Physics in Action

Wave Behavior

Materials: Computer and School Network

Time Allotment: 4 Class Days


This makeup lab is unique from most others in that it does not actually involve a laboratory exercise. Rather, this makeup lab involves the completion of a writing assignment which demonstrates your understanding of wave behavior (reflection, refraction, diffraction, superposition, and interference) and their applications.

The Assignment:

In Chapter 29 of the Hewitt Book (Regular and Conceptual Physics courses) and Chapters 24, 25, 26 and 27 of the Serway Book (Honors Physics and Chem-Phys courses), a variety of reflection phenomena are discussed. These phenomena (and others) were also discussed in class. Each reflection phenomenon involves the behavior of either a sound wave, a light wave, or some other type of wave upon crossing a boundary between two medium or while traveling through a non-uniform medium. Select one of the phenomena discussed in class or in the textbook and consider how it might be clearly and understandably explained to an eighth grader. Then write a short letter in which you do just that - explain a refraction phenomenon to an eighth grader. In your explanation, be sure to include the following:

  1. identify the phenomenon which you will be explaining.
  2. describe how the phenomenon involves the some principle of a wave behavior (reflection, refraction, diffraction, interference, etc.).
  3. explain the rule which governs the specific behavior of wave pertinent to your phenomenon and apply the rule to explain the phenomenon which we observe.
  4. include some form of an instructive, well-labeled diagram which complements your explanation.

To enhance the appearance of your letter, consider one of the following options:



Your writing assignment/makeup lab will be assessed using the following scoring rubric.

1.Physics Understanding

Demonstr'd understanding of wave behavior by an accurate description and explan'n of a real-world phenomenon; utilized the vocab of physics to produce understandable ( to an eight grader) explan'ns; diagrams are a helpful complement to verbal explan'ns.

0 - 2

Understanding level is unsatisfactory as demonstrated by a description and explanation which is incorrect and faulty; the vocabulary of physics may have been misused or not even used at all

3 - 4

Made an effort to describe and explain a real-world wave phenomenon using the vocab of physics; explanations are satisfactory, yet lack in either detail, completeness, accuracy or vocabulary usage

5 - 6

Utilized physics vocab to produce an accurate description of a real-world wave phenomenon; explanations are insightful and complete; diagram is helpful and instructive; no major errors or omissions

2. Diagramming

Constructed a diagram which is relevant to the discussion and complements the explanations; used labels to clarify its meaning.


Failed to construct a diagram to accompany explanation

0.5 - 1

Diagram has limited usefulness due to lack of labels or relevancy to discussion

1.5 - 2

Diagram is instructive, well-labeled, and relevant to discussion

3. Writing Organiz'n

Involves a logical/sequential flow of ideas; utilized sufficient transitions; easy to follow thought process.


A good example of linguistic gymnastics


Only a few mistakes


Very Good

Total = _________/10

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This page created by Tom Henderson and last updated on 9/5/97.