: the ocean is too big to fit into the classroom) and the limitations of the model (Example: if the two students do not work together, a wave will not be created). Remind students that waves can be found in sound and in light, also, and that they follow this same wave pattern.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The information at the end of Experiment #2 gives very good explanations for how amplitude determines the energy in an ocean wave, the loudness of a sound, or the brightness of a light. The teacher could introduce this same type of comparison relating wavelength to ocean waves, sound and light to bring it all together after Experiment #3.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Have the students illustrate and label the wave patterns in their science journals. Relate the different wave amplitudes and wavelengths to light and sound waves through class discussions.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The models in these activities allow the students to examine wavelength and amplitude. Extending the activities to allow the students to design and create their own model of wavelength and amplitude would fully address the standard.,

  • Instructional Supports: The activities in this resource are straightforward and use simple materials, but they would require either the teacher giving direct instruction for each activity or the teacher designing a step-by-step lab sheet for the activities. The website has a lot of information that is above a fourth grade level (such as transverse and longitudinal waves), so it the students would need this information edited to bring it to the proper level. Remedial and enrichment activities are not addressed in this activity.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: A formative assessment, such as having the students answer the question, 'How do you think light and sound travel from place to place?' in their science notebook, would be valuable to this unit. Through observing the labs and then discussing the observations with the class, the teacher can determine if the students are understanding the material. Using science notebooks and having the students illustrate and label the waves would bring another level of progress monitoring to this activity.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -