AP Physics 1: Angular Momentum
This is the last topic students need before the AP Physics 1 exam. Students built the model using a Pivot Interactives activity where a marble is fired at a block. One of the questions I asked is whether the distance between the block’s center of mass and the point where the marble strikes has any impact on whether the momentum of the block-marble system is conserved, and I was surprised to see most of my students said yes. I’ve done this activity in the classroom, and I underestimated the importance of the conversations students have on their way to answering the question. I think if I had explicitly prompted students to use tools like an SOS diagram before answering, they would have been more likely to recognize momentum is conserved.
Physics: Pendulum Equation
Students wrapped up the pendulum lab. At the end of last week, I noticed in a discussion board that a lot of students saw their period vs. length graph as linear, so I made a short video talking about how the intercept affects that interpretation. Their first assignment this week was to finish their data analysis and answer a few questions. Most of my students still said their period vs. length graph was linear, which tells me they either didn’t watch the video or didn’t incorporate that information into their work. For my grad class, I’ve been reading about constructivist learning theories in online science courses, and one of the big challenges is most platforms emphasize results and answers, rather than process. Without feedback on their process, students are likely to resist changing a conclusion they’ve arrived at. I need to think about what it looks like to create the space and the expectation for students to share their process in an online environment.
Chemistry Essentials: Balancing
Students have been gradually catching up on old work thanks to the pause I took last week. There’s still a lot of students who aren’t taking visible steps to get caught up, but I’m glad to see some progress.
This week’s assignment was to use PhET’s balancing chemical reactions sim to get an idea of what it means for a reaction to be balanced. I usually start balancing with this activity, and it was really nice to have something that translated so easily to an online environment. Only a few students have completed the assignment so far, but those who have are showing a solid conceptual understanding of what it means for a reaction to be balanced.
AP Physics 1: Kirchoff’s Laws
Students worked on developing Kirchoff’s Laws this week. We started with PhET’s circuit construction kit, then got out the power supplies and resistors. Some groups had trouble recognizing the simulation and the physical lab as addressing the same concepts, but explicitly asking groups how their results compared seemed to help students make the connections. There was also some good discussion about why the results in the physical lab didn’t match the simulation exactly. A thermal photo showed some heat at the alligator clips, which lead to some conversation about whether the wires we were using were ideal.
Physics: Energy Transfer Card Sort
This week we worked on starting energy conservation problems. To help the transition from bar charts to problems, I turned some problems Kelly O’Shea and Mark Schober wrote for the New Visions physics curriculum into a card sort. Seeing cards with two versions of the conservation of energy equation seemed to help a lot of students see how to build equations from the bar charts, which made the problems much smoother than in the past.
AP Physics 1: Circuits Intro
We used PhET’s circuit construction kit to introduce some circuit basics and develop Ohm’s Law. Afterward, we used nichrome wire to test how the length of a wire affects its resistance. The data came out great, with groups that used thinner gauges of wire consistently getting larger slopes than groups who used thicker gauges. I usually skip over resistivity, but, at the AP reading last year, Wayne Mullins shared how he uses resistivity as a conceptual basis for Kirchoff’s Laws and I’m really excited to try that approach with my students this year.
Physics: Energy Bar Charts
This week was all about switching over to energy bar charts. I also noticed students are getting much more vocal during whiteboard sessions. I can’t figure out what’s behind it, but I’m really enjoying it. We’re getting close to the end of the trimester, and a lot of students switch between hours (or even between teachers), so I’m starting to think about how I can help students maintain this progress at the transition.
AP Physics 1: Final Projects
Students continued to work on their final projects. I have one group that’s interested in finding a way to measure the rate my Van de Graaff generator builds up charge. They spent some time today experimenting with ways to indirectly measure the charge.
Physics: Ray Diagram Mistake Whiteboarding
Students did some mistakes whiteboarding with ray diagrams for curved mirrors. Several students commented on mistakes they thought were especially helpful or interesting, which made me feel really good about the culture I try to build in my class. Students were also sad when they realized this will be their last round of mistakes whiteboarding in high school.
Chemistry Essentials: PhET Nuclear Structure
Students used PhET’s Build an Atom simulation to experiment with nuclear structure to kick of our nuclear chemistry unit. A lot of the information was a review from the first half of the course, but most needed a refresher.
AP Physics 1: Pivot Angular Acceleration
I am as part of Pivot Interactive’s Chemistry Fellows program.
Students used Pivot Interactives to find a relationship between unbalanced torque and angular momentum for several different bicycle wheels. I had them start by setting up a formula they could use to calculate the angular acceleration from the change in angular position and the time. My 2nd hour had a much easier time with this; I think the difference is they worked yesterday’s problems in small groups and quickly connected this task to some of the problems they’d done. My 4th hour had a sub yesterday who was a former physics teacher that decided to go through the problems as a lecture, so I think those students didn’t have as firm a grasp on the calculations.
Students took the Force Concept Inventory as a post-test. We normally give it before moving into simple harmonic motion, so they were a little rusty on thinking with forces, but I’m satisfied with the results.
Chemistry Essentials: Limiting Reactants
Students used nuts, bolts, and washers to start connecting mass to what I’d planned for them to see about limiting reactants yesterday. While both my sections were able to get through today’s activity without trouble, I need to figure out how to adjust for some issues yesterday. My 5th hour is co-taught, so my co-teacher ran the class and the majority of students easily finished yesterday’s activity and had the ideas I wanted them to have at this point. In my 6th hour, the sub decided to go over the answers to the accompanying worksheet as a lecture without projecting the simulation, which my students really struggled to follow. Several students helped themselves to a computer and worked through the activity as intended, and I’m having trouble getting mad at them for defying the sub. I think the activity with the simulation is worth doing, but between demand for the school computers and trying to keep both sections in the same place, I’m not sure how to give my 6th hour time in-class.
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.
AP Physics 1: Kirchhoff’s Laws
Students used PhET’s circuit construction kit to look for patterns in series and parallel circuits. Students were pretty successful at noticing the things I wanted them to notice and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s discussion of the results.
Students worked on some problems using the spring period equation. We also spent some time on whole-class discussion about the motion graphs for an object on a spring, and tested a lot of ideas using a motion encoder cart hooked to a force sensor with a spring.
Chemistry Essentials: Balancing Reactions
Students used PhET’s balancing chemical equations simulation to start figuring out what it means for a reaction to be balanced. Students were pretty successful at working out the significance of each of the tools the PhET activity provided, along with what it means to be balanced. Even though I didn’t assign the game, a few students decided to play and ended the hour with a lot of confidence and enthusiasm for balancing problems.