Grade Levels: 6-8

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 5-8, students play Wave Combinator, a simulation game that invites them to explore how waves interact. Through play, students explore and deepen their understanding of the concepts of amplitude, offset, wavelength, and frequency. 

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Lesson Plan Next Generation Science Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Learn about wave properties.
  2. Develop and use models.
  3. Explore the concepts of amplitude, offset, wavelength, and frequency.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard


amplitude, frequency, offset, wavelength


This lesson plan features a game called Wave Combinator developed by our partner,  Field Day Lab. The game is simulation-based and encourages students to explore concepts related to waves, including amplitude, offset, wavelength, and frequency.

Preview and play Wave Combinator to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. If students will be playing in small groups, review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

For ideas on how to use SnapThought with this game, read Wave Combinator: SnapThought Prompts for more information and specific SnapThought prompts to provide students during game play.

Depending on your classroom routines and available technology, you may want to consider these grouping options:

  • 1:1 with students and devices
  • Two to three students sharing one device and swapping ideas and the device back and forth
  • Station model where small groups rotate through using the devices

Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP movies from the Energy Unit: Waves, Color, Electromagnetic Spectrum, Light, and Sound.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Build students knowledge of waves by playing the BrainPOP movie Waves to the whole class on the whiteboard or other display. Pause the movie as needed when Tim explains ways of measuring waves, including amplitude, wavelength, and frequency (beginning at time code 2:26). Make sure students understand the three concepts. You may want to make a concept web or table on the board identifying the three and fill in notes as Tim explains each. You may also prompt with questions, such as What is the relationship between amplitude and sound? How does wavelength relate to color? What is the connection between wavelength and frequency?
  2. Divide the class into pairs or small groups to play Wave Combinator for about 15 minutes. The game guides students through each level, introducing new topics as they progress, from the basics of wavelength, amplitude and offset to combining waves and noise cancellation.  For younger students, or as needed, you may want to display the Playground level to model how to play, discussing the names and purposes of the different buttons.
  3. If students have individual logins through My BrainPOP, encourage them to use the SnapThought® tool to take snapshots during game play, and reflect on their discoveries. For suggested prompts, see Wave Combinator: SnapThought Prompts.
  4. Circulate as students play and help as needed. When most of the class has reached the “combining waves” part of the game, have students pause for a brief discussion about the concept of noise cancellation. Ask then how they think noise cancellation works. Give them a chance to respond, and make sure they understand that combining two opposite waves causes them to cancel out. Ask students, for example, to think about how this might play a role in noise cancelling headphones. To go deeper into this concept, if time allows, discuss the concept of interference, which they can read about in the In Depth Related Reading that is part of the Waves BrainPOP topic.
  5. Remind students to toggle the “Show Contributions” switch to see how the pulses interact. As students progress through the levels, explain that each level involves trial and error as they adjust the variables. Explain that clicking the “Play” button, they can observe how the waves interact, which can help guide their adjustments.
  6. Bring the class together to discuss what they learned about waves. Encourage students to reflect on the process of matching the wavelengths. If students are using SnapThought, they may already have done this, but now they can share their reflections. Ask them to consider what changed as the game got more difficult. What strategies did students use when trying to match up waves? For example, did they always change amplitude first or did they try random combination until they discovered what worked?

Extension Activities:

Explore wave behavior using a giant “slinky’ coil. Position a student with the one end across the room. Send “pulses” back and forth, both adding and interfering and discuss observations.

Research how noise cancelling earphones work. What would such devices need to counteract if being worn on an airplane?

Invite students to play Wave on a String, a GameUp interactive simulation developed by our partner award-winning partner PhET through the University of Colorado Boulder.  The simulation challenges students to create waves by wiggling a string, creating a pulse, or using an oscillator. Students explore how the frequency, amplitude, tension, and damping affect the motion of the wave. They also investigate how a wave behaves when it has a fixed end, loose end, or no end.