Exemplars of increasing the degree of challenge

Think about the following FOUR activities [PDF] [DOCX] and how they build on one another in terms of cognitive demand and complexity of ideas.

We will be using the term stumbling blocks throughout the course to indicate points in the teaching sequence where we know students often have difficulties.

Teachers plan for supporting learners in overcoming these stumbling blocks as they are aware that students may:

  • Have difficulties understanding key concepts
  • Have problems accessing the necessary skills
  • May hold alternative viewpoints

How students respond at these points will help teachers decide what they need next to move their learning forward.


If Activity 1 is your starter activity, what stumbling blocks or misconceptions would your expect, and how would these affect which of Activities 2 or 3 you would then use?

What would need to have gone before to make it appropriate to ask students to attempt Activity 4?

Summarise your views in a short contribution to the discussion on this step, and look out for contributions from others on which to comment. (If your knowledge of wave theory is sketchy then just focus on responses from other learners.)

(The four activities are based on work by Ben Law, a PGCE trainee at King’s College, London, 2016.)

  1. Sorting statements

    Sort the following statements about light and sound into the Thinking Organiser below:

    • Travel as waves
    • Detected by the ear
    • Can be absorbed
    • Can travel through a vacuum
    • Can be reflected
    • Travels well through solids
    • Detected by the eye
    • Can be refracted

    Thinking Organiser

  2. Correct words

    Add the correct word to the paragraph using only Light or Sound.

    _____ and _____ are both similar as they are both forms of energy and they exist and travel as waves. Three key properties that these have are the amplitude, frequency and wavelength. A _____ wave travels as a transverse wave, this means that the oscillations are at right angles to the direction of travel. A _____ wave can only travel through matter as it needs particles to vibrate. The _____ wave travels as a longitudinal wave with the particles vibrating in the direction the wave travels. A _____ wave can travel through a vacuum, however it cannot travel through opaque objects. _____ waves travel faster than _____ waves. Both ______ and _____ waves interact with different materials; they can be absorbed, reflected, refracted or transmitted.

  3. True or false?

    True or False

    Rewrite any of the statements that you think are false so they become a true statement.

  4. Compare and contrast

    True or False

    Complete the columns for light and sound for each of the questions or statements.

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This article is from the free online course:

Differentiation for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre