ALEX Lesson Plan


Riding the Waves!

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Robyn Terry
System: Mobile County
School: Mobile County Board Of Education
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34661


Riding the Waves!


During this lesson, students will learn the different aspects of a wave, including the crest, trough, wavelength, and amplitude. Additionally, they will learn that waves cause objects to move.  At the end of the lesson, they will be able to develop a model of waves and describe patterns. This could be the first lesson into waves that can jump start other lessons on other types of waves.

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 4
6 ) Develop a model of waves to describe patterns in terms of amplitude and wavelength, and including that waves can cause objects to move.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Developing and Using Models
Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns
Disciplinary Core Idea: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Develop a model of waves to describe patterns of amplitude.
  • Develop a model of waves to describe patterns of wavelength.
  • Develop a model of waves that describes patterns that cause objects to move.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Patterns
  • Propagated
  • Waves
  • Wave amplitude
  • Wavelength
  • Net motion
  • Model
  • Relevant components
  • Peaks
Students know:
  • Waves can be described in terms of patterns of repeating amplitude and wavelength (e.g., in a water wave there is a repeating pattern of water being higher and then lower than the baseline level of the water).
  • Waves can cause an object to move.
  • The motion of objects varies with the amplitude and wavelength of the wave carrying it.
  • The patterns in the relationships between a wave passing, the net motion of the wave, and the motion of an object caused by the wave as it passes.
  • How waves may be initiated (e.g., by disturbing surface water or shaking a rope or spring).
  • The repeating pattern produced as a wave is propagated.
  • Waves, which are the regular patterns of motion, can be made in water by disturbing the surface. When waves move across the surface of deep water, the water goes up and down in place; there is no net motion in the direction of the wave except when the water meets a beach.
  • Waves of the same type can differ in amplitude (height of the wave) and wavelength (spacing between wave peaks).
Students are able to:
  • Develop a model to make sense of wave patterns that includes relevant components (i.e., waves, wave amplitude, wavelength, and motion of objects).
  • Describe patterns of wavelengths and amplitudes.
  • Describe how waves can cause objects to move.
Students understand that:
  • There are similarities and differences in patterns underlying waves and use these patterns to describe simple relationships involving wave amplitude, wavelength, and the motion of an object.

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.4.6- Using given models, identify patterns found in waves.

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

Learning Targets
I can:

  • create a model of a wave.
  • label the parts of a wave.
  • explain how a wave moves objects.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

31 to 60 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

  • Copy paper cut in half vertically (hot dog style)
  • Post-it notes (3 per student)
  • Empty water bottles (for each student or group)
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Cooking oil
  • Paper towels (for cleanup)
  • Cardstock
  • Glue
  • Yarn

Technology Resources Needed:


Students need to have some background knowledge of seeing waves from the beach, throwing a rock in water, or seeing these things on a movie or television. 


*This lesson was adapted from Mary Ellen Kanthack at


The teacher will hand out the cut sheet of copy paper.  Students will fold this paper in half and then half again, giving them four boxes. The teacher will show the one picture of the leaves floating on the pond and ask students to draw what they see in box one.  The teacher will then tell the students that she is going to throw a large rock into the pond.  The teacher will then ask students to illustrate in the next three boxes what will happen to the leaves.  The teacher will give students ample time to complete their drawings.

The teacher will show the one picture of the leaves floating on the pond and ask students to draw what they see in box one.  The teacher will then tell the students that she is going to throw a large rock into the pond.  The teacher will then ask students to illustrate in the next three boxes what will happen to the leaves.  The teacher will give students ample time to complete their drawings.


Build Intrinsic Interest – What happened to your leaves?  Where did they end up?

Assess Prior Knowledge – Has anyone ever been to the beach?  Was there anything floating in the water at the beach?  What happened to the thing you saw floating in the water? (Trying to get the word “wave” out of the discussion)

  • What is the function of a water wave? 

Focus Question -   What other kinds of waves exist?

Video – Teacher will show Energy in Waves video.


I Do – The teacher will tell students to write down any questions they may have about waves and write one on each of the three post-it notes they have and place post-it notes on the board. The teacher should give a limited time for this, approximately five minutes.

The teacher will review aloud the questions that were placed on the board and state that hopefully we will be able to answer many of them through this lesson.  The teacher will then tell students that today we are going to look at waves and discover how they move.

The teacher will introduce and hand out materials that are available for exploration to each student/group (empty water bottle, water, food coloring, cooking oil). This could certainly be done at a small group table as well as individually.    

The teacher will then demonstrate filling the empty water bottle one-third full of plain tap water.  The teacher will then place one drop of food coloring and shake until water is colored.  The teacher will then fill the bottle completely up with cooking oil.  MAKE SURE YOU DO NOT SHAKE AGAIN.  IT WILL SEPARATE, BUT IT MAY TAKE TIME.  Take a small cut piece of straw and add it to the bottle.  Seal the bottle tightly.  Now, the teacher will place the bottle on its side and rock the bottle back and forth lightly to show the wave action. 

We Do – Students will work with materials and partners to create their wave bottle.  Using a metronome app, the teacher will use differing speeds to allow students to see different waves.  Differing speeds can include 52, 88, 124, and 144.  After each speed, allow students to sketch their wave on the back side of the leaf drawing (the paper is still folded into fourths). Tell them to make sure they show what happened to the straw during the movement as well.


Observe Student Action & Redirect – What do you notice about your waves?  Are all the waves alike?

Identify Patterns and Relationships – Have you noticed any patterns?  What happened to your straw?  Explain.


Teacher – The teacher will use questioning to make sure that students recognize there are patterns within the waves and there are different parts of a wave.


Student Theories – What did each wave have in common? Did the straw's movement stay consistent?  Did the wave move the straw?

Reflecting on Personal Ideas – Do you think our bottles correctly represent waves at the beach or in a pond when a rock is thrown?

Scientific Knowledge

  • How is each wave alike?  Explain. 
  • How is each wave different?  Explain.
  • What made the difference?

Groups – Students will work with partners to discuss any patterns they see in their wave sketches.  Come back together and discuss descriptions of what patterns they noticed.  The teacher will ask, “What is a wave?”

The teacher will show the parts of a wave on the Interactive Whiteboard and ask the students if their waves had each of these components.  Ask them to turn and share with their partner the parts of their waves.

The teacher will now hand out cardstock and yarn.  Students will create one of the waves they sketched from their bottle first onto the card stock.  It must be a large rendition of the wave and it must represent a pattern created in the bottle.  Additionally, they must add the straw to their drawing. They will then use the yarn to create the wave parts and label their wave. 

The teacher will then call groups to share their waves and explain the parts and pattern of their wave in the bottle.    

Review vocabulary.

Vocabulary – Crest, trough, amplitude, wavelength, pattern, movement

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Assessment Strategies


As a group, we will go back to the post-it note questions and see how many we answered.  Any questions still remaining, will be put aside and used in the next wave lesson or used as a computer lab research project.    

The students will be assessed on the following learning targets during the lesson procedures.

I can:

  • create a model of a wave.
  • label the parts of a wave.
  • explain how a wave moves objects.


If tablets, or a device that can record a video, are readily available, the movement of each bottle can be videoed.  Additionally, if they have a device that will play a video in slow motion, this will help to show the pattern and parts of a wave easily.


Students may need help from teacher and assistants to create bottles so a mess is not made.  Also, a slow motion video of the wave movement will help students who cannot see what is happening in a fast moving bottle. 

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.