Today's lesson is meant to help students review Newton's Laws and see how those laws are tested in the AP Physics 1 Exam. I've chosen to do a full day of AP preparation for this unit because I want students to get prepared for the endurance and focus that the College Board requires. In past units I've given students practice problems for homework, but today we simulate the environment of the AP exam.
The lesson begins with students drawing a concept map of Newton's Laws (HS-PS2-1) to get them actively thinking about concepts covered in this unit. Then, students go through multiple choice and free response practice questions (SP5) before the lesson ends with hand signals.
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 forces. My students have done concept maps in this class before, so I quickly show students a concept map template on the board. I explain to the students that they need to fill in the bubbles with any words that come to mind when they hear "Newton's Laws." 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.
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 seven minutes to work on their individual maps before I collect them.
I use these maps to assess how well my students are progressing through our unit on Newton's Laws. When I see an example such as this, I know that my pacing and instruction has been successful.
The AP Physics 1 exam has 50 multiple choice questions and students are given 90 minutes to answer these questions. To mirror this time limitation, this multiple choice practice has 9 questions that must be answered in 15 minutes. The time allotted per question isn't an exact replica of what students will experience on the AP exam, but it's close enough to give the sense of time constraints.
I pass out a copy of the multiple choice practice problems to each student, along with an equation sheet. Much like on the real exam, students are allowed to use calculators and must work individually. As students are working, I walk around to informally monitor students' progress and answer any format questions. (I do not answer content questions).
As time ends, I collect students' multiple choice questions and let each student keep the equation sheet for the next part of the lesson. It is my goal to grade these as quickly as possible (using the answer key) so that the students receive immediate feedback. Also, I'd like students to be able to use these practice multiple choice problems to prepare for the Newton's Laws Unit test that is coming up in a few days.
The AP Physics 1 exam has 5 free response questions and students are given 90 minutes to answer these questions. This free response practice has 1 question that must be answered in 15 minutes. I purposely put the free response practice after the multiple choice practice to simulate the transition students must make during the AP exam. Students still have their equation sheets and calculators out from the multiple choice practice session.
The students work individually through the practice problem as I walk around to informally assess them. At the end of the time, I collect the practice problem. Like the Multiple Choice questions, I hope to grade these quickly. Unfortunately, grading free response questions takes much longer since it requires me to refer to a rubric and give partial credit.
My closure today is purposely brief, since I know that with the passing out and collecting of papers I may not have a full 10 minutes left to summarize our lesson. After the multiple choice and free response practices are collected, I ask the class "How do you feel about the practice AP questions? Are you confident in your answers and abilities?" Students respond to me with either a thumbs up, thumbs down, or flat hand. A student who shows a thumbs-up feels confident in his answers to the practice problems, while a student showing a thumbs-down would feel anxious and insecure. A flat hand indicates that the student feels unsure about how he did on the practice questions.
My students gave me a majority of flat hands, so I offered students some supplemental materials via my website to study forces. Students can work through the tutorials offered from the Physics Classroom or read a supplemental set of notes. I am not overly worried about the large number of flat hands because my students are notorious for not being confident and then doing amazingly well on assessments.