Days 15-19: Problems & Technology Tools

AP Physics 1: Problems

A lot of this week was working on calculations for constant acceleration. My students are struggling more with the algebra than in a typical year and it sounds like other teachers are seeing similar things. They are doing some great mathematical thinking, but just aren’t as comfortable as usual with common processes like making a quick graph based on an equation or doing algebraic manipulation. I tend to trust that once students see what math they need to do, I can expect them to get through the math without much support. This year, I need to make sure I’m putting attention to helping students develop their math skills alongside the physics. My course on STEM integration theories last fall got me thinking about how I can go beyond math as a tool in my classroom to instead support meaningful math sensemaking, and this year will be a good push to put what I’ve been thinking about into practice.

I also graded the first lab write-up this week, and my students did much better than I usually see on the first lab write-up. In general, this group of students are stronger than usual at explaining their thinking and the kind of writing I usually look for, which is fantastic in a course like AP Physics 1. I’m really excited to be able to help students build their already strong skills.

Physics: Technology Tools

This week, we wrapped up constant velocity by having students do activities with Vernier Video Analysis and Pivot Interactives. For the video analysis assignment, we had students record a short example of something they thought was constant velocity, then use the video analysis results to test the claim. Since the focus of this activity was on interpreting the position vs. time and velocity vs. time graphs, I think it would have worked well when we were preparing to transition from interpreting diagrams to doing calculations to help break up the stretch we had of paper and pencil problems.

A big goal of these activities was to introduce students to tools we’d been using in a context where students were already pretty solid on the content. When introducing technology, I do a minimal demo and instead provide students with a user guide or other detailed instructions on how to use the tool. I have a lot of students who are more comfortable with a walkthrough, so I spend most of the hour on my feet answering questions by reminding students to use the resources I provided them. These days are tiring, but they pay off with students quickly becoming very independent with these tools as they learn to navigate the user guide or help documents. However, I’ve developed some new back issues in the last year and a half and am very aware today that I can’t currently bounce around the room as much as I used to. We are using video analysis again on Monday, and I need to give some thought to how I will balance ensuring students have the support they need and feel like I’m available for questions with managing my own health.

Distance Learning Week 6

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.

Distance Learning Week 5

AP Physics 1: Unbalanced Torque

Students used Pivot Interactives to find a relationship between torque and angular acceleration. The activity has several different bicycle wheels, which lead to some good discussion on the forum as students first compared their results to someone with the same wheel, then compared results to someone with a different wheel.

In both the questions I got about the activity and in the grading I was doing this week, I saw a lot of students struggling with the distinction between different terms related to gravity. That’s been an on-going challenge this year that I think is related to having some students who use a lot of verbal shortcuts. We’ve made a lot of progress on that front this year, and a lot of students were joining me in pushing back whenever someone used imprecise language. I think with out that consistent feedback on language, some students are falling back to old habits. I’m giving feedback on language in students’ written work and sent out a vocab review to all of my students, but am thinking about other options.

Physics: Pendulums

Students used Pivot Interactives to collect data we’ll use to get the equation for the period of a pendulum. This week, we had students collect data, then post their graphs and answers to a few questions to a forum. Next week, they’ll start by linearizing the period vs. length graph. Based on the forum, I’m glad we split the lab up. In the questions, students recognized angle and mass don’t affect the period and correctly explained why the period vs. length graph should have a zero intercept. However, most students described their period vs. length graphs as linear in spite of the large intercepts. Using the discussion and splitting up the lab gave me a chance to catch the issue and record a short video before students started their linearization. It’s been hard to be responsive when I have almost no contact with my students right now, so it felt good to have this opportunity to shift my instruction based on students’ current thinking.

Chemistry Essentials: Pressing Pause

The representing reactions summative was due on Tuesday, and only two of my students had turned in work for the module. Rather than sticking to my plan to start balancing, I pushed everything back so that students have an extra week to catch up before their next assignment is due. I also spread out the remaining work in an effort to reduce the workload. We’re shooting for each class to have around 90 min of work per week, so I’ve been assigning what would take around 30 to 45 min in the classroom each week, but the students I’ve heard from are spending around 3 hours a week on chem. I’ve only gotten work or heard from a few kids since Tuesday, but even if just a few more kids get a credit required for graduation as a result of this week’s adjustments, I’m happy with my decision.

Day 148: Survey, Curved Mirrors, & Pivot Reaction Types

I was out today, so my classes had a sub.

AP Physics 1: Survey

My district requires all teachers to have students complete a teacher evaluation survey. Since it’s ideal to have students complete it without the teacher in the room, I picked today.  Teachers chose which classes to give the survey to; since AP Physics 1 is the only class where I keep the same students all year, I decided to survey them. While there are certainly flaws in student evaluations, I am interested in seeing the results to get another view of the culture in my classroom.

Physics: Curved Mirrors

Students did a lab to play with curved mirrors to start building some ideas about the images formed by concave and convex mirrors.

Chemistry Essentials: Pivot Interactives Reaction Types

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

Students used Pivot Interactives to get one more look at some of the different reaction types before their quiz. Along with a single replacement and a double replacement reaction, I had students use what they know about synthesis reactions to finally explain why burning steel wool gets heavier.

pivot steel wool.png

Day 140: Whiteboarding & Pivot Limiting Reactants

AP Physics 1: Board Meeting

Students whiteboarded their results from yesterday to get to a definition of angular momentum, as well as the relationship between torque and angular momentum. They made nice connections to conservation of linear momentum as well as impulse.

Physics: Ray Diagram Mistakes

We did mistakes whiteboarding with yesterday’s ray diagram problems. Students were doing very well figuring out which rays were critical to the problem and catching each other’s mistakes.

physics Ray mistake.jpg

Chemistry Essentials: Pivot Limiting Reactants

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

Students used Pivot Interactives to do a lab involving limiting reactants. Since lab data makes it tough to use particle diagrams, I tried having students convert their balanced reaction equation into “for every” statements. A lot of them were pretty successful using those statements to make sense of the other calculations I asked for.
pivot limiting.PNG

Day 139: Angular Momentum, Ray Diagrams, & Limiting Reactants

AP Physics 1: Angular Momentum

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

Students used Pivot Interactives to explore collisions that involve angular momentum. I especially like the activity they have with a marble fired at a wood block since it provides an opportunity to review linear momentum, as well as discover a relationship between torque and angular momentum.

Pivot rot collision.PNG

Physics: Ray Diagrams

Students sketched ray diagrams to explain their observations in Friday’s lab. Students were able to make good connections between their ray diagrams and their observations.

physics ray (1).jpg

Chemistry Essentials: Limiting Reactants

Students whiteboarded some limiting reactant problems, emphasizing the particle diagrams that could be used to solve the problems.

chem limiting (2).jpg

Day 135: Pivot Angular Acceleration, FCI, & Limiting Reactants

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.

pivot unbalanced torque.PNG

Physics: FCI

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.

limiting.jpg

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.Pivot angular.PNG

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.

Pivot stoich.PNG

Day 123: Board Meeting, Snakey Springs, & Molar Mass

Yesterday we had ACT testing for juniors. Seniors had an off-campus learning day.

AP Physics 1: Central Net Force Board Meeting

For yesterday’s off-campus learning day, my students finished collecting data in Pivot Interactives on central net forces. I really enjoyed the discussion of the force vs. mass graphs, when the class realized the units on the slope were the units on acceleration, so we had F=ma.

ap centeal force.jpg

Physics: Snakey Springs

Students used the snakey springs to collect data on a relationship between frequency and wavelength for standing waves.

Chemistry Essentials: Molar Mass

Students used nuts, bolts, and washers to represent different elements in order to discover how to find the molar mass of a compound. Afterward, they tried extending what they’d found to actual compounds. Not only were they very successful at extending their results, their work represented different ways of thinking about polyatomic ions, which was cool.