Simon Says Big Amplitude, Small Wavelength!

Frank Burkholder, Abigail Watrous, and Janet Yowell
Type Category
Instructional Materials
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.



Found deep within this multi-unit document are directions for playing the game Simon Says! with waves. This simple simulation allows the students an opportunity to move around and participate in a guided model of amplitude and wavelength. The students create kinesthetic models of “waves” of varying amplitudes and wavelengths by walking and jumping.

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 appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
To fully address the PE, students would need to be able to develop their own model, rather than following the teacher’s directions to make the model. This activity could help strengthen student understanding of the required vocabulary, providing the students the foundation to create their own model. An interesting side effect of this activity is that students begin to understand that frequency and wavelength are inversely proportional. Although the vocabulary is not age appropriate, fourth grade students completing the activity may discover and discuss that if they take steps with a large amplitude, that they cannot take as many of steps in a given amount of time, but if they take steps with a small amplitude, that they can take many more steps in that same time period.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Although students are not developing the model of the wavelength or amplitude, they are demonstrating understanding of the terms wavelength and amplitude by participating in the model. The teacher could extend this activity by asking the students to come up with other ways that they could model wavelength and amplitude, which would then more fully address the Practice.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
While this activity does not address the different types of waves, it does address amplitude and wavelength.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Be sure to verbally reinforce the concept that the students are modeling the patterns of real waves as the students are participating in the Simon Says! game.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: A strong fit for helping students to understand the terms wavelength and amplitude, and a good foundation for understanding what a wave model might look like. The teacher would need to move to the next step of having the students create their own model and introduce the concept that waves make things move to fulfill the requirements of this standard.

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson plan is rather complicated, so I would recommend pulling out the Simon Says! Game and using it as a introductory hook for the lesson. By getting out of their seats and making large and small amplitudes and frequencies, the students understand the concept so much more clearly than if the teacher drew it on the chalk/smartboard.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: By watching the student’s movements as they follow the Simon Says! instructions, it is very easy for the teacher to determine if the student understands the meaning of the terms ‘amplitude’ and ‘wavelength’.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -