Graphing Data in Physics

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Students will be able to create a properly labeled and formatted graph and write a mathematical representation of the relationship between two variables.

Big Idea

Students collect and graph data and identify relationships

Building Blind Activity

20 minutes

In this activity, students work in pairs. I have them work with their cell phone speed dial partner #8. The person with the longer hair is the writer and the person with the shorter hair is the builder. For the first 10 minutes, the writers are able to see the setup shown in the pictures: Building Blind Activity Setup and Building Blind Activity. They write instructions to their partner, using words only (No drawings or symbols!), so they will be able to create a structure identical to the structure they see. While that is going on, the builders are with me in the Graphing Mini-Lesson. 

The second 10 minutes, the builders get a bag of materials that includes more materials than they need to complete the structure. They follow their partner's instructions to complete their structure. IMPORTANT: Students do not see the pictures or the structure! While that is going on, the writers are with me in the Graphing Mini-Lesson.

I do this activity with my students to show them how important it is to be clear and specific in their written communication. This connects to the procedure writing and data analysis writing that students do in lab that needs to be clear and specific.

Graphing Mini-Lesson

While half of the students (about 12-14 students) are working on their part of the building blind activity, the other half will be discussing the graphing reading packet that they read for homework

In the discussion, we go over the different sections of the reading and I ask questions during each section. The questions and discussion points are listed below. I complete this discussion because graphing in physics usually is a little different than what they have experienced in biology the previous year. I also discuss this to give them opportunities to participate with something the should know and as a review for some students. 

A. Designing a Controlled Experiment: Discuss independent variables, dependent variables and controlled experiments. 

  • How did we make sure we had a controlled experiment in the spaghetti bridge lab?
  • Why is the mass the independent variable in the pendulum experiment in the reading?
  • Why is the period the dependent variable in the pendulum experiment in the reading?

In this section (A), I run the discussion by asking students these 3 questions upfront and having them on the front projector screen. Then I have students do a Pair-Share where they turn and talk to a partner and come up with answers to the questions and then we share out with the class.  

B. Characteristics of Good Data Recording: Discuss where independent and dependent variables typically are located on the data table and how important appropriate labels and units are.

C. Graphing Data: Discuss the elements of good graphs.

  • What are the 5 most important things to include on a graph?

In sections B and C, I discuss these concepts together and ask students what they highlighting for homework as the important things to include in a graph and a data table. After they come up with a list, I tell them what 5 things I think are most important and what I will be looking for in a graph.

D. Graphical Analysis and Linear Mathematical Models: Discuss how to determine a mathematical model/equation from a best fit line.

  • How do you determine units for the slope and y-intercept?
  • How do you know what to replace x and y with in the equation?
  • What does the slope in the example tell us?
  • What does the y-intercept in the example tell us?

In section D, I go over this following the section in the reading and use the example on the last page to go through the questions.

At the end of the discussion, I use Socrative to assess how well they understand the important parts of graphing with the quiz below. I allow students to open their Chromebooks and take the quiz after the mini-lesson. Socrative is an online assessment tool that allows me to see a summary of all of my students answers right after they take them. I glance at these results as the start to work on their Graphing Practice Worksheet to see if there are any areas I need to take another minute or two to discuss with them. 

Debrief Building Blind Activity

5 minutes

After all of the students have seen their partner's creation, the students and I talk about the struggles that they had in completing this activity. I ask the students that were the writers what their strategies were for helping their partner understand how to set up the structure. Students end up saying that they tried to give step-by-step instructions about how they would build the structure themselves. Then I ask the builders what the writers did that was helpful and then what the writers could do for the instructions to be more clear. Students end up saying that "It would have been helpful if there were more details about colors of the objects in the instructions" or "It would have been helpful if there were more details about the locations of the objects in relation to each other". Once we pull out things that could be more helpful, we discuss how written communication needs to be clear and detailed so that other people reading their work understand what they are talking about without knowing the context of the situation.

Graphing Practice Worksheet

35 minutes

Students work in their table group (of 4 students) to complete the 8 graphing problems on the Worksheet. They use Plotly to graph the data and do the analysis for each problem. They do these together to practice what they just learned and because these problems can be difficult, especially when it comes to analyzing them so I want them to start in a safe environment of practice with their peers before they attempt problems on their own. I do the first problem with them and go through the problem similar to the video here that I have recorded on my iPad using ShowMe.

This is where I tell kids about the "3 Before Me" rule I have. Since I want to foster a classroom climate where students really rely on each other to explain things, I tell my students that I want them to ask 3 other students their question before they ask me. This allows my students to be able to explain concepts more to other students when they ask questions. It also helps me to see what concepts multiple students are struggling with that we need to go over again when I get questions asked to me.

At the beginning of this time, I look through the Socrative quizzes and see what students did not do well on. I can take time while they are working to go through the quiz questions with students that struggled with them 1-on-1. During 1-on-1 time with students, I aim to help them understand the material as they go through the worksheet, which is an extension of what we discussed in the mini-lesson.

Stoplight Exit Slip

5 minutes

I explain what a stoplight exit slip is since this is the first time we are doing it for the year and we do this as a formative assessment multiple times each unit. 

Each students takes a post-it note from the resource bin at the center of the table and gets to chose from the red, yellow or green light. They must complete the sentence starter on the light they choose.

The red light: Today my learning stopped because...

The yellow light: Today I considered a question, new idea or perspective...

The green light: Today I learned __________ because...

When they complete their sentence, they stick the post-it note on whatever light they choose. The stoplight is at the front of the room whenever they finish writing their response to a light.

I do this to get an idea of where students are at in learning the material in a way that they can anonymously express exactly what they are learning or exactly what they are struggling with.