Help Students Understand the Doppler Effect

Understanding the Doppler Effect

This Read Ahead lesson plan aims to enrich students’ intuitive understanding of the Doppler effect with a theoretical understanding.

First, students will take turns in pairs demonstrating the effect.

Then, they will reflect on what they think caused their observations.

Finally, they will read the Read Ahead presentation about the effect.


Practical and Theoretical Understanding of the Doppler Effect


Astronomy, Science



Brief Description

Learn practically and then theoretically


  • Help students gain an intuitive grasp on scientific phenomena
  • Use experiments to encourage critical thinking and reflection
  • Encourage students to extrapolate their observations to the wider world
  • Help students to combine practical and theoretical knowledge

Materials Needed

Gather and prepare supplies including:

  • Computers, laptops, or tablets with recording capabilities for students without phones
  • Access to the Internet
  • Space outside where loud noises would not disturb others
  • Read Ahead account for teacher and students (Just sign up, it’s free! Or use Clever if Read Ahead is enabled for your school)
  • Read Ahead presentation on the Doppler Effect. Article adapted from The Physics Classroom by Tom Henderson

Lesson Plan

  1. Have your students divide up into groups (groups of two would be easiest).
  2. Go outside to a place where loud noises would not disturb others, and have the groups spread out.
  3. Have one member from each group make a loud noise, either with their voice or with their phone, and move in a straight line passing their group. The other group member(s) should notice that the pitch gets higher as their friend moves toward them, and lower as their friend moves away from them. Repeat until every student has gotten a chance to hear this change in pitch.
  4. Have groups write or talk about what they noticed, and what they think might have caused it. A class discussion may help this process.
  5. Have the students read the article on the Doppler effect using Read Ahead.
  6. Discuss, in groups and/or as a class, what students thought they knew and what they learned, from both the experiment and the article.

Note: This lesson can be modified to any scientific phenomena that would benefit from both an experimental and theoretical understanding.

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