Physics Skills and Practice

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Students will be able to identify best techniques for studying and practicing physics.

Big Idea

Physics is a model-dependent science.


5 minutes

During the first week of school, my class roster is somewhat fluid, as students add and drop courses. So I show each student my resource area in the front of the room; this is where I keep weekly assignments in folders labeled for each day that our class meets. I also keep classroom supplies in labeled bins in that area.  I have the students send one member from each team/table to grab any classroom supplies that their peers need to complete the task for their table because I have found that having a resource manager cuts down on off-task behavior.

As students enter the room, I ask them to take their seats according to a seating chart that I have projected on the Promethean board—its based on the results of their Physics Baseline so that each student group has a mix of abilities. During the first 5 minutes of class, I collect parent/student-learning agreements. Then, I ask students to turn to their self-assessment results in their notebooks and I ask each student to write today’s date and 1 to 3 sentences on what surprised them the most about their results. 

Next, I project the question: "How can you use your habits of work and mind to help you meet your S.M.A.R.T. goal?"(See SMART Goal Handout). I ask students record their answer in their notebooks. At the end of five minutes, I ask students to ask their elbow partners to share their responses to the projected question. Then I call on students (1 from each lab group) to give a table summary to the class. I have the same activity projected on the Promethean board so that I write down student responses as they are shared.  

I think that students need to effectively communicate information to their peers and consider multiple viewpoints on the same topic in order to become proficient in the application of physics concepts. The first few days of the school year are focused on building the framework in my classroom for a community of learners (see my first day of physics overview for how I began to introduce classroom norms within my class). I ask students to raise their hands and wait to be recognized which creates a classroom norm of valuing each voice in our classroom; my school affectionately calls this, "one mic." This part of the lesson focuses on creating a safe space and an organized way of sharing and collecting information in our classroom. I also have students state their names because it helps me and the rest of the class become familiar with each other’s names and personalities. During the next part of this lesson, I ask students to create a visual on how to study physics effectively. These activities collectively develop teamwork, order, and collaboration as an essential skill for actively learning physics. 




Student Perspectives on Studying Physics

25 minutes

Once students are done evaluating how habits of work and mind can help with making positive progress towards SMART goals (see SMART Goal Handout), I ask students to take out the How To Study Physics reading while I distribute the How to Study Physics Foldable

Students are tasked with annotating the reading and creating a user guide on effective ways to study physics using the handouts I previously distributed. My students are familiar with annotating text. Our school has an agreed upon procedure where students first number either sections or paragraphs, then underline claims (belief statements), followed by circling key ideas (repeated phrases, defined terms),  then adding question marks to unknown vocabulary or concepts to ask discuss and investigate, and finally create summaries of each section or paragraph. 

I also ask students to write a word or phrase depicting ideas that the author is conveying in the right margin of each section they are annotating. I share an Annotation Chart I created with information on how to annotate text in case any students in my class are new to our school.   

Once students are done with annotating the reading, I ask students to adhere the annotated reading to their notebooks and to create a user guide using their notes and the How to Study Physics FoldableAfterwards, I show students an example, which has been folded in half, with the first folded half cut into 6 equal sized tabs. Next, I ask students to create labels for the outside each tab that correspond to the author's suggestions on how to best study and practice physics. Furthermore, they are tasked with using their notes from the reading to create a set of instructions for the interior of each tab that corresponds to their labels. 

Once students have completed their foldable user guides, I ask them to share them with their table mates and to spend 5 minutes creating a summary guide for their table using input from all of their table mates on mini-posters from the resource area. Effective communication of information is a key component to learning physics concepts. I ask students to collaborate with each other and to identify shared perspectives on "how to study and practice physics" because I want them to use their shared perspectives to complete novel tasks without fear. In the next section, students will be working together on identifying an unknown quantity 'g' on an unknown planet 'X' and I want them to use their agreed upon best practices to make the process both collaborative and productive. 

Learning by designing a solution

35 minutes

I emphasize collaboration, because I want students to understand that all voices matter within our classroom.  I use mixed ability pairs to conduct this lab investigation because I believe it allows students to leverage each others strengths during this activity while considering multiple viewpoints as they actively practice using models to understand the behavior of an object within a physical system. 

After students have created their mini posters, I introduce the simulation that we will be using in the next section of the lesson. I ask students during the first part of the lab (see Lab 1: finding 'g')to identify points during the pendulum's motion that a)kinetic energy is maximized, b)potential energy is maximized c) both kinetic and potential energy are non-zero values (SP3). 

I explain to the students that working collaboratively (SL.11-12.1) is an important aspect of this class. In particular, during the next portion of this lesson, I will require students to work collaboratively in pairs to create a computer based model for "g" of an unknown planet (SP3). In this activity, I introduce information (the equation for the period of a pendulum) that is directly connected to a section of the baseline I gave during the first lesson because I want students to make connections between mathematical and computer based models for the same system of objects.  I typically scale the copies down so that they can fit neatly in a composition notebook so that students can have the results in their notebooks.  Within this course, I emphasize refining models over time as students uncover more information. With this in mind, I ask students to keep an organized lab notebook so that they can refine and improve any model we have covered in class whenever newer more precise and accurate information is uncovered. 


10 minutes

Once students are done conducting their lab procedures, I ask them to adhere their results to their notebooks. Then, I hand out an Practicing Physics Exit Slip in which students express their current understanding of the important portions of today's lesson. I created this type of reflective exit slip, primarily because I want students to take ownership over their understanding. Also, I would like to get a clearer understanding of student misconceptions before the beginning of the next lesson so that I can correct them before introducing new information. After students have completed the exit slip, I collect it so that I can grade and return the slip with feedback at the beginning of the next class.