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.

Days 75-79: Projectile Problems, Impulse, & Risk Taking

AP Physics 1: Projectile Motion & Free Fall

This week, we worked on problems and calculations for projectile motion and free-fall. A lot of students were rusty on velocity vs. time graphs (like we haven’t used them much in a while or something!), so it was helpful to revisit. I also continue to really like projectile motion as a wrap-up to linear mechanics since we had a chance to revisit pieces of each major topic so far. I was out sick for a day, which made it tough to fit in the practical I usually do while staying on track for pacing. I think the practical could be good for a review in April, especially since I’ve got some ideas for extensions to connect the lab to more concepts.

Physics: Impulse Problems & Risk Taking

We spent most of this week working problems using momentum and impulse and discussing them with mistakes whiteboarding. This week, I was particularly aware of two common behaviors during problems and whiteboarding that suggests students are still wary of taking risks in my classroom. First, when working the problems on paper, I had a lot of students who got off-task if I wasn’t at their table and were really resistant to sharing their thinking if I was. Second, most of the mistakes students picked for mistakes whiteboarding were in parts of the problems that relied on familiar representations, like vector addition diagrams and velocity vs. time graphs, rather than in the new material.

Recently, I had a conversation with an administrator about classroom environments that encourage academic risks and we agreed that before students can take a risk, they need (1) to feel safe and to know the stake are low and (2) a clear sense of how they will benefit or what they will gain, ideally regardless of the outcome. I’m pretty sure I need to put in work on both of those criteria. Some students who I know really appreciate the discussion that comes from mistakes on new material stuck to mistakes on the familiar content, which tells me they aren’t feeling as safe as I ‘d like. Several of the students who were off-task doing problems on paper find the whiteboard discussions extremely valuable, so I think they just didn’t see a benefit to taking the risk or effort of working through their confusion when we were still on paper. All of this tells me I need to keep working to make sure both requirements for academic risk taking are present in my classroom.

Days 73-74: Projectile Video Analysis & Cart Catching

We kicked off 2020 with a two-day week. Even with the short week, my students fell pretty easily back into classroom routines.

AP Physics 1: Projectile Video Analysis

I like wrapping up linear mechanics with projectiles since its an opportunity to apply pieces of just about everything we’ve learned so far this year. We spent a day on a problem from Michael Lerner representing an orange in free-fall a bunch of different ways. Then, we did some video analysis of tennis balls. In the past, we’ve had to go to a computer lab to do video analysis, so I provided students with a video. This year, since laptop carts are a more practical option, I had each group record their own video. I’m hoping that comparing graphs from different videos will lead to a richer discussion when we have the board meeting next week.

Physics: Cart Catching

To introduce momentum, we did a lab from Scott Lotze, the other physics teacher at Tartan, and had students catch a cart at the bottom of the ramp, then find as many ways as possible to make the cart harder to catch. This lead to an operational definition of momentum and nicely illustrated that both mass and velocity of the cart matter. A few groups tried the plunger carts and noticed they are usually easier to catch, which lead nicely into impulse on Friday.

A hand catching a cart at the bottom of a ramp

Day 99: Quiz, Projectile Practical, & Quiz

Classes were a little shorter than usual today due to our winter week pep fest.

AP Physics 1: Quiz

Students took their oscillating particle model quiz on springs. The ones I’m grading so far look great, which is nice to see.

Physics: Projectile Practical

Students worked through a practical to predict where a horizontally launched projectile will hit the floor. Once students got a success, I had them predict which way they should move their target for a relatively light marble.

phys proj prac

Chemistry Essentials: Quiz

Students took their quiz on the Bohr model of the atom. Students are starting to feel pretty comfortable reading their periodic tables and anticipating key properties, which bodes well as we move into formula writing.

Day 98: Whiteboarding Galore

AP Physics 1: Oscillating Spring Whiteboarding

Students whiteboarded some problems for a mass on a vibrating spring. They are recognizing the parallels to pendulums and successfully connecting a lot of the ideas I want them to connect.

ap bar charts.jpg

Physics: Projectile Whiteboarding

Students whiteboarded some problems for horizontally launched projectiles. A lot of students are making good use of energy to simplify the math on the vertical motion and things seemed to click for a lot of students today.

phys wb.jpg

Chemistry Essentials: Bohr Model Whiteboarding

Students used the Bohr model of the atom to whiteboard structures for some of the first 20 elements, also bringing in what we figured out yesterday about isotopes. I ask students to predict the two most common isotopes, which requires rounding the average mass both up and down, and a few students had some trouble with rounding to predict isotopes like H-2, but they were able to get there with some support.

chem bohr.jpg

Day 97: Assessment, Problems, & Penny Isotopes

AP Physics 1: Assessment

Students took their pendulum assessment, initially scheduled for last Friday. They’ve been very quick to grade since students did really well.

Physics: Problems

Students worked projectile motion problems. A lot of students needed some coaching to remember how to solve problems from a velocity vs. time graph, which tells me we could stand to do a little more spiraling content in the course, but students were pretty successful overall. There was a great moment where a few students were feeling much more confident than usual who objected when someone at their table tried to get help from me before talking about their question with the rest of the table.

Chemistry Essentials: Penny Isotopes

Students used pennies to represent different isotopes of an atom, comparing the average mass of their whole set to the average mass of each type of penny. Because I distributed the pennies pretty randomly, all of the groups ended up with more post-1982 pennies, but I think it would have driven the point home a little stronger if some groups had more pre-1982 pennies.

pennies.jpg

Day 96: Lots of Whiteboarding

AP Physics 1: Spring Period Board Meeting

We had a board meeting for the lab on the period of a spring. With all the days we’ve lost due to weather (and the potential for more in the forecast…), I cut it a bit short. My students aren’t in a place where they linearize automatically, but we did have some good conversation about the fact that the intercepts on the period vs. mass graph don’t make sense and students were very quick to come to a consensus that it sure looks like a square root relationship.

ap spring lab.jpg

Physics: Projectile Calculations

We revisited last week’s problem about an orange dropped from a tower to transition into projectile calculations. Students got into groups and whiteboarded solving for the time the orange took to fall and its final velocity. In each section, I had one group that opted to use conservation of energy to find the final velocity of the orange, which was a great way to contrast two different approaches. From there, we gave the orange some horizontal velocity to flesh out the calculations. This approach really drove home that students are being asked to remix old skills, not do something new.

phys calc.jpg

Chemistry Essentials: Bohr Model Whiteboarding

Students did a short worksheet figuring out the Bohr model structure of elements near the beginning of the periodic table. Afterward, students whiteboarded their answers for a gallery walk. I had each group do two elements from the same family to help the pattern in the number of valence electrons pop out.

bohr

Day 95: Springs, Graph Jeopardy, & Build an Atom

AP Physics 1: Spring Period

Students collected data to determine what impacts the period of a spring. I always get a kick out of how often I overhear students predicting that the mass won’t matter since it didn’t for a pendulum, only to be surprised.spring.jpg

Physics: Graph Jeopardy

I have this class the first and last hours of the day, which means it was more impacted by last week’s weather than my other classes. I had a quiz on sketching graphs for projectiles today and decided to do some Jeopardy whiteboarding to make sure everyone was in the groove. Each group sketched a pair of velocity vs. time graphs for a projectile, then another group had to come up with a situation that matched the graphs.

phys jeopardy wb.jpg

Chemistry Essentials: Build an Atom

Students used PhET’s Build an Atom simulation to explore the Bohr model. This was their first exposure to atomic models in the course, but students were able to pick up on all of the big ideas I wanted by playing with the simulation.

phet build atom.PNG

Day 94: Whiteboarding Galore

Today was a tricky day. Between yesterday’s snowstorm and this morning’s wind chill warning, a lot of the districts around here closed. We stayed open, but announced that weather-related absences would be excused (they normally aren’t). I ended up with around half my students gone each hour and had to adjust on the fly.

AP Physics 1: Pendulum Whiteboarding

We had a quiz on deck for today, but I was concerned about how many students would need to make it up. Instead, we spent today whiteboarding some conceptual questions about pendulums.

Physics: Projectile Whiteboarding

Students whiteboarded some problems sketching and interpreting velocity vs. time graphs for projectiles. I also got out the demo to show an object dropped and a horizontal projectile hit the ground simultaneously.

 

Chemistry Essentials: Phase Change Whiteboarding

We’d planned an in-class retake of the phase change quiz today, since last week’s weather meant we took the original late and some students really struggled as a result, so it seems to be a quiz destined for weather interference. We went ahead with giving the in-class retake today, but also spent some time whiteboarding practice bar charts to review beforehand.