Days 107-111: Final Review

Next week are trimester 2 final exams, so after wrapping up our last topic of the term, both my courses started reviewing for the final exam.

AP Physics 1: Model Summaries & AP Classroom

I’m generally skeptical of typical final review activities, but I really like starting with model summaries. I gave each group one of the major models from so far this year and asked them to prepare a whiteboard with the key diagrams, equations, and other representations for their model. A lot of groups found it helpful to start by coming up with a scenario where the model would be useful. Students really responded to the idea that a model is a toolkit, and the model summary is a reminder of the tools in that toolkit.

After the model summaries, I had students go on AP Classroom, where I’d unlocked multiple choice problems from each of the topics we’ve done so far and asked students to pick a topic to complete. Students liked choosing what they wanted to review, but really wanted a chance to whiteboard and discuss the problems. We ran out of time for any whiteboarding, but I’m glad that my students see the value in discussion.

Physics: Final Review Packet

Monday through Thursday we worked on wrapping up energy, then I handed out a fairly standard final review packet. While working through the packet is helping students to feel more confident goin g in to the final, it reminds me that we have a lot of room for improvement in spiraling content and helping students draw connections between models in this course. That said, students had a much easier time with some of the old problems than in past years, which suggests we’re moving in the right direction.

Days 51-55: Final Review

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.

An example of annotating a diagram and crossing out text that is accounted for in the diagram

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.

Day 159: Final Project Work, Review Whiteboarding, & Half Life Problems

AP Physics 1: Final Project Work

Students worked on polishing their final projects. One student needed to measure some angles in a video clip on Netflix, and had the brilliantly simple idea to just hold a protractor against her screen.

Physics: Review Whiteboarding

Students whiteboarded problems off the final review. A few students asked to chose their own groups since this would be our final round of whiteboarding, but I’m glad I stuck with shuffling them since there was some great conversation during the first few minutes when students were comparing answers on their problems.

Chemistry Essentials: Half Life Problems

We had a board meeting with the results of yesterday’s lab, then students worked on some half life problems. I don’t think I do a great job of linking the lab to the calculations, and I could see it in the ways students were struggling with the calculations.

half life graph.jpg

Day 158: Final Project Work, Final Review, & Half-Life Lab

AP Physics 1: Final Project Work

Students worked on finalizing data collection for their final projects. One group engineered a clever rig to measure how much a fishing rod bent when there was a load.

final project.jpg

It was also PJ day for seniors

Physics: Final Review

Students started working on their final review. We didn’t do anything too exciting, just a selection of problems from each topic, but there was a lot of great discussion as students sought out peers who could help with topics they were rusty on.

Chemistry Essentials: Half Life Lab

Students used paper “pennies” for the classic half-life lab. I have student submit their group’s results in a Google form I’ve been using for a few years; it currently has data from 54 groups, which will be nice for tomorrow’s discussion.

half life.jpg

Day 109: Free Response & Mistakes Whiteboarding

Today was our last day of regular classes before final exams.

AP Physics 1: Free Response

For my tri 2 final, I like to give most of a practice AP exam. Since our final periods are 90 minutes long, I had my students do the free response portion today. I took out the problems on circuits and rotation since my students haven’t seen those topics yet. Students seemed to feel pretty good afterward; I think they are internalizing that its okay not to nail the problems.

Physics: Mistakes Whiteboarding

We used some problems from the final review for mistakes whiteboarding. Students in this course have really bought in to the value of mistakes whiteboarding and I end up saying very little during these discussions. Its a lot of fun to listen to students during these discussions.

phys mistake.jpg

Chemistry Essentials: Mistakes Whiteboarding

We used some problems from the final review for mistakes whiteboarding. A lot of students were having some trouble focusing, which is not unusual for this course at the end of a tri; I think a lot of them are anticipating spring break and the start of the next trimester. My co-teacher and I made some changes to how we talked about particle diagrams this tri to emphasize them as a thinking tool, and it was a lot of fun to see some of that work pay off during the discussion today.

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 107: Final Review

Today was originally scheduled for professional development. Last week, it got switched to a regular school day to make up for some of our snow days.  In spite of the short notice and another round of snow, the majority of students were in school today. All three of my classes

AP Physics 1

Students got a mix of goal-less problems and released free-response problems. The goal-less problems got a mixed response, partly because we haven’t done a lot this year, but the people who liked them really liked them.


Students worked on a packet of problems from throughout the trimester.

Chemistry Essentials

Students did mistakes whiteboarding with particle diagrams connecting to each of the topics from this tri.

Day 90 (finally!): Vocab, Projectiles, & Review

Last week, we cancelled school Monday through Thursday due to snow and cold, then had a planned staff development day on Friday, so students ended up with a full week off school.

AP Physics 1: Vocab

On some grading I did on our surprise week off, I noticed a lot of my students were not distinguishing between different concepts in their writing (I really wanted to quote Inigo Montoya while I was grading). Today, with some inspiration from Kelli Warble, students did some whiteboarding to clarify important terms by starting with the tool they would use to measure each quantity. Students said they found it helpful; I’m hoping it will pay dividends as we move into simple harmonic motion.

ap vocab.jpg

Physics: Projectiles

I am a part of the Pivot Interactive’s Chemistry Fellows program.

Students used a video in Pivot Interactives that shows three views of a projectile to make position vs. time and velocity vs. time graphs for each component of the motion.

pivot projectile

Chemistry Essentials: Review

The quiz on phase changes had been scheduled for last Monday. Since its been a while, we took some time to whiteboard a problem with frozen broth heating up on a stove. I broke the problem into smaller steps, and had groups pass the marker after each step so the person writing on the whiteboard varied.

chem rev.jpg

Day 55: Practicals, Multi-Model Problems, & Whiteboarding

AP Physics 1: Practicals

To review for final exams, I set up a couple of different lab practicals and let students choose which combination they’d like to work on.

Physics: Multi-Model Problems

Students worked on some problems that required them to use multiple models to prepare for the final exam. Last spring, the other physics teacher and I talked about trying to do a better job of spiraling content and, while we’ve taken what I consider some good steps, I could tell this is something we still need to improve on based where I saw students struggling today.

Chemistry Essentials: Whiteboarding

Each group picked a section of the review to be the class experts on. They white boarded their answers to the revenant problems and answered questions from classmates who were stuck on that section. The students who made use of the time seemed to leave feeling very good about the review.


Day 54: Model Summaries & Review

AP Physics 1 & Physics: Model Summaries

In both courses, I started the review by asking students to whiteboard model summaries for what we’ve covered so far this year. I asked them to sketch examples of the main diagram types, key formulas we used, and anything else they thought was important. It helped to frame each model as a tool kit and the model summary as a reminder of what tools are in each kit.


Chemistry Essentials: Review

In this class, I stuck with a pretty traditional review with a selection of problems from each topic so far this year.