Day 167: Final Exam

Today is the last day of school and the day of my Chemistry Essentials final. We have an altered schedule with 90 minute periods during final exams and, no matter how long I’ve made the test, I’ve never had students take more than an hour on a final for this course. I think a lot of students just hit a wall where they can’t focus on a written test any longer, especially since I usually teach the class during the last period. Instead of fighting that block, the other teacher and I agreed to split the exam period into a shorter written final and a lab. We picked a fairly straightforward exothermic reaction lab that we ran out of time for during the regular unit. This is definitely an approach to final exams I want to keep in the course, if not shift to an entirely lab-based final.

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Day 164: Final Review

Friday was the last day of school for seniors, so I will only have Chemistry Essentials this week.

Today they started working on a final review. The curriculum is more disjointed than I’d like, so I took the opportunity to help students draw some connections by writing the entire review to focus on a single reaction. The students who were working on the review made good progress.

The class is also about 1/3 seniors, so the class size is down to 22 this week. It was amazing what a difference the smaller class made in terms of my ability to interact with students and provide meaningful help.

Day 163: Presentations, Lab Practical Exam, & Quiz

We let seniors go a week early, so today was the last day for seniors.

AP Physics: Presentations

We finished presentations of the final projects students have been working on. There were a lot of great projects; two students analyzed a launcher for balsa wood planes they built in an industrial tech class.

Physics: Lab Practical Exam

Students took the lab portion of their final exam today. There were three different problems that each connected to one of the problems on the written exam. My 5th hour finished in about half the time I expected, probably because it was the second to last period of their last day, so I broke out the mystery tubes.

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Chemistry Essentials: Quiz

Students took a quiz on reaction rates and energy in chemical reactions. Things got a little tricky; we dismissed seniors about 20 minutes before the end of the school day today, and about one third of my class is seniors, so I needed to make sure the assessment could be finished by then. I didn’t prepare very well for what the juniors would do with the rest of the time, so things got a little chaotic.

Day 162: Presentations, Final Exam, & Superintendent Visit

AP Physics: Presentations

Students presented their work on the final project to their class. There were a lot of great projects. There were some great reactions to a student who used video analysis to determine how much lift her chickens could produce (spoiler: it isn’t much).

Physics: Final Exam

Students took the individual portion of their final exam today. Like previous trimesters this year, we are doing a fairly traditional written exam and a lab-based exam in groups. Since we don’t have a special schedule for senior finals, it was very natural to do the individual part today and the group part tomorrow.

Chemistry Essentials: Superintendent Visit

I got asked to have my students participate in a world cafe with our superintendent today, so we skipped doing chemistry. For the past three years or so, our district has done a lot of work related to a strategic plan and our superintendent has been very intentional about including students throughout the process. This work is especially important as we take steps to respond positively and productively to a letter from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights about discipline disparities and my Chemistry Essentials class was a perfect group to include since students who are under-served in our district tend to be over-represented in this course.

Day 55: Design a Practical, Review, & Quiz Jigsaw

AP Physics: Design a Practical

I decided to try something new for my review this year and tasked each group with picking at least one model from this tri, and designing a lab practical. Today, they worked on coming up with an idea and trying it out in the lab. I’m having a lot of fun seeing what students are coming up with; I need to make sure I get photos of all of them tomorrow. The main challenge was I did a lot of running around between classrooms to find lab equipment for students, so next time I’ll try to do a better job of having most of the equipment we’ve used in the room already.

Physics: Review

Students worked on some review worksheets from the Modeling Instruction curriculum. As students worked, there were several I talked to who are feeling very overwhelmed right now, so we talked a little about the worst case scenario as a sort of pep talk. I will probably take a few minutes tomorrow to do that with the whole class.

Chemistry Essentials: Quiz Jigsaw

Groups presented the whiteboards they worked on yesterday. Most students no longer had their old quizzes, which made it tough for them to take full advantage of this; next time, I might give them a full set of blank quizzes as a review packet. I asked groups to pick what they thought were the hardest problems off their quiz to whiteboard, and most groups picked problems that the majority of students got wrong on their original quiz, which was great!

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Day 54: Model Summaries & Quiz Jigsaw

Final exams are this week, so all three of my classes are doing some review the next few days.

AP Physics: Model Summaries

I gave each group one of the four models we’ve covered this trimester, and asked them to whiteboard examples of the key representations for their model, including diagrams, graphs (with notations about what has physical meaning), and equations. Once whiteboards were ready, we took a few minutes to do a gallery walk. A really cool surprise was just about every group included some force representations, regardless of which model they were whiteboarding.

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CAPM summary

Physics: Model Summaries

My physics classes also worked on model summaries, but I used a different structure. First, rather than giving each group a different model, I had the whole class whiteboard the same model, then we did a gallery walk before moving on. Second, to make things a little more concrete, I asked each group to come up with a scenario where the model applied, then to sketch representations and give some written descriptions. I think a lot of students didn’t see as much value in this as I’d hoped; I have a lot of students who have been trying to memorize the diagrams, rather than using them as meaning-making tools, and spending time thinking about the relationships between the diagrams doesn’t contribute to that approach. With a new tri starting next week and most of my students either switching hour or switching teacher, I’ve got a good opportunity to think about how I can re-calibrate my classroom culture towards more meaning-making.

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CVPM summary

Chemistry Essentials: Quiz Jigsaw

I gave each group an old quiz and asked them to work through it. Once groups started to finish, I asked them to pick the hardest problem or problems and prep a whiteboard with their solutions. The big challenge is I had a lot of students checking out today, which is pretty typical for what I see during finals week with this course; for most of my students, whether or not they pass is more important than their letter grade, and are aware that a final that is 10% of their grade will have little impact on whether they pass. I need to spend some time thinking about final exams that students are more likely to find more intrinsically meaningful.

chem quiz wb

A problem that almost everyone got wrong on the quiz

Day 169: Final Exam

Earth Science: Final Exam

Today is my last day with students! I finally managed to include a collaborative, lab-ish portion on a 9th grade final exam. We’ve been spending a lot of time on topographic maps, so part of the exam is interpreting a map with their lab group. The rest is a pretty traditional written exam.

Day 168: Review

Earth Science: Review

Today is the last day of regular classes for the year. Students worked on a review for the final exam. I used a pretty traditional review assignment, but I want to keep working on better ways to review.  The students who need the most support to prepare for the final struggled to use the review assignment effectively, with many of them relying on getting answers directly from a classmate or the textbook. I need to keep working on review strategies that will scaffold students toward more effective studying.

Day 114: Final & Project Presentations

Today and tomorrow we are on a special schedule for final exams.

AP Physics: Final Exam

Students are taking a practice AP exam for their final. Since we have 90 min class periods during finals, they did a modified free response section yesterday on our last day with a regular schedule. Tomorrow, during their final exam period, they will take the multiple choice. I already know they are going to struggle on a few specific questions because we have not done much thinking in terms of the center of mass of a system, so, when we review, I’m planning to re-do a couple of topics focusing on those kinds of problems.

Physical Science: Project Presentations

I cut down the written final to fit in a single class period, then had students present their designs to the class during the extended period. Afterwards, students did some reflecting on the project, focusing on how they functioned in a group. A lot of the reflection would be more meaningful if students weren’t going to be completely reshuffled the next regular day of classes, but they were pretty engaged nonetheless. Students said they much preferred this over doing the written final today since it was lower stress and gave them a break from sitting in silence all day.

Day 113: Free Response & Written Final

Final exams don’t officially start until tomorrow, but both my classes got an early start today.

AP Physics: Free Response

I’m using a practice exam from the College Board as my final this tri. Students worked on the free response section, minus one problem on waves and one on circuits since we haven’t done those topics yet. I was relieved by how many students said the free response wasn’t that bad. While they worked, I was mulling over a multiple choice problem about the change in speed of a projectile and played around with the problem in Desmos.

Speed time graph

Physical Science: Written Final

I decided to use the final exam period for students to present their engineering projects, so today they took a written final. Just like first trimester, I’d like to shift to something more deeply rooted in the scientific practices.I really like the two-stage lab exams I’ve done in physics, but that is different enough from the multiple choice other 9th grade teachers do that I would need to talk some other teachers into it. I need to come up with some ideas for easy grading and for managing a lab exam with up to 42 9th graders in the room. I might pitch a lab-based final to the other 9th grade teachers and see if they’d be up for some summer curriculum writing to work on those issues and design some good labs.