Waves

The resources in this list can help with planning the following areas of A level physics:

  • qualitative treatment of polarisation and diffraction
  • path difference, phase and coherence, interference
  • graphical treatment of superposition and stationary waves

It is unlikely that students will have studied this part of the syllabus previously, although some taking single science physics might have touched on it briefly.

It follows on from previous work on waves that they have covered previously - students should already be able to label and describe the main features of a transverse wave. It is recommended that this is revisited first, before proceeding with the topic.

Polarisation is a fairly straighforward concept. If you do not have polarising filters in school, two pairs of polarising sunglasses, alternately, two pairs of 3D glasses, held at right angles to each other and rotated can show the effect.

Students often struggle with path difference and interference, so time should be spent to ensure they have understood these concepts, particularly as there is some challenging maths involved

Finally, a graphical treatment of superposition and stationary waves continues to challenge students, and time is well spent making sure they understand these topics.

Whilst this list provides a source of information and ideas for experimental work, it is important to note that recommendations can date very quickly. Do NOT follow suggestions which conflict with current advice from CLEAPSS or recent safety guides. eLibrary users are responsible for ensuring that any activity, including practical work, which they carry out is consistent with current regulations related to Health and Safety and that they carry an appropriate risk assessment. Further information is provided in our Health and Safety guidance.

Links and Resources

Episode 313: Polarisation

This resource contains a range of suggested experiments that can be carried out to show the effects of polaration as well as how it happens. As it is part of the Teaching advanced physics resources, it can be sued as a stand alone lesson.

Not much in the way of equipment is needed.

There are additional questions to check student understanding a the end of the episode.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Episode 308: Preparation for the Progressive Waves Topic

This resource is another series of lessons from the Institude of Physics.

It covers all parts of the waves topic, from generating waves to reintroducing properties of waves. Of particular interest is section 310, which covers phase and phase difference.

There is a student activity looking at what it means for two waves to be in phase, and ideas for an extended discussion about waves being out of phase. 

Teachers new to A level will appreciate the practical considerations section at the end.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Episode 319: Preparation for Superposition of Waves Topic

This resource covers diffraction, superposition and stationary waves.

It is written as a series of lessons, which could easily be followed as written.

Episode 320 covers superposition, with practical ideas such as showing waves on a rope or a slinky and how they interact as they pass, as well as some challenging questions for students - answers are also provided.

Episodes 322 and 323 cover diffraction, including what can be seen through a diffraction grating and how to derive and use the associated equation, as well as ways of observing diffraction and calculating minima.

The notes provided will help a teacher new to the subject to prepare for the lesson, while the student questions will provide challenge at the end of the series of lessons to check that students have understood this challenging topic.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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