Mapping Motion

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Students will be able to define motion using concept maps and mathematical equations.

Big Idea

Students map out motion and then get introduced to the basic motion equations.


10 minutes

As students enter the room I greet each student and ask him or her to take a sheet of blank, white, 8.5" x 11" paper from a pile that I'm holding. If I'm holding the paper and standing near the door when they walk in I get the opportunity to connect with each student at the start of class.  

Once the start bell has rung, I tell students that they will be using their sheet of paper to do a concept map on motion. Because I'm unsure how much experience each student has with concept maps, I briefly explain that concept maps can be used as a tool to assess prior knowledge and I'm curious to see what they know about motion.

I model an example of a concept map on the board with the word "motion" in the center and several off-shoots into blank bubbles. I explain to the students that they need to fill in the bubbles with any words that come to mind when they hear the word "motion." I also let students know that they can have a second set of off-shoots if they want, and show an example of this on the board as well. My blank model that I draw on the board looks something like this.

I make sure each student grasps the concept map idea by checking for understanding. I ask "Does everyone get this?" and then pause for about three seconds. If someone has questions I address them, but otherwise we move on. This means it's time for students to work and create their own maps!  I keep the learning environment quiet for this activity, otherwise I've found that the students are less authentic about sharing their own thoughts. Students get about five minutes to work on their individual maps before I ask that the maps get put aside for later in the class hour (read the closure section to find out what we do with them).  

Direct Instruction

30 minutes

It's time for students to take out a sheet of paper and get ready to learn the fundamentals of motion. My students are operating under the expectation that they must write down key points from the presentation. This expectation of how to take notes has been outlined and ingrained in their learning since freshman year. Because these are AP students, how they organize their notes (notebook, binder, etc.) is a decision the individual student gets to make. I assume at this point in their high school careers they have an established system to stay organized.  

I display a student version of the PowerPoint to help the students understand what they need to write down. Although I'm showing the student version on the front board, I have a hard copy of the teacher version of the PowerPoint which includes extensive notes (viewable when the file is downloaded). These notes help me to stay focused and ensure I mention the highlights as we progress through each slide.

While I describe this section as "direct instruction," I usually have a lot of interaction with my students throughout the presentation and am constantly moving throughout the room to change my proximity. The students will ask questions, participate in problem-solving, and connect to real-world examples to stay engaged the entire time.     

Closure & Assessment

10 minutes

I ask students to take out their concept maps from the start of class, and revise these maps. I share with students the idea that since we've gone over how motion can be defined, it is time to amend, add, and complete their concept maps. They must make any changes and additions to their maps in a different color so that I can evidence their path in learning. I once again have students work individually, since I collect these maps at the end of class. Collecting these maps allows me to ensure they included the concepts of speed, distance, displacement, a change in time, and velocity. I've created a good example of a complete concept map that I use as a guideline when grading my students' work.  

As students are finishing working with their concept maps, I do walk around the room and informally assess how they are doing with the activity. I provide hints to anyone that struggles by directing them through the notes they just wrote. Finally, the opportunity to walk around offers another chance for me to connect individually with each student.  

To better assess my students' abilities to problem solve using the displacement and velocity equations, tonight's assigned homework is problem B1 from the 2000 Free Response portion of the AP Physics B test releases. I always assign such a problem by reminding students of my suggestions for successful AP problem solving.