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.

lab prac t3.jpg

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 161: Project Work & Whiteboarding

There was some extra chaos today and I dropped the ball on getting photos.

AP Physics: Project Work

Students worked on wrapping up their final projects. A lot of them are getting excited about presenting tomorrow. There are several students who had very ambitious proposals that I encouraged to scale back their project who have ended sticking with their original plan because they are enjoying the project, which is awesome. One student worked out the force on his legs at several key points during a hurdle race, along with trying to find the optimal launch speed for jumping over a hurdle.

Physics: Review Whiteboarding

Students did some more whiteboarding to review for tomorrow’s final. When sketching diagrams for a spring, a lot of groups had trouble with which direction the spring force was acting.

Chemistry Essentials: Whiteboarding

Students whiteboarded yesterday’s problems. The two hours before this class, there had been some excitement related to senior pranks, so the students were much more keyed up than usual and it was tough for them to stay focused. I also found students were having trouble keeping track of  a lot of the details on the bar charts, which isn’t surprising given how quickly we’ve been moving through this content.

Day 160: Graphite Wire, Pendulum Review, & Energy Bar Charts

Today was the start of seniors’ last week of school.

AP Physics: Graphite Wire

Students continued to work on their final projects. One student used a graphite pencil to sketch “wires” on a sheet of paper and worked on collecting data on the potential difference at the LED. I wasn’t sure if a pencil would leave a thick enough layer of graphite, so got pretty excited when she got this to work.


Its hard to see, but the LED is glowing!

Physics: Pendulum Review

With the final exam starting on Thursday, we took some time today to start reviewing. I started with some pendulum questions that I expected to be pretty quick and easy, but it took a lot longer than I hoped. I didn’t do as nice a job of spiraling as I would have liked this spring, so students were very rusty on some of the concepts they needed.


pendulum wb.jpg

Chemistry Essentials: Energy Bar Charts

Students worked on energy bar charts for chemical reactions. The hardest part for a lot of students was parsing what exactly was happening at each snapshot for the energy bar carts; in general, I haven’t pushed the idea that some representations are like a photo that shows a specific instant while others are like a movie that shows change over an extended period, which would have helped today.

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 157: Final Projects, Lens Ray Diagrams, & Reaction Rates

AP Physics: Final Projects

We went to a computer lab today for students to continue working on their final projects. The majority of students are making good progress; they had a milestone due today, and I’m looking forward to reading their progress. One student is analyzing a scene from one one of the Fast and the Furious movies to determine whether the physics is plausible. He spent some time today getting measurements from Google Maps to help with his analysis.

I gave feedback on project proposals electronically, and ran into an issue where one student hadn’t read the feedback to see their project needed some significant changes. I wish I’d taken time to have individual conferences with students about their proposals to make sure students were aware of my feedback.

Physics: Lens Ray Diagrams

Students worked on some qualitative ray diagrams for lenses today. Students are continuing to do very well with ray diagrams, though I wish we’d spent a little more time on planar refraction. A lot of students had trouble with the idea that a lens bends the light the same amount, regardless of characteristics like the location of the screen.

Chemistry Essentials: Reaction Rates

We spent some time discussing yesterday’s lab, using particle diagrams to think about why certain factors sped up reactions. A few ideas from earlier in the year, like the fact that particles move faster when they are at a higher temp, came up, which was great. Afterward, students did a reading and answered some questions to try and focus on the role of energy in affecting reaction rates.

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.

reaction rate.jpg

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.

activity series.jpg

Day 149: Final Project, Problems, & Whiteboarding

AP Physics: Final Project

Students continued refining their proposals for the final project. Lots of students have ideas I’m really excited to see. A few students are working on ideas where it may be interesting to look at dissipated energy, so we got out the infrared camera to play a little. It turns out some glasses block a lot of IR.

ir selfie

Physics: Problems

Students worked on some sound wave problems. Things seem to be clicking for most students.

Chemistry Essentials: Whiteboarding

We spent some time talking about the observations students made during yesterday’s lab and drawing explicit connections to the equation for the chemical reaction. My students don’t have a great sense for what certain chemicals look like, so it ended up being more teacher directed than I’d like. Students also weren’t sure when a chemical will show up as a gas, since I’ve dropped the subscript g in order to simplify the equations we’re looking at, but I’m not sure that is a useful simplification.

After the discussion (or, more accurately, lecture with student responses), student whiteboarded some limiting reactant problems. The students who were engaged made some good progress.


This student asked me if I could write the symbols for sodium hydride and bromine oxide