Day 11: More FBDs

Today and tomorrow the freshmen and many seniors are on a trip. I decided to show the 3 seniors who were left in school today the movie Particle Fever about the discovery of the Higgs Boson. I saw it during the summer and thought it shows a bit of what modern day scientists (at least in one field) do. They also show many women in important roles in the research which I think is valuable for my students to see.

In the other classes we continued working on practicing free body diagrams.




Day 10: Practice (finally!)

Today we started doing practice on drawing free body diagrams. We had spent a lot more time than I originally planned (8 days!) on the preliminary discussions about forces, Hover Disc and relevant diagrams, and developing Newton’s First Law. Many students were very involved in the discussions and brought up lots of questions that I didn’t want to shut down (especially not so early in the year). Some students were certainly less involved, though – so I’m looking forward to working on some practice that will help clarify for students (and me) what the difficulties are.

I’m working on some different modes of whiteboarding involving small group discussions before whole class discussions. When students discuss in smaller groups, they are usually more involved than in whole class discussions. I also have found that in some cases, asking students to work directly on the whiteboard before writing in their own packets can be helpful in engagement during full class discussions, since they’re more engaged during the full class discussions.

Days 4-5: More Forces

Yesterday, I was absent and left the substitute with the FCI to administer. In one class, in which I had a double period I sent in newspapers and challenged them to build a tower using just two sheets of newspaper (no tape).

Today, we continued discussing types of forces. I spent more time on it (2-3 classes) than I have previously, but students have had so many questions and ideas to discuss that I did not want to shut down. I think that tomorrow we’ll move onto the Hover Disc activity, since both they and I are itching for some applications.

Day 2: Forces and Homework Stickers

In Physics today we continued discussing types of forces (as per Kelly’s chart). The students had a good time discussing gravity as it brought up some ideas that “made their heads hurt.” We didn’t get much farther than that in most classes, but got as far as friction and normal in one class. I find it difficult to elicit the idea that the directions of these forces are parallel and perpendicular to the surfaces (respectively). My students just don’t have the context to know that we want to define the directions with respect to the surfaces and it’s turned into a game of “guess what’s in the teacher’s head” in previous iterations (perhaps with a Pasco Matter Model it would be different, but I don’t have one. Today, in the one class that we discussed friction and normal, I decided to write the direction on the board and ask the students to explain what it meant. I think it worked better than  it had previously.

In Algebra, I introduced them to homework stickers. This is one of the few ideas that I use in my classroom that is totally my own, so I’m extra proud of it. For each day that I’m checking homework, I print out a sheet of labels. The top left label has the date, and the rest of the labels have each student’s name (one per label). Then, as I walk around the classroom and check homework, I hand each student her label. That way, at the end of a few minutes of walking around, I have a sheet with the stickers of only those students who have not completed their homework (or who are absent). It makes it easy for me to keep accurate records, and perhaps more importantly, functions as an incentive (I think more than the 5% of their grade) for students to complete the homework. Each day the stickers are in a different font and color, and many students decorate the front of their binders with an assortment that grows as the semester goes on.

Content-wise, we talked about adding and subtracting positive and negative numbers. We discussed a few of the reasons that it’s preferable not to have to rely on tricks (Thanks Tina for the inspiration!) and then thought about some real world “models” that we can use to think about adding and subtracting integers (number line/thermometer, zero pairs, money) and then worked on some problems. This year I have only 11 students in my Algebra class. I don’t have to worry too much about discipline so I really want to take advantage and try to teach Algebra much better than I have before (I’m still not sure exactly what that looks like…)

Year 5 Day 1: It’s good to be back

Many students in my physics classes in the past have been frustrated because I haven’t given them a good description of what physics is. I understand the motivation of those teachers who like to get right into “doing physics” on the first day but for this year I wanted to try giving my students a bit of background into what we’ll be doing during the year.

I printed out this sheet and asked for volunteers to read each paragraph. The students seemed somewhat surprised by the content, and some of them thought I wanted them to take the actual content mores seriously than I did.

After reading it, I asked them to turn to their partners and discuss 3 questions. The students overall came up with really thoughtful answers to these questions which are summarized underneath each question.

1. How do you think Gnome Theory is similar to the physics we’ll be learning this year?

(Answers given: they deal with the same topics, explain the world around us…)

2. How do you think Gnome Theory is different from the physics we’ll be learning this year?

(Answers given: physics can be proven/tested, Gnome Theory can’t)

3. Why do you think we will be studying physics this year and not Gnome Theory?

(Answers given: physics was developed by lots of people over many years, physics is true)

I had to help them a bit come up with ideas such as the fact that when we study physics we look for patterns that help us predict how things will behave while Gnome Theory wouldn’t. I think that overall it was an engaging activity that allowed us to think through some of the larger issues. Perhaps in the future I’d be a bit more clear from the outset what my goals are – most students seemed to “get it” but some were a bit confused.

In Algebra I started the class by handing out a “syllabus” with all the words in the wrong order. I wanted to use that as a segue into a lesson on Order of Operations (just as English is read from left to right, math has to be read in the correct order). In the past, I’ve asked a student to read it out loud, which quickly gets the quizzical looks I’m hoping for. One of my goals for this year is to encourage individual reading comprehension, so I asked students to read it and raise their hands with any questions. I was expecting the first question to be “What’s going on here?” but instead they were able to decode much of what it said and were asking me questions about the content. I think they were being too nice and were worried I had made a mistake. We then discussed the correct order of operations and I handed out the following packet with some practice problems. In the third column, I put in what I thought was a common incorrect answer to the question and asked the students to explain what was incorrect. In retrospect, I’m not sure that was a good idea, since it may be more confusing for them to have spent time thinking about the wrong way to do it.

Day 80: UBFPM Problems

After two three-day weeks (because of snow days), we’re back for a four-day week…

In Algebra my students took a quiz that was pushed off from last Thursday.

In Physics we continued working on some Unbalanced Forces Problems – this time with forces at angles.

Day 75: Post Snow Day

We had another snow day yesterday…

Today we finished discussing UBFPM paradigm lab in most classes. In general the students got data that showed Newton’s Second Law quite clearly.