Day 112: Coulomb’s Law, Spring Force Revisited, & Skew Dice

Today was our first day back from spring break and the first day of a new trimester.

AP Physics 1: Coulomb’s Law

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

We dove right in with a lab on Pivot Interactives to discover Coulomb’s Law. We’re going to be cutting it pretty close on squeezing everything in before the AP exam, so I was much more direct than usual about what needed to be done by the end of the hour and how long I expected tasks to take, and that seemed to help students meet the timeline I had in mind. I need to make that a habit for the next few weeks.

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Physics: Spring Force Revisited

We’re getting ready to start vibrating springs, so today we revisited Hooke’s Law. I asked students to make some predictions about how the slope of two different springs should compare before collecting any data, which was tricky since they haven’t thought about what the spring constant actually means for a while, but I think they got where I want them to be.

Chemistry Essentials: Skew Dice

A lot of my students either haven’t had chemistry since trimester 1 or came to me from the other Chemistry Essentials teacher, so I treated today like the first day of school and tried to set a tone for the term. I tasked students with writing a CER to answer whether skew dice are fair. In the past with this activity, I’ve had some trouble convincing students they need a lot of data, so I started by asking students to collect evidence that a regular dice is fair before we got out the skew dice, and students pretty easily recognized they needed a lot of rolls with the regular dice to get a distribution that makes sense.

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Day 101: Board Meetings & Mistakes Whiteboarding

AP Physics 1: Wave Board Meeting

Students whiteboarded their results from Tuesday’s lab. They pretty quickly made the connection that the slope is the wave speed and saw the relationship I wanted between tension and wave speed. I’d planned to use Pivot Interactives to do some wave superposition basics, but our internet was out district wide for part of the day, so ended up doing some pretty teacher directed stuff with a snakey spring.

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Physics: Pendulum Board Meeting

Students whiteboarded their results for the pendulum lab. I didn’t have any groups decide to linearize on their own, so we had some discussion about the intercept to decide we needed to linearize.

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Chemistry Essentials: Formula Mistakes Whiteboarding

We did some mistakes whiteboarding with Tuesday’s worksheet on formula writing and particle diagrams. A lot of students seemed to be getting the hang of this skill today, which was great.

I’m seeing some students checking out, which is typical for this point in the trimester; I think students see it as set by now whether or not they will pass the course. My co-teacher and I have reduced how many students are in that place by having individual grade conferences with each student, which has been especially important for helping students who aren’t passing to make a plan.

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Day 100: Standing Waves, Pendulums, & Formula Writing

AP Physics 1: Standing Waves

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

Students used Pivot Interactives to find a relationship between wavelength and frequency for a standing wave. Students had trouble with some of the vocabulary and with visualizing one wavelength; I usually start with a day of qualitative observations with snakey springs, but skipped that to make up for the week our school was closed. Students were still able to figure out what they needed, it just took a little more coaching than usual.

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Physics: Pendulums

We had some discussion to brainstorm what could impact the period of a pendulum, then students went to work collecting data. There was some good discussion of how much variation was enough to matter when students were working on angle and mass.


Chemistry Essentials: Formula Writing

Students practiced translating between names, formulas, and particle diagrams. We got out some beans to use as manipulatives in simplified Lewis dot diagrams to help make ionic bonding a little more concrete.

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Day 91: Pendulums, Projectile Graphs, & Periodic Table Card Sort

AP Physics 1: Pendulums

Students collected data for variables that affect the period of a pendulum. This was a day where I could tell students are getting better at experimental design and more comfortable with being independent; groups were able to work through challenges and surprises with very little input from me.


Physics: Projectile Graphs

Students whiteboarded their results from yesterday’s activity in Pivot Interactives. They had to shake some of the dust off their skills on interpreting motion graphs, but it came back quickly and students made the connections I was after very successfully.

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Chemistry Essentials: Periodic Table Card Sort

Students worked on a card sort to introduce the periodic table. A few students were really eager to know what some of the features of the cards represented, which lead to some great conversations in lab groups about patterns they saw with those numbers.

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Day 90 (finally!): Vocab, Projectiles, & Review

Last week, we cancelled school Monday through Thursday due to snow and cold, then had a planned staff development day on Friday, so students ended up with a full week off school.

AP Physics 1: Vocab

On some grading I did on our surprise week off, I noticed a lot of my students were not distinguishing between different concepts in their writing (I really wanted to quote Inigo Montoya while I was grading). Today, with some inspiration from Kelli Warble, students did some whiteboarding to clarify important terms by starting with the tool they would use to measure each quantity. Students said they found it helpful; I’m hoping it will pay dividends as we move into simple harmonic motion.

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Physics: Projectiles

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

Students used a video in Pivot Interactives that shows three views of a projectile to make position vs. time and velocity vs. time graphs for each component of the motion.

pivot projectile

Chemistry Essentials: Review

The quiz on phase changes had been scheduled for last Monday. Since its been a while, we took some time to whiteboard a problem with frozen broth heating up on a stove. I broke the problem into smaller steps, and had groups pass the marker after each step so the person writing on the whiteboard varied.

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Day 87: Projectile Practical, Energy Problems, & Board Meeting

AP Physics 1: Projectile Practical

Students finished predicting where a marble rolled off a lab table will hit the floor. Once students have a success, I gave them a lighter marble and asked them to predict where it will land without taking any new measurements.


Physics: Energy Problems

Students worked on calculations using conservation of energy. This was a tougher leap than I expected given how easily students got the hang of setting up conservation of momentum problems from bar charts. I think a card sort similar to the one we did for momentum would have been a good stepping stone.

Chemistry Essentials: Board Meeting

Students had a board meeting with their results from yesterday’s lauric acid lab. I had students collect data for the acid both melting and freezing, which made for a good visual of how similar those processes are. Students also made some good connections to last week’s activity in Pivot Interactives. I think starting with the cleaner data helped students to see the patterns in their data and there was some great conversation about why everyone had the same temperatures on their flat sections today while different groups got different temperatures on their graphs last week.

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Day 85: Whiteboarding, Video Analysis, & Board Meeting

AP Physics 1: Whiteboarding

Students whiteboarding yesterday’s problems. I focused on a consensus-building approach, where all groups whiteboarded the same problem, then we used the discussion to come to an agreement on what the answer should be, and why. Both my sections have a pretty good sense of class community, which made students pretty comfortable sharing work they weren’t sure about yet and building off each others’ ideas.

Physics: Video Analysis

We finally got out the computers to do some video analysis of a bouncy ball to figure out what interaction is dissipating the energy. I’ve never had much luck walking the whole class through the software, so I have a video analysis guide with lots of animated screenshots that I put on the class website. Students were able to get some nice graphs of the bouncy ball’s motion and connect them to our work from the past few days.

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Chemistry Essentials: Board Meeting

Students whiteboarded their results from yesterday’s lab in Pivot Interactives. During the board meeting, students continued to share observations faster than I could write them down, which is a great problem to have in this course. It was also very clear to students that the temperature stays fairly constant during the freezing process. I’m hoping having had a board on these results will help students make sense of our lauric acid lab on Tuesday.

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Day 84: Projectile Calcs, Bouncy Ball Diagrams, & Pivot Interactives Phase Changes

AP Physics 1: Projectile Calcs

Students started working on some projectile motion calculations. We also took a few minutes to discuss a new clip from Mythbusters Jr. where an archer attempts to replicate Odysseus’ shot through a series of rings. Students head read the Odyssey in English and were excited to link what they’d read to some physics and Mythbusters and there was some good conceptual discussion about the trick.

Physics: Bouncy Ball Diagrams

We spent some more time whiteboarding diagrams in our efforts to figure out what interaction dissipates a bouncy ball’s energy. It was clear students were a little rusty on free-body diagrams and velocity vs. time graphs, but they were able to make sense of  what the diagrams should look like and there was some good discussion along the way.

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Chemistry Essentials: Pivot Interactives Phase Change

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

I usually introduce phase changes with a lab using lauric acid, but have found that while students notice their temperature doesn’t change during the lab, many of the students I see in Chemistry Essentials struggle enough with reading graphs that the small errors and uncertainty in their data makes it tough to pick out the big ideas. This time around, I decided to try starting with a version of the lab in Pivot Interactives. When students weren’t responsible for stirring, the data came out much cleaner. I also found students were much more willing to accept the temperature plateau as something real than I’ve seen in the past. This lead to some great questions about where the heat must be going when the temperature isn’t changing.

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Day 80: Pivot Projectiles, TIPERs, and States of Matter

The combined forces of a neck sprain and a cold got the best of me, and I ended up at home while my students worked with a sub.

AP Physics 1: Pivot Projectiles

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

Students collected data in a Pivot Interactives video showing three views of a projectile to generate position vs. time graphs and velocity vs. time graph for the motion in each direction.

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Physics: TIPERs

Students worked on some problems out of TIPERs using energy bar charts as a reasoning tool.

Chemistry Essentials: States of Matter

Students did a short reading out of the textbook to get an introduction to states of matter. My co-teacher also took advantage of how short the activity is to meet with each student about their grade so far.

Day 78: Bouncy Balls, Kinetic Energy, & Board Meetings

AP Physics 1: Bouncy Balls

My article on this lab is in the Jan 2018 issue of The Science Teacher.

Students wrapped up their video analysis of a bouncy ball’s motion and started working on CER statements to answer what interaction dissipates the energy. I ended up doing more coaching than I usually do; I usually manage to squeeze this in before winter break, so I think it was just too long since students had been using free-body diagrams or velocity vs. time graphs. Nevertheless, students got to an answer today which was my goal.


Physics: Kinetic Energy

We had a pre-lab discussion and students collected data to work on a relationship between kinetic energy and speed. I found that a lot of students were confused about how to figure out the kinetic energy of the cart once they got into their lab groups. We went through the calculation during the whole class discussion, but I’m wondering if it would have been worthwhile to get students sketching some diagrams on whiteboards with their lab groups to figure out how they could find kinetic energy to get everyone wresting with those ideas, rather than just the students who spoke up.

ramp lab

Chemistry Essentials: Board Meeting

We held the board meeting for both of the gas laws labs students completed on Pivot Interactives this week. This trimester, my co-teacher and I have been trying to ramp up the graph interpretation we ask students to do, and today was a nice opportunity to see it pay off. Students were very successful at attaching conceptual meaning to the slopes of their graphs and, with a few questions to nudge them along, were also able to connect the intercept of the pressure vs. time graph to absolute zero.

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