My best lesson - Cause a ripple in science class with wave poetry

24th October 2014 at 01:00

When most students think about waves, they think about the sea. The challenge for a science teacher is to encourage them to consider other wave phenomena, too.

I start by getting students to come up with words associated with waves by writing a cinquain - a five-line poem. The first line is the one-word title (in this case "waves"); the second consists of two verbs; the third has three adjectives; the fourth, a four-word sentence; and the fifth line is one word summarising the poem. An example might be:

Waves
Rolling, spreading
Fast, high, long
Small ones are ripples
Splash!

This activity gets students thinking about waves as being more than simply curls of water that can be used for surfing.

Next, I start building their knowledge of wave types. I hold up examples and ask, "What makes this a wave?"

You can make these very visual - for example, by showing light waves from a laser pointer and using talcum powder to make the laser visible. Students love this.

Then I take the class out to my "corridor of physics" and ask them to line up facing the back of the person ahead of them. I stand at the front of the line and ask the student behind me to copy my movements and the student behind them to copy them, and so on. We do a Mexican wave. Then I send four shapes down the wave, which spell out YMCA. Even young people in 2014 know this song.

Back in the classroom, we start a discussion about exactly how we can define a wave and the different types that exist.

Simon Porter teaches for international schools organisation Nord Anglia Education

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