Days 43-45: Forces

We had staff development days on Monday and Tuesday, so this was a short week. I know my students really appreciated the four day weekend with how drained they’ve been feeling and it was helpful to me to have two days that were a big change of pace.

Physics: Force Diagrams

This week we focused on drawing system schema and free-body diagrams. Since students have been struggling to find meaning in our labs this year, I was much more conscious than usual of explicitly raising activities from last week when helping students or giving instruction. That seemed to help students see how what we’d done in the lab related to what we were now doing on paper and started referring to the labs themselves. I had a few students who got frustrated very quickly, so I think I need to work on making more explicit that I rarely expect students to see a problem and immediately know the answer, instead I expect them to work through piece by piece. I had some success keeping some students who’ve been very frustrated from shutting down by starting with what is correct on the work they’d already done. Those students haven’t always had work I can refer to yet when they are getting frustrated, but it is both unsurprising and important to keep in mind that it is helpful for students to know that they are doing some things right before we talk about where they are stuck.

AP Physics 1: Unbalanced Force Calculations

Students worked on some problems for unbalanced forces, including a mix of math-heavy and writing-heavy problems. They are getting better at work through calculations, but had some trouble seeing diagrams on a useful tool on more conceptual problems. Forces are where I think the usefulness of diagrams as a reasoning tool really starts to shine, and this just shows we haven’t done as much practice as usual with the kinds of problems where that is really useful. I need to make sure that we get some of that practice in so students can start seeing how they can use diagrams to support their thinking.

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