Day 165: Final Review

With the seniors done last Friday, I only saw my Chemistry Essentials class today. Today was also our last day of regular classes. Students worked on their final review, though a lot of students struggled to stay on task today. I also saw a lot of students copying answers from each other in order to get it done, rather than engaging in a conversation about the problems. I think it would have been better to have students do some whiteboarding to force the discourse, rather than allowing them to work with their lab groups today. A lot of students also don’t see the connection between making sure they understand the formative work and their success on the assessments, so that is something I will need to think about how to work on for next year.

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 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 109: Free Response & Review

Yesterday was a snow day and tomorrow is the start of final exams, so today was a little tricky.

AP Physics: Free Response

With the AP exam looming, I gave students most of a practice exam as their final. Today, they took the free response portion. I took out a few problems to make sure there was no rotation and to get it reasonable for a 55 minute class period.

Physics: Final Review

Students worked on a final review that asked them to apply several different models to the same scenario. A few groups opted to work on whiteboards, instead of on paper, which was just fine with me. A lot of students went back to drawing their free-body diagrams without sketching in context, like the surface of a hill or ramp, which lead to some mistakes, but most students were able to get on track once they added in that surface.

Chemistry Essentials: Final Review

Students worked on a pretty traditional final review. The particle diagrams finally seem to be clicking for a lot of my students, which is great to see. I am seeing some students check out since it is fairly set whether they will pass or fail; if I teach this course next year, I need to spend some time this summer thinking about how to make final exams meaningful to my students.

Day 108: Experimental Design, Collisions, & Particle Diagrams

AP Physics: Experimental Design

Yesterday, students worked on an experimental design problem from the 2017 AP exam. Today, they exchanged work and used the scoring guide to assign points and give each other feedback. A lot of students were pretty nervous about giving their work to someone else; I think the simple act of recording points on a very tough problem raised the stakes more than I expected. Students still said they found the activity useful, so that may help ease the discomfort if we trade papers again.

Physics: Collisions

Students whiteboarded some of yesterday’s problems before taking a quiz on conservation of momentum. I had some students who actually consider conservation of momentum easier than impulse on a single object; one student told me its just like energy, but they don’t have to think about the different types.

mom wb.jpg

Chemistry Essentials: Whiteboarding

Students have been struggling with what particle diagrams are intended to show, so we started by brainstorming a list of characteristics of a good particle diagram and having some discussion about why they are useful. Afterward, we whiteboarded yesterday’s problems and did a gallery walk. This seemed to help reinforce the purpose of a particle diagram for a lot of students.

Day 107: Experimental Design, Conservation of Momentum, & Particle Diagrams

I had a sub for half the day today.

AP Physics: Experimental Design

Students worked on an experimental design problem off the 2017 AP Physics 1 exam, then did their choice of problems from a packet involving multiple models.

Physics: Conservation of Momentum

Students started working on some problems using conservation of momentum. In the hour I was here for, students were much more confident than I’ve seen them on new problem types all year, which was exciting. When I talked to groups, a lot of them were using connections to energy conservation to think through the problems.

Chemistry Essentials: Particle Diagrams

Students reviewed sketching particle diagrams. A lot of students have struggled with these this year and tend to loose track of what a particle diagram is intended to represent, so I want to make sure they get one more shot before the final

Day 105: Multiple Models, Collisions, & Density Review

AP Physics: Multiple Models

With finals next week, students started working on some problems that require them to use multiple models simultaneously. We also spent some time talking through strategies for these kinds of problems; my students are a little more resistant than usual to sketching diagrams, so I made sure to emphasize the value of that step.

Physics: Collisions

Students started working on a lab with colliding carts to get at conservation of momentum. The lab is going more slowly than I’d hoped, which has me nervous about whether students will be ready to assess on this topic by the end of the week.


Chemistry Essentials: Density Review

I have a little more time for review than normal in this class, so I decided to use some potential labs I skipped over this tri. Today, to review density, I had several unknown liquids students had to identify by making a mass vs. volume graph. I had them write their own procedure, which I haven’t done in a while, and students needed a lot more pre-lab discussion to be ready for that.

I’m also starting to struggle more to keep students on task during the lab and to keep them from having side conversations during whole-class instruction. I’ve seen it before with this course; I think a lot of students see it as settled whether they will pass or fail the course once final review begins and get off track as a result.

Day 55: Design a Practical & Review

AP Physics: Design a Practical

Groups set up the lab practicals they’d planned yesterday, then got a chance to try the lab practicals other groups had come up with. It was a lot of fun seeing how much pride students took in watching their peers complete a practical they’d designed. A lot of students said they enjoyed this approach to review, and I liked the thinking it took to design a good practical.

Physics: Review

Students finished up the review assignment they got yesterday, then were able to check answers against my key. Its not my favorite way to review, but it is familiar and comfortable for my students, which I think helped them feel more confident going into the final exam.

Chemistry Essentials: Review

I also went pretty traditional in this class today, giving them some questions to review atomic models and formula writing, especially since we haven’t had a stand-alone quiz on this topic.

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!

chem jig.jpg