Day 75: Projectile Whiteboarding, Pie Charts, & Gas Laws

AP Physics: Projectile Whiteboarding

Around half of my students were on a field trip today. We did some mistakes whiteboarding with the problems from yesterday, followed by some practice writing good explanations for “explain your reasoning” problems using CER.


Physics: Pie Charts

A lot of Physics students were also on the field trip, so my classes were pretty thin. After discussing yesterdays’ lab and introducing the “flavors” of energy, students worked on drawing energy pie charts. I usually skip this representation, but we decided to see if it helps with the struggles students have had this year with conceptual understanding.


Chemistry Essentials: Gas Laws

We went over the results of yesterdays’ simulation to derive the gas laws. Just like last trimester, I’m introducing them as proportions, rather than equations, and am pleased with how that’s working so far. I skipped spending a day on temperature and particle movement this tri, but I ended up missing that a lot today.

Day 68: Whiteboarding, Problem Practice, & Whiteboarding

AP Physics: Energy Predictions

Students whiteboarded drafts of their answer to which interaction dissipates a bouncy ball’s energy. One of the things I like about this activity is every group agreed the table is where most of the energy is dissipated, but there was a variety of evidence cited that gave some good opportunities for discussion. Afterward, I showed a thermal video of a weighted tennis ball and we played with the happy/sad balls and seismic accelerator.

Physics: More Problem Practice

Students got some additional practice with unbalanced forces in 2D. It was one more day than I think was truly necessary for their understanding, but confidence has been a big struggle this year and it seemed to help a lot of them feel like they can do the problems.

Chemistry Essentials: Mistakes Game

I did the mistakes game with yesterday’s problems, and it was very rocky. I think it wasn’t ideal timing to introduce whiteboarding since tomorrow is our last day before break and a lot of students are very restless. I’m also really struggling in Chemistry Essentials, more than when I’ve taught it in past years, to get students focused on chemistry during chemistry.

chem mistake.jpg

Day 67: Video Analysis, Speed Dating, & Density

AP Physics: Video Analysis

Students continued working to determine whether a bouncy ball dissipates most of its energy from impact or from air resistance (I’ll have an article about this activity in the January issue of The Science Teacher). Today, students used LoggerPro to analyze the videos they made yesterday and collect evidence. There were a lot of great conversations about connections between energy and motion, which is exactly what I’m after with this activity. Most students had a draft of a CER about where the energy was dissipated by the time they left class.


Physics: Speed Dating

As part of my effort to focus on lowering the social stakes in my class, I had students do some whiteboard speed dating to go over yesterday’s goal-less problems. There were a lot of great conversations; the best part was how many students I heard asking “How do you know?”. My 1st hour in particular did a great job of finding and correcting mistakes in each others’ work. I also am continuing to talk about my pedagogical choices more than usual, which seems to be helping students go along with what I’m asking and hold each other accountable for participating. Particularly in my 1st

speed dating.jpg

The units got fixed on the next rotation, but I forgot to snap a new photo

Chemistry Essentials: Density

We discussed the results of yesterday’s lab to get to a definition of density. I skipped doing a true board meeting because, with break looming, I was worried about time, but students didn’t have as solid a mental model of density as I would have liked when they were working on the worksheet. It was a good reminder that pedagogical shortcuts have their cost.

Day 59: Energy, 3rd Law, & CER

AP Physics: Intro to Energy

Students measured the average force and the displacement required to give a cart the same change in height on several different ramps. They sketched the force vs. displacement graphs, which I used to introduce gravitational potential energy and work.

peg lab.jpg

Physics: 3rd Law

We ran out of time to hit Newton’s 3rd Law during last tri’s unit on balanced forces, so today we dove in. I showed students a pair of carts, then asked them to draw interaction diagrams and free body diagrams for various collisions, as well as to predict which cart will experience a larger force. One group gave me a hard time about how deadpan I was when they asked if their prediction was right, so we talked a little about Clever Hans the Math Horse.

3rd law.jpg

Chemistry Essentials: CER

As part of the follow-up on yesterday’s lab, I introduced students to the CER framework. I had students identify the claim and evidence in a car commercial, then come up with some potential reasoning for the evidence before they started a CER on whether the mass of steel wool should change.


Day 29: Conservation of Momentum, Annotating Graphs, & Temperature vs. Heat

AP Physics: Conservation of Momentum

We had a board meeting on last week’s conservation of momentum lab. As part of their whiteboards, I asked students to write a CER on whether their results made sense and encouraged them to use Newton’s Laws in their thinking. The 1st Law was a much more popular approach than the 3rd Law, but I was pleased at the connections were making.

ap cons.jpg

Physics: Annotating Graphs

Students started working on some problems to annotate velocity vs. time graphs and write equations for the area. I think this is helping some of my students to make more connections to what the graph actually represents, which will be an important stepping stone to solving problems. I also added some problems that just ask students to sketch and annotate a v-t graph from the kind of written description that would start a problem.

phys anno

Chemistry Essentials: Temperature vs. Heat

We took some notes on heat and temperature, then I asked students to predict whether there would be a larger temperature change when I added a small amount of boiling water or a large amount of warm water to a large beaker of room temperature water. Students seemed to wrap their heads around the difference and were able to explain why the warm water produced a bigger temperature change after the demo.

chem temp.jpg

Day 26: CoM Board Meeting, Breaking Down Problems, & Gas Laws

AP Physics: Center of Mass Board Meeting

We had a board meeting to discuss the results of the video analysis from the last few days. I asked students to write a CER for whether the forces on each system of pucks were balanced or unbalanced. This lead nicely into some conversation about what exactly we mean by the two -puck system. I ended up wishing students had more experience interpreting position vs. time graphs prior to this discussion; we’ve mostly worked with velocity vs. time graphs so far, and the various uncertainties piled up to make it look like the velocity was changing. The position vs. time graphs were much more convincing, but students weren’t as likely to look at those.

Afterwards, we played with the coupled carts from Kaar, Pollack, Lerner, and Engles’ The Physics Teacher article. The graphs were very satisfying.

Physics: Breaking Down Problems

On the last quiz, a lot of students really struggled to interpret the problems, so we spent some time today on how to break down a physics problem. As we discussed how to approach a problem, we took time for students to apply each step to the problems on the most recent quiz.

quiz tips

Chemistry Essentials: Gas Laws

We used the results of yesterday’s simulation to develop the gas laws. I’ve found a lot of my students really struggle with algebra, so, rather than developing equations, we came up with statements using proportional reasoning which students then applied to some problems. Some of my students who really struggled to manipulate the density equation were very successful with today’s gas laws problems, so I think this approach was a success.

Day 25: Center of Mass, Board Meeting, & Gas Laws

AP Physics: Center of Mass

Students continued yesterday’s video analysis, based on the article by Taylor Kaar, Linda Pollack, Michael Lerner, and Robert Engles in The Physics Teacher. Today, students analyzed the motion of four hover disks linked into a square from several different perspectives. They were a little bothered that it was tricky to spot the center of the square, but I like that we’ll be able to have a conversation about whether there has to be any mass at the center of mass.

square disks.PNG

Physics: Board Meeting

Students whiteboarded their results from the video analysis the last few days. Framing this around a CER with a more specific question than usual had the desired effect and I saw students keeping much more complete records than usual. Students are continuing to struggle with recognizing the physical meaning of features on the graph, so I need to keep giving students opportunities to work on that.

phys cer

Chemistry Essentials: Gas Laws Simulation

Students used the PhET Gas Properties simulation to take quantitative data for the ideal gas laws. I think the class would have benefited from a little more discussion prior to using the simulation to set up what we were measuring and why, rather than just giving them an assignment in Google Classroom that told them what to measure. However, students were very successful in recognizing the quantitative relationships I wanted them to see.

Gas Laws Sim.PNG

Day 23: Elevators, Board Meeting, & Pressure

AP Physics: Elevators

I took some time today to introduce students to the CER framework. I showed them a force vs. time graph I made by riding the elevator with a mass hanging on a force sensor, then asked them to determine whether I was riding the elevator up or down. We haven’t done much with unbalanced forces yet, but they were pretty successful determining which direction I rode it.

Elevator Ride Down.png

Physics: Board Meeting

Students whiteboarded sketches of their graphs from yesterday. Its been taking longer and longer for groups to prepare whiteboards, so I think I will try setting a time on the SMARTBoard to try and speed things up. I also found a lot of groups were missing information we’d discussed recording prior to the lab yesterday, so I think we need to revisit lab notebook practices. The discussion was very abbreviated, so we only got a chance to discuss a little about the position vs. time graphs, but students were able to recognize the key ideas. On Monday, we’ll talk about the v-t graphs and look at some variations.

vid wb

Chemistry Essentials: Pressure

To introduce pressure, students watched a balloon in a vacuum chamber, then whiteboarded what they thought was happening. Students were pretty successful at coming up with useful ideas to explain what they saw and inventing the idea of pressure.

chem wb (1)

Afterward, we boiled water in the vacuum chamber. We ran out of time to whiteboard it, but, on a whim, I got out my thermal camera and recorded a video to show the water stays cool.


Day 151: Space Yo-Yos & Volcano Types

AP Physics: Space Yo-Yos

Students continued work on their projects. I showed students Rhett Allain’s recent post on fidget spinner physics as a really strong example of what I’d like. Yesterday was also the last AP exam that a large percentage of seniors at my school take, and the combined result is a lot of students seemed much more focused on their projects today. In one hour, a student was talking through the physics behind some yo-yo tricks, and started trying to figure out which tricks should work in space and why. Turns out, there is video evidence for some of the tricks he said don’t require gravity!


Earth Science: Volcano Types

Today, I introduced students to the three main types of volcanoes. First, they predicted whether wet sand, ooblek, or a pile of scoria could make a taller volcano to get them thinking about the physical properties that lead to the shapes of the different types of volcanoes.


Day 148: Projects & Earthquake Engineering

AP Physics: Projects

Students continued to work on their final projects. There was a range of how well students were using the time; I suspect part of the problem is they aren’t clear on what I’m looking for in the final product, so I need to spend some time clarifying that Monday and reviewing my expectations. I’m pretty excited about the projects students are working on so far; one student is digging into a certain move in his favorite video game using video analysis and got stuck figuring out how to deal with the camera panning during the move. He ended up tracking a background point, then using a calculated column to find the character’s position relative to that point, which produced a beautiful parabola.

Earth Science: Earthquake Engineering

Students designed towers intended to stay upright during an earthquake. We ran out of time to test the towers, so that will wait until Monday.  Students are just using straws, but I’d like to think about how to encourage students to think about stability at the highest levels. This is also a tough activity for students to really connect to their science knowledge; they are better equipped to justify ideas for shake tests than to justify ideas for a tower design. Even so, students pulled in some interesting ideas from geometry. A few students who were in my class last tri also took some ideas from the Marshmallow Challenge we’d done.