Day 120: Mistakes Whiteboarding & Lab Practical

AP Physics 1: Circuits Mistakes Whiteboarding

I forgot to take a picture, but students did some mistakes whiteboarding with yesterday’s problems. We moved quickly enough through circuits that I think I’ll need to make sure I have some circuit materials worked into our review, but students are feeling pretty good about this topic.

Physics: Spring Lab Practical

Students finished up a lab practical finding an unknown mass using both Hooke’s Law and the period on a spring. Students who didn’t include units in their work tended to get two different answers; most groups got a spring constant in N/cm and without units in the calculations, they tended to miss the need to convert. It was a good lesson in the value of units. It also occurred to me I should incorporate this lab into my AP review since students are finding both gravitational mass and inertial mass.

spring practical

Chemistry Essentials: Balancing Mistakes

We did mistakes whiteboarding with yesterday’s balancing problems. Right now, students mostly seem to be understanding what to do, but need to build up some confidence. I’m really pleased with how well the Mathlink cubes have been working as a manipulative; they are even helping students quite a bit with going between formulas and particle diagrams.

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Day 108: Final Review

AP Physics 1: Free Response Whiteboarding

Students whiteboarded some released free response problems. We also spent some time talking about the scoring guides to drive home that you can do well on the AP exam while missing some, or even a lot, of points. A lot of my students are feeling very good going into the final, which is exactly what I want. There’s also a sense of camaraderie, where the classes seem to see themselves as going into something difficult together, which is also great to see.

Physics: Whiteboarding

Students whiteboarded selected problems from the review for a gallery walk. We didn’t do a great job of spiraling content this trimester, so a lot of the review has been about revisiting old topics so that students are feeling confident and comfortable in their skills again.

Chemistry Essentials: Practice Problems

After doing some problems emphasizing particle diagrams, we worked on a separate review today that gives more standard problems. Breaking the review into parts seemed to help students feel less overwhelmed by the task and starting with the particle diagrams set them up nicely to think conceptually about the problems on today’s section.

Day 158: Multiple Choice, Concave Lenses, & Energy in Reactions

AP Physics: Multiple Choice

I used Plickers to go through some practice multiple choice with student who will be taking the AP Physics 1 exam tomorrow. The conversations were less animated and less focused than earlier in the year, but that’s not a surprise right now. A lot of courses have wound down at this point, and its been tough for students to split their focus between the final project and reviewing for the exam.

I also found myself wishing I’d shifted the due dates for the final project proposal and qualitative description to earlier to give students a little more in-class time to work on their data collection.


Physics: Concave Lenses

Since yesterday’s ray diagrams were mostly convex lenses, we did a little qualitative work with concave lenses today. After talking about what students saw on a screen in Monday’s lab when they used a concave lens, I asked students to sketch a ray diagram that would explain their observations and was pretty pleased with the results.


Chemistry Essentials: Energy in Reactions

Students worked on a worksheet to work with the idea of energy in chemical reactions, especially for exothermic and endothermic reactions and factors that affect reaction rate. I like that focusing on energy gives a why for a lot of observations students have made so far this year; I want to spend some time this summer making energy a much stronger theme in the curriculum for this course.

Day 156: Final Project, Lenses, & Reaction Rates

AP Physics: Final Project

Students continued to work on their final projects. In another class, two students built a pretty serious launcher for balsa wood planes and have decided to make their physics final project about explaining some of the things they’ve noticed with their launcher. The majority of students are making good use of their class time; I think it helps that I gave clearer expectations for what students should turn in partway at key points partway through the project.

I also had a free response problem for students to work on that we talked through at the end of class. I didn’t have a whole lot of students who opted to work through the problem themselves, I think partly because I used a secure practice test that students can’t take home.

Physics: Lenses

Students did a qualitative lab experimenting with the images produced by lenses. I had electric candles to use as light sources, but students got really excited when I suggested they could try a picture on their phone. I loved the surprise when students covered up part of the lens and saw no change in the image.


Chemistry Essentials: Reaction Rates

Students worked on a lab to test how certain changes affect the rate of a reaction. The lab I used was pretty structured, but students had a lot of great ideas about how to effect the rate of a reaction during the pre-lab discussion. I think this lab would work very well as a modeling-style lab next time around.

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Day 155: Whiteboarding, Refraction, & Quiz

Tonight is our annual Relay for Life, so students were not at their most focused today.

AP Physics: Whiteboarding

The students who will be taking the AP Physics 1 exam next week whiteboarded problems from this year’s free response. Students needed more hints than I hoped to get started, but I think that was more to do with excitement over Relay than physics skills getting overly rusty. I still think it will be worth taking some time next week to revisit strategies for breaking down a problem.


Physics: Refraction

After a quiz on ray diagrams, students did a qualitative lab on refraction, making observations of various objects in a clear cup of water and laser beams in a fish tank. Since the fish tank was out anyway, I also left one of my favorite critical angle demos set up.


Chemistry Essentials: Quiz

Students took their quiz on using an activity series to predict whether a single replacement reaction is likely. I also gave each student a printed copy of their current grade and we had some discussion about ways they can improve, especially retakes. My hope was students would work on preparing for retakes after they finished the quiz, but it didn’t pan out. I think a lot of it was simply because this was last hour on a beautiful spring Friday, with only a few hours to go until Relay for Life, but a few students expressed a lack of self-efficacy when it comes to their grade in this class; I need to keep working on how I can give students a sense of control over their learning in here.


Day 154: Resistivity, Ray Diagrams, & More Activity Series

AP Physics: Resistivity

This year, I skipped over resistivity, so my students who took the AP Physics 1 exam last week had some trouble with free-response problem 2. Today, we took some time to look at the problem and discuss strategies for solving without any knowledge of resistivity. The students who took the test last week were very willing to share how they approached the problem, which was better than anything I could have said.

Physics: Ray Diagrams

Students worked through a worksheet on ray diagrams for pinholes. Students worked pretty quickly and confidently, so we had time to whiteboard answers for a gallery walk. There were some great conversations where students brought up their observations from the lab the past few days to decide whether their ray diagrams made sense.


Chemistry Essentials: More Activity Series

Students worked on some additional problems identifying probably reactions using an activity series. I also had students predict the products of the reactions; since we haven’t done formula writing in a while, a lot of students needed a refresher. Once they got started, however, the problems quickly became pretty easy for students.

Day 153: Levitating Globe, Pinhole Viewers, & Hollow Pennies

AP Physics: Levitating Globe

The approach I’ve fallen into in order to give students time for their final projects while embedding some review for the students who will be taking the AP Physics 1 exam on the make-up date. Today, I got out a globe that floats in a magnetic stand and asked students to predict what should happen to the reading on a balance when the globe is removed, an idea I got from Kelly O’Shea. One group did a thought experiment where the magnet was replaced with a spring supporting the globe to reason their answer and had a great conversation.

Physics: Pinhole Viewers

We discussed some of the results of yesterday’s lab, focusing on how a ray diagram can explain the observations students made. Students are pretty quickly getting then hang of making sense of these diagrams.

pinhole rd.jpg

Chemistry Essentials: Hollow Pennies

Students did a conceptual lab practical on activity series today. I gave students an activity series for metals, then asked them to predict whether copper or zinc is more likely to react with hydrochloric acid. Then, I gave each student a penny with a wedge filed into it to test their prediction. I also showed students the hollow remnants of a penny that had been left in 12M hydrochloric acid for a few hours.

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Day 152: Final Project, Pinhole Viewers, & Activity Series

A lot of my AP Physics and Physics students were gone today for the AP Calc exam.

AP Physics: Final Project

I handed out copies of the 2018 free response for students who will be taking the exam next week. Students also had time to work on the problems and their final projects. I have a few students interested in programming, so I gave students the option of either collecting data or writing a program to model their topic. One student is toying with the idea of taking that approach to explore escape velocity.

Physics: Pinhole Viewers

Leah Segal recently tweeted that she gets through spring with seniors by trying out things she wants to do differently now, rather than waiting until next fall. With that in mind, I adjusted my introduction to today’s pinhole viewer lab. After a quick intro to the pinhole viewers, I had students get into their lab groups for a few minutes to talk about what they could change about the viewers. When I brought students back to have a whole class discussion of the pre-lab, students were much more involved and engaged than in prior pre-labs. Afterward, we went outside for students to spend some time exploring the ideas they’d come up with.

pinhole viewer.jpg

Chemistry Essentials: Activity Series

Students worked on a worksheet that focused on predicting whether a reaction is possible based on the activity series. I’m struggling a lot with keeping students engaged right now; the students who were focused made sense of what I needed them to make sense of today, but I also had a lot of students who were very checked out. This is pretty typical of the last few weeks, so I need to keep working on helping students see the value in the day-to-day work.

Day 151: Inertial Balance, Shadows, & Activity Series

AP Physics: Inertial Balance

Since about 60% of my students are taking the AP Physics 1 exam on the make-up date, I’m adding in some review activities along with working on the final project. Today, I set up the inertial balance and asked students to make a few predictions about the motion, as well as what should happen when the mass is supported vertically. At the end of the hour, we used a motion detector to check students’ predictions.

For the final project, students’ proposal was due at the start of the school day today, and a few students told me they were hesitant about moving forward before seeing my feedback. Next time around, a Friday afternoon deadline may be better since then I can get feedback before their next class period.


Physics: Shadows

The other physics teacher and I decided to wrap up the year with some basic optics. Today, students made shadows and sketched ray diagrams to explain what they saw. A lot of students commented that the ray diagrams were a really useful tool to think about what was going on, which was nice to hear, since we’ve had to really work on buy-in on a lot of other diagrams this year.


Chemistry Essentials: Activity Series

Students did a simple lab to develop an activity series for several pure metals. Most of the solutions were 0.1 M, which wasn’t strong enough to get a very visible reaction in the time we had. Next time, I need to make sure I allow time to mix stronger solutions.

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Day 147: Test Day, Board Meeting, & Reaction Types

Today was a strange day; a lot of students were impacted by some unexpected news last night.

AP Physics: Test Day

Today was the AP Physics 1 exam. However, we were able to give students the option of taking the make-up exam later this month and the majority of my students took this option. In my morning section, I’d planned to make today a game day for students to relax and have some fun before the exam, and decided to stick with that in both sections. Most students opted for some puzzles the calc teacher loaned me.


Physics: Board Meeting

Students whiteboarded their results for yesterday’s speed of sound lab. The data came out very nice in both classes. Afterward, we had time for students to get the snakey springs out to start exploring wave superpositions. Even though I didn’t mention it in the prompts, one group got curious and tried to figure out whether the pulses reflect or pass through each other.

sound wb.jpg

Chemistry Essentials: Reaction Types

Classroom management gets tricky during labs with this class, so I decided to push back the lab I’d planned for today. Instead, I moved up a worksheet for students to practice identifying reaction types from chemical equations. One student was excited to show me an alternative representation she came up with for balancing chemical equations; its always exciting to not only have students coming up with their own ways of thinking about problems, but proud enough of their work to want to show it off.

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