# Days 128-132: Energy Conservation & Rotational Kinematics

Physics: Energy Conservation

This week we worked on making the transition to setting up problems for conservation of energy. Before doing problems, we did a card sort where students matched scenarios to energy bar charts, conservation of energy equations using only energy forms, and conservation of energy equations where the formulas were substituted for the energy forms. This seemed to really help students connect the two different versions of the conservation of energy equations and were something I was able to refer back to when students were working on calculations on paper. Whenever students refer back to an activity as we tackle the next challenge, that is a sign to me that the activity was worthwhile.

AP Physics 1: Rotational Kinematics

This week we worked through rotational kinematics. We started with an activity on Pivot Interactives where students analyzed the motion of some dots on a spinning wheel (disclaimer: I write activities for Pivot Interactives. This one should be published soon!). Students very quickly made connections to linear kinematics, which was exactly what I was hoping for. From there, we did a card sort with motion graphs for rotational kinematics where students again saw the connections to linear kinematics really clearly. I’d printed and cut this card sort back in February 2020 with the intention of using it that spring, so it was exciting to finally pull it out of the cabinet! One of the advantages of students making those connections is these activities served as a really natural review, which I try to incorporate into these last topics as the countdown to the AP exam begins.

# Days 123-127: Kinetic Energy & Centripetal Force

Physics: Kinetic Energy

The biggest task this week was a lab to determine the equation for kinetic energy. On some recent labs, students have struggled to get good data. I think part of the issue is many don’t buy into the idea that knowledge should come from the labs they do, so they don’t invest the effort or attention into getting good data, which makes it hard to see how it leads to physics concepts or equations and becomes a self-reinforcing cycle I wanted to interrupt with this lab. We talked a little about what I observed and my hypothesis, then I re-did the gravitational potential energy lab as a demo and made a point of discussing the things I was doing to get good measurements and check the quality of my data as I went. When we were getting ready to whiteboard, I also checked in with groups to make sure they had quantities on the correct axis and were seeing that they needed to linearize. The result was data that really nicely showed the quadratic relationship between kinetic energy and velocity and most graphs even had slopes very close to half the mass of the carts students used! A lot of students were really proud of their results, which was great to see and I’m hoping will encourage them to continue those good data collection practices.

AP Physics 1: Centripetal Force

I like to ignore the College Board’s recommendation to do centripetal force as unit 3 because it is such a nice opportunity for built-in review of a lot of ideas about forces. We started by spinning some rubber stoppers on strings to talk qualitatively about how we could change the force in the string before moving over to Pivot Interactives to collect quantitative data (disclaimer: I am a content writer for Pivot Interactives). Next, we used an activity I originally got from Lucas Walker using exoplanet data to find the law of universal gravitation. Students are making the connections I want them to, but I can tell they are starting to feel some fatigue. I typically rely a lot on Pivot Interactives for this topic since we don’t have much equipment, but students got pretty into the brief hands-on activities we did this week, so I think I should make sure to keep working those in to help my students stay engaged these next few weeks.

# Distance Learning Week 3

I think my students and I are getting into routines and things are starting to run smoother.

AP Physics 1: Central Net Force

Students worked on central net force and universal gravitation this week. We moved through the content fairly quickly since the AP exam is looming. On the summative assessment, a lot of students talked about a force pushing outward on objects moving along a circular path, which is a common preconception. It’s frustrating to know exactly what questions and discussion moves I would use to address this in a face-to-face classroom, but to feel like my options are limited in an asynchronous setting. With the remaining topics, I need to think about how I can proactively get students thinking in ways that challenge preconceptions rather than relying on my ability to react in the moment.

Physics: Pendulum Representations

Students did some video analysis of a pendulum to start thinking about the motion graphs for a pendulum. In the discussion board where students shared their graphs, I also had students respond to some questions about similarities and differences between the posted graphs. This seemed to help students get past the superficial differences in graphs and focus on the major concepts shown by the graphs.

Chemistry Essentials: Formula Writing

This week wrapped up formula writing. On the summative assessment, a few students included a comment along the lines that they’d never learned to draw particle diagrams. Checking in with those kids, they are relying on the Schoology calendar, which shows assignments that are due, rather than visiting the course page where I’ve posted some instructional videos and other resources. I’m not interested in using an assignment to verify students use those resources, so need to think about other ways I can make sure students are aware of materials on the course page. In my email for Monday morning, I added a reminder to use the resources in the folder for each topic. I’ve been putting together an overview of all the tasks for each learning target, and may start including that in the weekly email.

# Distance Learning Week 2

AP Physics 1: Video Summative

Students started the week by wrapping up angular motion graphs. I took a page from Andy Rundquist and Rhett Allain by doing video assessments. I posted a goal-less problem, and each student had to record a short video explaining their work. I really enjoyed watching the videos, especially because a lot of students talked about things that almost tripped them up, but a lot of students had technical issues submitting their work. For the next assessment, I may give students the option of doing a video or a purely written version.

Physics: Projectile Motion Problems

Students worked some problems representing projectile motion, then did a video summative assessment. I tried designating part of my office hours specifically for discussing the problems, and I had a few students take me up on it. It was very different from talking in person, but the students who came felt like they got a lot out of it. Since I’m doing office hours anyway, that will be a pretty easy routine to continue.

Chemistry Essentials: Formula Writing

Students worked on translating between chemical formulas, names, and particle diagrams. Students learned how to go between names and formulas in the first half of the course, but a lot of my students took the first half trimester 1 and haven’t had chemistry since November, so it was worth some review. Plus, the particle diagrams are new to all of my students. Going by their work and the students I’ve had a chance to talk to, a lot of them needed this week, but have now gotten the hang of these representations.

The biggest issue was helping students figure out how to submit their work through Schoology. Many of them rarely visited Schoology before we switched to distance learning, so this is a lot to take in. I decided that I need to hold the line on getting students to submit assignments on Schoology rather than emailing their work to me to keep myself from getting overwhelmed. Fortunately, our digital learning coach has been putting together videos and other resources I can send along and the para supporting the course is willing to walk students through submitting their work.

# Distance Learning Week 1

After a three-week break, we started distance learning this week. Schoology had some outages and other issues from the increase in traffic that made things trickier. My district asked teachers to emphasize asynchronous instruction, which made the outages easier to work around. In spite of the challenges, it was good to connect with students again.

AP Physics 1: Circular Motion

My classes still need to do circular motion and rotation before the AP exam. I started this week with circular motion, emphasizing motion graphs. Since we’ve made a lot of use of linear motion graphs this year, students were quick to grasp the concepts and I think the relatively easy content helped students ease in to distance learning. Students collected data in Pivot Interactives, then posted their graphs to a discussion board for a virtual version of a “board meeting”. I didn’t have much interaction with my students since they didn’t have many questions, but, based on their work, they were able to get the concepts I was after and made sense of the graphs in the discussion board.

Physics: Projectile Motion Graphs

We usually start trimester 3 with projectile motion, and decided to stick with that plan since, like AP, working with velocity vs. time graphs let students ease in to distance learning with relatively familiar content. This also gave us the opportunity to have students collect their own data; they recorded their own videos of projectiles, then used Vernier Video Analysis to get the graphs. Like AP, they posted their graphs to a discussion board before answering some questions interpreting the graphs.

Students were consistently figuring out what I wanted them to, but struggled to feel confident in their answers, so I answered a lot of emails and had several video chats with students to work through questions. I also got some useful feedback from students. One commented that looking at the graphs on the discussion board wasn’t helpful because everyone’s graphs seemed really different, even though they all looked similar to me. I think some questions about the discussion board to steer students to key features would have been useful. In AP, I asked students to first post their graphs, then make a second post commenting on similarities and differences between their peer’s graphs, which I think would have been useful in this class, too.

A student also told me that she misses the collaboration and group work from our face-to-face class, because she found that extremely valuable for learning physics. Teachers in my building are holding office hours each week, and I am going to try designating a chunk of my office hours for student collaboration on a specific task. I’m also looking for ideas for asynchronous collaboration strategies, and would love to hear any!

Chemistry Essentials: Introductions

This is the course I’m the most worried about. It is the lowest (I hate that term) of our four levels of chemistry, so many of the students have not been well-served by our school. I find building relationships with students in this course is even more critical than in my physics courses. The trick is the start of the tri coincided with the start of distance learning, so I haven’t had the chance to meet any of my students face-to-face. I decided to make this week about connecting with students and helping them find their way around the course site. Their biggest assignment was to use the appointment slots in my Google Calendar to schedule an informal, one-on-one chat. I found it really valuable to hear about the things my students care about and to talk through their fears about distance learning. I’m hoping this will lower the threshold for them to come to office hours or make an appointment when they have a question about chemistry.

# Day 134: Problems, Mistakes Whiteboarding, & PhET Limiting Reactants

I had a sub for half the day today, so only saw two of my sections.

AP Physics 1: Problems

Students worked on some problems with angular acceleration. I was at school for my smaller section, and the problems went very smoothly. They worked very independently and I overheard a lot of great discussion and connections to linear motion.

Physics: Mistakes Whiteboarding

I was at school for my only section, so we did some mistakes whiteboarding with Thursday’s problems. Students had some great mistakes and great discussion about the problems. One of the interesting things is when students were asked to sketch a v-t graph and divide it into sections, most groups did before, during, and after, mirroring the way we’d used velocity vs. time graphs during momentum transfer (inspired by Brian Frank). Asking them to tell me about what was happening to the box during each phase was pretty effective at shifting them.

Chemistry Essentials: PhET Limiting Reactants

I was gone for both sections of this class, so it was a great day for students to use PhET to introduce limiting reactants. My co-teacher sent me a message that the kids who got started got the ideas pretty quickly, but a lot had trouble getting started. The para who supports the class was also out today, so I think some students felt like they didn’t have the support they needed; I need to keep working on how to support my chem students in developing independence in the classroom.

# Day 133: Goal-less Problem, Forces Revisited, &

AP Physics 1: Goal-less Problem

We started with some mistakes whiteboarding of yesterday’s problems, which went very quickly and smoothly thanks to the connections my students were making to linear motion. Afterward, I gave them a goal-less problem for accelerated circular motion, and those connections continued to serve students well

Physics: Forces Revisited

We’d originally planned on taking a few days to close out the mechanics part of the course after oscillating springs, but the other physics teacher and I both forgot. Now that we’ve done what we’re going to with mechanical waves, we decided now would be a good time. Students worked on some problems revisiting the links between force, motion and other concepts from this year. There was lots of good discussion as they worked.

Chemistry Essentials: Gallery Walk

We did a gallery walk of some stoichiometry problems. Students have been doing well with the problems and seem to understand WHY they are doing the math they are, which I’m really excited about. I’m thinking about switching to BCA tables in the future; I need to spend some time trying problems with them. We’ll be starting work on some curriculum revisions for the course next year, and that might be a good time to take a closer look.

# Day 132: Angular Motion Representations, Whiteboarding, & Stoich Problems

AP Physics 1: Angular Motion Representations

We started by discussing yesterday’s activity to introduce angular velocity; there was some great debate about which dot on the disk was moving the fastest, which lead exactly where I wanted it to. Afterward, students worked on some problems translating between different representations of angular motion. Students fell very easily back into the kind of thinking we’d done with linear motion, which made the problems a breeze.

Physics: Whiteboarding

We finished going over the standing wave problems and took a quiz on the topic.

Chemistry Essentials: Stoichiometry Problems

Students worked some stoichiometry problems that included polyatomic ions. Most students are doing very well with the problems, which has me very optimistic about tomorrow’s quiz.

# Day 131: Pivot Angular Motion, Whiteboarding, & Pivot Stoich

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

AP Physics 1: Pivot Interactives Angular Motion

As students finished their torque quiz, I had them use Pivot Interactives to look at the motion of a spinning disk and come up with two different answers to which dot on a spinning disk is moving the fastest. Tomorrow, we’ll use those two answers to get into angular velocity vs. tangential velocity.

Physics: Whiteboarding

We spent some time whiteboarding yesterday’s problems. Students resisted drawing the diagrams for standing waves, but, once they got the diagrams, they were able to solve the problems.

Chemistry Essentials: Pivot Interactives Stoichiometry

Students used Pivot Interactives to compare their prediction for how much hydrogen gas should be produced in a reaction to how much was actually produced. I ran into an issue where a few students were very insistent that a prediction is a guess, so their calculation could not be a prediction. I didn’t have a great response in the moment aside from in science, a prediction should have something to back it up, which can be a calculation.

Another hurdle I ran into today is I have one section where a lot of students really resist talking to their group members, and the computers made it easier for them to work in isolation. As a result, I realized partway through the hour I was frequently answering the same questions multiple times with a given group and I was helping individual students with portions of the activity their partners knew how to do. I need think about how I can help my students have more productive collaboration within their group.

# Day 125: Assessment & Problems

AP Physics 1: Assessment

Students took their central net force quiz. Most seemed to feel pretty good about it, even though we moved through the content quickly.

Physics: Wave Problems

Students worked on problems using what we’ve learned this week. The problems went very smoothly.

Chemistry Essentials: Molar Mass Problems

Students worked on some problems combining molar mass with balancing chemical reactions.