Waves for 11 Year Olds and GCSE Required Practical

Robin and Thomas busk through teaching Sound and Waves to 11-year-olds and the Ripple Tank GCSE Required Practical.


“Physics in the News” this week looked at a story that casts doubt on the idea of dark energy. It’s a good illustration of how the scientific method and peer review is used to challenge ideas and present evidence.

Thomas and Robin chat about teaching KS3 waves and how we would introduce concepts. Robin likes Thomas’s approach of using sound vibrations to introduce wave concepts. Both love slinky springs and oscilloscopes – and don’t forget there’s a whole podcast on “Ways to Teach… waves” here. See the Summary for links to the Virtual Oscilloscope and Virtual Ripple Tank.

The core practical we discuss is measuring wave speed using a ripple tank and Thomas and Robin give the following recommendations…

  • get to know your ripple tank. Time spent getting to know your individual tank’s idiosyncrasies will not be wasted. Pick your technician’s brains!
  • Go slow. Try and get the ripples as slow as you can.
  • Look to the heavens. Try and illuminate the tank from underneath to project the ripples on the ceiling if possible.
  • Use the simulation ripple tank / wave simulation (see summary) to give students the chance to develop some familiarity (albeit simulated) with waves and ripples.

Good luck rippling!

We’re also doing a “Ways to Teach… Momentum” and a “Ways to Teach… Physics GCSE Revision” episode soon so send all the tips you can think of to us using the contact form below.

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