ALEX Lesson Plan


Transverse Waves

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Jane Caudle
System: Madison City
School: Discovery Middle School
The event this resource created for:GEMS
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 24112


Transverse Waves


Students will classify waves as mechanical or electromagnetic. Students will describe longitudinal and transverse waves. Students will show a transverse wave using a slinky.
This lesson plan was created as a result of the Girls Engaged in Math and Science, GEMS Project funded by the Malone Family Foundation.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
MA2015 (2015)
Grade: 7
17 ) Understand that statistics can be used to gain information about a population by examining a sample of the population; generalizations about a population from a sample are valid only if the sample is representative of that population. Understand that random sampling tends to produce representative samples and support valid inferences. [7-SP1]

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement:
Read or interpret data, including interpolating or extrapolating from data.

NAEP Statement:
Distinguish between a random and nonrandom sample.

MA2015 (2015)
Grade: 7
18 ) Use data from a random sample to draw inferences about a population with an unknown characteristic of interest. Generate multiple samples (or simulated samples) of the same size to gauge the variation in estimates or predictions. [7-SP2]

Example: Estimate the mean word length in a book by randomly sampling words from the book; predict the winner of a school election based on randomly sampled survey data. Gauge how far off the estimate or prediction might be.

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement:
Solve problems by estimating and computing with data from a single set or across sets of data.

NAEP Statement:
Calculate, use, or interpret mean, median, mode, or range.

NAEP Statement:
Given a sample, identify possible sources of bias in sampling.

NAEP Statement:
Determine the sample space for a given situation.

MA2015 (2015)
Grade: 7
19 ) Informally assess the degree of visual overlap of two numerical data distributions with similar variabilities, measuring the difference between the centers by expressing it as a multiple of a measure of variability. [7-SP3]

Example: The mean height of players on the basketball team is 10 cm greater than the mean height of players on the soccer team, about twice the variability (mean absolute deviation) on either team; on a dot plot, the separation between the two distributions of heights is noticeable.

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement:
Compare two sets of related data.

NAEP Statement:
Solve problems by estimating and computing with data from a single set or across sets of data.

NAEP Statement:
Compare and contrast the effectiveness of different representations of the same data.

NAEP Statement:
Calculate, use, or interpret mean, median, mode, or range.

MA2015 (2015)
Grade: 8
28 ) Understand that patterns of association can also be seen in bivariate categorical data by displaying frequencies and relative frequencies in a two-way table. Construct and interpret a two-way table summarizing data on two categorical variables collected from the same subjects. Use relative frequencies calculated for rows or columns to describe possible association between the two variables. [8-SP4]

Example: Collect data from students in your class on whether or not they have a curfew on school nights, and whether or not they have assigned chores at home. Is there evidence that those who have a curfew also tend to have chores'

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement:
Recognize, describe, or extend numerical and geometric patterns using tables, graphs, words, or symbols.

NAEP Statement:
Generalize a pattern appearing in a numerical sequence, table, or graph using words or symbols.

Local/National Standards:

NSTA National Science Content Standard A for grades 5-8: As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry. NSTA National Science Content Standard B for grades 5-8: As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of motions and forces. NSTA National Science Content Standard E for grades 5-8: As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop abilities of technological design.

Primary Learning Objective(s):

The students will physically demonstrate a transverse wave (a wave in which particles of the medium move in a direction perpendicular to the direction which the wave moves).

Additional Learning Objective(s):

Students will learn to work as a cooperative learning team.

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

31 to 60 Minutes

Materials and Resources:


*Two students standing two to three meters apart.

*Waves worksheet (see attached file "Name")

Technology Resources Needed:


Suggested website: Parts of a Wave


Waves come in many shapes and forms. While all waves share some basic characteristic properties and behaviors, some waves can be distinguished from others based on some very observable (and some non-observable) characteristics. It is common to categorize waves based on these distinguishing characteristics. One way to categorize waves is on the basis of the direction of movement of the individual particles of the medium relative to the direction which the waves travel. Categorizing waves on this basis leads to three notable categories: transverse waves, longitudinal waves, and surface waves. A transverse wave is a wave in which particles of the medium move in a direction perpendicular to the direction which the wave moves. If a slinky is stretched out in a horizontal direction across the classroom, and a pulse is introduced into the slinky on the left end by vibrating the first coil up and down, then energy will begin to be transported through the slinky from left to right. As the energy is transported from left to right, the individual coils of the medium will be displaced upwards and downwards. In this case, the particles of the medium move perpendicular to the direction which the pulse moves. This type of wave is a transverse wave. Transverse waves are always characterized by particle motion being perpendicular to wave motion. Waves traveling through a solid medium can be either transverse waves or longitudinal waves. Yet waves traveling through the bulk of a fluid (such as a liquid or a gas) are always longitudinal waves. Transverse waves require a relatively rigid medium in order to transmit their energy. As one particle begins to move it must be able to exert a pull on its nearest neighbor. If the medium is not rigid as is the case with fluids, the particles will slide past each other. This sliding action which is characteristic of liquids and gases prevents one particle from displacing its neighbor in a direction perpendicular to the energy transport. It is for this reason that only longitudinal waves are observed moving through the bulk of liquids such as our oceans. Earthquakes are capable of producing both transverse and longitudinal waves which travel through the solid structures of the Earth. When seismologists began to study earthquake waves they noticed that only longitudinal waves were capable of traveling through the core of the Earth. For this reason, geologists believe that the Earth's core consists of a liquid - most likely molten. The speed of a wave is determined by the medium carrying the wave.

1.)Students will have a class review on transverse waves. (See Background/Preparation for information.)

2.)Students will view animation of a transverse wave through an interactive Internet website.
(Transverse wave animation)

3.)Students will complete a wave worksheet. (see attached Name)
(Parts of a wave)
The interactive website shows the parts of a wave.

4.)Two students will stretch a Slinky about two or three meters between them. One student should give one single sideways shake to his end. Students will have a classroom discussion on what they saw happen? (A pulse is produced on the Slinky, moving away from the end at which it was produced.)
(Interactive wave movement)
This interactive Website allows students to produce transverse waves.

5.)Students will brainstorm through a classroom discussion on what they saw during the demonstration. The following questions will be answered during this discussion: 1. What is moving from one end of the Slinky to the other? (The displacement of the coils is from the equilibrium positions where they started.) 2. Does the person holding the other end of the Slinky feel anything? (Yes, his hand is pushed slightly sideways when the disturbance reaches it.)

6.)The student at the other end will try to hold his end very rigid and try to resist the push of the pulse. Students will have a classroom discussion on they saw happen? ( A reflected pulse appears, traveling in the opposite direction.)

7.)The student will try to make the pulse move down the Slinky faster or slower by moving his hand faster or slower. Will the pulse move down the Slinky faster or slower? (No, the speed of the wave is the same no matter how hard the student agitates the Slinky. Note: This is an important property of waves; the speed is determined by the medium carrying the wave.)

8.)The students will have a class discussion to brainstorm about what students have learned through this activity.

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Assessment Strategies

The waves worksheet will be graded for accuracy. (see attached file "Name")


Have students draw a transverse wave and label the parts.


Have students compare their wave drawing with other students in the class. A separate grade can be assessed for this remediation.

Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

Presentation of Material Environment
Time Demands Materials
Attention Using Groups and Peers
Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.