Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

What Is a Wave? Lesson 4

Electric Avenue

Laura Halstied, Lindsey Link, Michael Laprarie, Mary Braggs | Published: July 26th, 2022 by K20 Center


In this fourth lesson of the "What Is a Wave?" unit, students will learn how electromagnetic radiation is related to common items, understand how electromagnetic radiation is a form of energy, and create electromagnetic spectrum charts.

Essential Question(s)

What are waves? How do waves behave differently from particles?



Students construct images and summarize how those images relate to waves.


Students infer how common items are related to electromagnetic radiation.


Students compile Cornell Notes related to the electromagnetic spectrum.


Students create electromagnetic spectrum charts.


Students' electromagnetic spectrum charts serve as the evaluation.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Puzzled Photos (attached, one set)

  • Painting a Picture Images (attached, one set)

  • Painting a Picture Chart (attached, one per student)

  • Cornell Notes handout (attached, one per student)

  • EM Spectrum Chart Rubric (attached, one per student)

  • Copy paper

  • Markers or colored pencils


20 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. You can review the essential questions and lesson objectives with students on slides 3 and 4 before beginning the lesson.

Begin by showing slide 5 and introducing students to the Puzzled strategy. Give each student a random piece from the Puzzled Photos. Tell students to move around the room to locate the other pieces of their image, assemble the pieces to complete the image, and stay together as a group. When students believe they have correctly assembled the pieces to form an image, check to make sure it is correct.

Ask students to discuss with their groups how their image relates to the Waves unit content that they have been learning about. After the discussion, show the complete puzzled images on slides 6-10 and ask each group to share what their image represents and how it relates to waves.


20 Minute(s)

Pass out copies of the Painting a Picture Chart. Show slide 11 and introduce students to the Painting a Picture strategy. As students view each image posted in the classroom, they should record their observations about each image in the first column of the chart and how each image relates to electromagnetic radiation in the second column of the chart.

After giving students time to view and record their observations for each image, show slides 12-16 and provide frequency and wavelength range information to students. Have students add this information to the third column of their charts.

Show slide 17 and play the "Electromagnetic Spectrum" video.


30 Minute(s)

Pass out copies of the Cornell Notes handout. Show slide 18 and play the "Heat Sensing Pit Vipers" video.

As they watch, ask students to think about how heat-sensing snakes relate to the electromagnetic spectrum. Ask for volunteers to share their thoughts after the video.

Inform students that they now are going to learn about the electromagnetic spectrum in more detail.

Show slides 19-24 and explain the electromagnetic spectrum to students while they use the Cornell Notes handout to take notes.

Show slide 25 and ask students to write a summary at the bottom of their note sheet.

Move to slide 26 and ask students to compare their summaries with a student nearby. Then, ask for volunteers to share their summaries.


30 Minute(s)

Show slide 27 and provide each student with a piece of copy paper and markers or colored pencils. Tell students to create an electromagnetic spectrum chart that includes the information listed. Pass out copies of the EM Spectrum Chart Rubric and tell students that you will use the rubric to assess their understanding of the lesson.


The Electromagnetic Spectrum chart serves as the evaluation activity for this lesson.