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Becky McCoy

Lesson Title: Pendulum Lab Pt 2 Timing: 60 minutes

Target Audience:
11th and 12th grade Physics class

Students Will Be Able To:
• Observe period motion through a pendulum.
• Explore the variables that affect a pendulum.
• Use the equation for the period of a pendulum to solve periodic motion

The Teacher Will Be Able To:

• Assess student knowledge of pendulums and the related variables.
• Correct misconceptions relating to pendulums and simple harmonic motion.

Standards Assessed: New York State Standards for The Physical Setting
4.1 Observe and describe transmission of various forms of energy.
iv. determine the factors that affect the period of a pendulum

Misconception(s) Addressed:
• The mass and starting angle of a pendulum have a significant impact on the period of the
• Period and frequency are the same thing.

Prior Knowledge: Circular Motion, Mechanics & Kinematics

Aim: Apply discoveries from the lab and period equation to relevant problems.

Concept Map Vocabulary: n/a

Necessary Preparation:

• Pendulum Lab Worksheets from last class


Becky McCoy

Lesson Plan

Aim: Apply discoveries from the lab and period equation to relevant problems.

Physics Push-Up: Think-Pair-Share (5 minutes)

Students share the pendulum examples they found for homework with partner or tablemates.
Combine several tables and have students share with larger group. Have a few volunteers share a
few examples; especially ones they didn’t realize were pendulums.

Activity: Periodic Problems (20 minutes)

• Pendulum Lab worksheets from last class


Write the equation for the period of a pendulum on the board: T=2π *sqrt(l/g) and point out that
the only changing variable is string length (l).

Most students weren’t convinced, so go through the following “thought proof”.


A swinging pendulum is most closely related to free fall because the ball wants to fall directly
downward, but cannot because of the string.

The string provides a force of tension that does not allow the mass to
fall downward at the horizontal point it begins, but causes it to swing
until the lowest point (also the point of most KE, so it keeps swinging).

Since this is the same as free fall, we know the mass is negligible. If
students still aren’t convinced, do the mathematical proof showing mass is not influential in free
F = ma for free fall, the only force is gravitational: mg
mg = ma the masses cancel out, showing that the acceleration is ‘g’


Most pendulums in museums, science centers, etc. have a string length of 15-20m, so by the time
the pendulum is raised to an angle, there is barely any change in height. Therefore, in most
periodic motion problems the angle doesn’t make much change.

However, in the pendulums we are using, the string length is fairly short, so the angle will have a
small affect on the period.

Becky McCoy

EXAMPLE PROBLEMS: Do on the board for the class.

A pendulum of mass 500g and string length 1m is raised to a height of 45 degrees. What is the

What is the frequency?

How would the period change if the length were doubled?

Activity Summary: Finish Lab Sheet (25 minutes)

Have students take out their lab sheet.

Define a pendulum as a SIMPLE HARMONIC OSCILLATOR, an oscillator that is neither

dampened nor driven.

Remind students that this ideal situation doesn’t occur because of friction.

A SHO undergoes SIMPLE HARMONIC MOTION, vibratory motion in a system in which the
restoring force is proportional to the displacement from equilibrium. F = -kx

Allow students time to calculate the theoretical period for each of their trials and the practice
questions. Take a break after 10 minutes to review theoretical and laboratory results.

Practice Questions:
1. What is the length of a pendulum that has a period of 4.4 seconds?
2a. What does the length of a pendulum have to be in order to keep time for a clock (T= 1sec).
2b. What if this pendulum is on the moon (gravity is about 1/6 of earth).

Finish Pendulum Lab Sheet.

Exit Strategy: Exit Cards (5 minutes)

Students should evaluate their participation, state something they did well and something they
should work on. Then evaluate their understanding of SHM 1-5 (no understanding to total

Extension Activity:
Review the spring pendulum and how it is used to measure seismic waves using Wolfram

• Student answers during small group and large group discussion.
• Student homework responses.
• Exit cards.
Becky McCoy

Resources: n/a

Notes & Adaptations: