With the AP Physics 1 exam on Thursday, I decided not to assign anything so students could focus on reviewing, especially since many of my students were taking other AP exams earlier in the week. The couple of students who checked in after the exam said they felt really good about how it went, which was great to hear.
Physics: Pendulum Assessment
Students worked on applying the equation for the period of a pendulum to some problems and a short summative assessment. Students felt really good about this module; it involved a lot less conceptual knowledge than previous modules and didn’t require students to connect to many old ideas, which I think made it easier. I recently heard from a few students that between being out of school for all of March and not having access to old packets they’d left in their locker, they were having a very difficult time with the fact that the first two modules revisited old concepts, like motion graphs. I think it’s worth putting some thought into how we can do a better job of giving kids resources for going back to old ideas during distance learning.
Chemistry Essentials: Balancing
Students worked on some problems balancing chemical equations. The couple of kids I’ve talked to are now buying in to particle diagrams since they make balancing so much more concrete. Prior to balancing, particle diagrams were the first truly new content we’d done via distance learning, and I had some students who really pushed back on trying to get them down. It’s great to see some of those same students now recognizing the value of that representation.
Students used Pivot Interactives to find a relationship between torque and angular acceleration. The activity has several different bicycle wheels, which lead to some good discussion on the forum as students first compared their results to someone with the same wheel, then compared results to someone with a different wheel.
In both the questions I got about the activity and in the grading I was doing this week, I saw a lot of students struggling with the distinction between different terms related to gravity. That’s been an on-going challenge this year that I think is related to having some students who use a lot of verbal shortcuts. We’ve made a lot of progress on that front this year, and a lot of students were joining me in pushing back whenever someone used imprecise language. I think with out that consistent feedback on language, some students are falling back to old habits. I’m giving feedback on language in students’ written work and sent out a vocab review to all of my students, but am thinking about other options.
Students used Pivot Interactives to collect data we’ll use to get the equation for the period of a pendulum. This week, we had students collect data, then post their graphs and answers to a few questions to a forum. Next week, they’ll start by linearizing the period vs. length graph. Based on the forum, I’m glad we split the lab up. In the questions, students recognized angle and mass don’t affect the period and correctly explained why the period vs. length graph should have a zero intercept. However, most students described their period vs. length graphs as linear in spite of the large intercepts. Using the discussion and splitting up the lab gave me a chance to catch the issue and record a short video before students started their linearization. It’s been hard to be responsive when I have almost no contact with my students right now, so it felt good to have this opportunity to shift my instruction based on students’ current thinking.
Chemistry Essentials: Pressing Pause
The representing reactions summative was due on Tuesday, and only two of my students had turned in work for the module. Rather than sticking to my plan to start balancing, I pushed everything back so that students have an extra week to catch up before their next assignment is due. I also spread out the remaining work in an effort to reduce the workload. We’re shooting for each class to have around 90 min of work per week, so I’ve been assigning what would take around 30 to 45 min in the classroom each week, but the students I’ve heard from are spending around 3 hours a week on chem. I’ve only gotten work or heard from a few kids since Tuesday, but even if just a few more kids get a credit required for graduation as a result of this week’s adjustments, I’m happy with my decision.
This week, we worked on problems and calculations for projectile motion and free-fall. A lot of students were rusty on velocity vs. time graphs (like we haven’t used them much in a while or something!), so it was helpful to revisit. I also continue to really like projectile motion as a wrap-up to linear mechanics since we had a chance to revisit pieces of each major topic so far. I was out sick for a day, which made it tough to fit in the practical I usually do while staying on track for pacing. I think the practical could be good for a review in April, especially since I’ve got some ideas for extensions to connect the lab to more concepts.
Physics: Impulse Problems& Risk Taking
We spent most of this week working problems using momentum and impulse and discussing them with mistakes whiteboarding. This week, I was particularly aware of two common behaviors during problems and whiteboarding that suggests students are still wary of taking risks in my classroom. First, when working the problems on paper, I had a lot of students who got off-task if I wasn’t at their table and were really resistant to sharing their thinking if I was. Second, most of the mistakes students picked for mistakes whiteboarding were in parts of the problems that relied on familiar representations, like vector addition diagrams and velocity vs. time graphs, rather than in the new material.
Recently, I had a conversation with an administrator about classroom environments that encourage academic risks and we agreed that before students can take a risk, they need (1) to feel safe and to know the stake are low and (2) a clear sense of how they will benefit or what they will gain, ideally regardless of the outcome. I’m pretty sure I need to put in work on both of those criteria. Some students who I know really appreciate the discussion that comes from mistakes on new material stuck to mistakes on the familiar content, which tells me they aren’t feeling as safe as I ‘d like. Several of the students who were off-task doing problems on paper find the whiteboard discussions extremely valuable, so I think they just didn’t see a benefit to taking the risk or effort of working through their confusion when we were still on paper. All of this tells me I need to keep working to make sure both requirements for academic risk taking are present in my classroom.
Next week are trimester 1 final exams. In both my courses this week, we wrapped up our last topic and started reviewing for the final.
AP Physics 1: Goal-less Problems
I really like Kelly O’Shea’s goal-less problems, so I decided to try that as a final review. I went through the released free-response problems and took the diagram and prompt from several that could fit with topics we’ve done so far this year. We focused on identifying applicable models, sketching additional diagrams, and reading strategies. Students especially liked a strategy to cross out information in the prompt that is accounted for in the diagram, especially once we started annotating diagrams to get rid of even more text.
Physics: Units vs. Variables
Students worked on, then whiteboarded a fairly standard final review packet with written problems. One of the biggest things I worked with students on is the difference between a variable and a unit, which has been a recurring challenge this year. For example, in the force of gravity equation, a lot of students are reading “g” as grams, rather than as 10 N/kg. I’ve been working on talking frequently about variables as representing a quantity and quantities as a number with a unit that describe something we can measure or calculate. Going into tri 2, I need to keep thinking about how to help students make sense of when a letter represents a quantity and when it represents a unit that is part of a quantity.
The 2019 free response were released last Thursday. I always have some students interested in discussing the problems, so I offered to go through my solutions with interested students today. The students who opted into the discussion said they struggled in the spots I expected them to, but felt really good about the rest of the problems. We’ll see for sure in July!
Physics: Curved Mirrors
We discussed the results of Friday’s lab, especially some rough ray diagrams I had students sketch. We also got a nice visual of the focal point using a big concave mirror, a ray box that fires several laser beams, and some chalk dust.
Chemistry Essentials: Activity Series
Students combined several different metals and nitrates to rank the reactivity of the metals. One of the reactions is fairly subtle, but students did a nice job of recognizing what was being produced in each reaction.
A lot of my students were gone today for the AP Literature exam. I took some time to introduce the final project students will be working on, then we talked a little about how they felt the AP Physics 1 exam went. Most students felt better about the free response than the multiple choice, which is pretty consistent with what I’ve heard from past years.
Physics: Mirror Mistakes
We did some mistakes whiteboarding with ray diagrams for plane mirrors and students pretty quickly got the hang of the diagrams. One student declared we need a song for mistakes whiteboarding; I’ll be sure to update if we come up with one.
Chemistry Essentials: Reaction Types Mistakes
We did mistakes whiteboarding with some problems for recognizing different reaction types. Students were very successful at making sense of these problems and I hat pretty minimal intervention.
My favorite dedicated review activity is model summaries, where students whiteboard key diagrams and formulas for each model. Students have those diagrams in their toolkits, so today was mostly about reminding students to use them and reassuring them they know how to use these tools.
Physics: Reflection Lab
Students collected data for a relationship between the incident angle and reflected angle in a mirror. We did the pre-lab discussion yesterday, and I did have to get ornery about reminding students to go back to their notes from that discussion to get started, but the lab went very smoothly from there. We’d bought some laser pointers a year or two ago, so I had students use those instead of pins in cardboard, and I really like that students could see the light rays directly.
Chemistry Essentials: Reaction Types Reading
I’ve got some ideas for a card sort to introduce reaction types, but ran out of time to put something together and went back to a reading in our textbook. I had students write definitions for each reaction type using both the textbook language and their own words and I had students come up with their own larger categories for the reaction types, both of which lead to some good discussion.