Constructing an Explanation of Momentum

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Students will use a close reading strategy to create infographics of real-world scenarios involving momentum.

Big Idea

Impulse is the change in momentum.


The goal of this lesson is to help students use a T-chart, concept mapping, and graphic organizers as tools for close reading to create an infographic that explains a real-world scenario that relates to momentum. This lesson addresses the HS-PS2.2, HSA-REI.A.1, RST.11-12.2, and RST.11-12.4 standards because it asks students to use a close reading strategy to assess a text and identify central ideas to create a momentum infographic. It aligns with the NGSS Practices of Constructing Explanations for Science (SP6) because students will use concept maps to identify key ideas and the connections between specific physics concepts from a text excerpt on momentum.

Within this lesson, students will begin using a T- chart to identify physics concepts that relate to an image of a head-on collision between a late model car and a classic car. Students then read with the intention of identifying meanings of keywords within the context of the reading in order to create concept maps on momentum and impulse. During this lesson, I ask students to construct a working explanation for momentum, impulse, and Newton's second law in real-world scenarios. I first talk about the BIG IDEA that impulse is a change in momentum. Then I distribute a handout with embedded tasks that help students to construct an understanding of concepts related to momentum. I ask students to work in pairs to create an infographic that combines concepts from the reading and applies them to car safety and precautions taken by athletes. Then I ask students to solve problems related to an object's momentum for homework using the mathematical relationships from this week's lessons. This task asks students to use their previous understanding of linear expressions to understand real-world applications that manipulate momentum. Finally, students are given a set of homework questions on momentum and impulse to complete. Within this lesson, I ask students to focus on deepening their current understanding of momentum by creating explanations of real-world situations that involve impulse and momentum. I assess student understanding throughout the lesson using informal check-ins and assess each student's work at the end of the school day on a scale of 1 (Advanced Beginner) to 5 (Highly Proficient).


10 minutes

This part of the lesson begins with this routine. Today's piece of additional information is a Big Idea which states that impulse is the change in momentum. The objective of the bell-ringer is to give students a clear understanding of the focus of today's lesson. In this lesson, I want students to use close reading techniques like concept mapping to construct explanations using infographics. The infographics should demonstrate an understanding of the mathematical relationship between momentum, net force and impulse in everyday collision scenarios. 


Using Close Reading Tools to Construct Explanations of Impulse and Momentum

25 minutes

During this section, I distribute a reading packet which asks students a focus question: "Which car do you think minimizes passenger injuries upon impact?"  I ask students to complete a T-chart using an image of a head-on collision between a late model car and a classic car. Then, I provide a table of the terms that students need to create working definitions for as they read the text. Next, I ask students to complete a concept map on momentum and impulse. I also ask students to create a step-by-step derivation of the  equation for Newton's second law: given net force is equal to the change in momentum over a time interval as a starting point. Then I ask a volunteer to share their definitions and conceptual understanding at each table. Finally, I take a temperature reading to see whether students agree with the volunteer student's solution. If students agree they give a thumbs up if students disagree they give a thumbs down. I ask student who give a thumbs down to modify the explanation to make it more correct and then restate the corrected statement to the class for another temperature reading.

The goal of this section of the lesson is to use close reading and group discussion as a way for students to make connections between the physics terms in context and the real-world situations that manipulate "momentum". At the end of this section, I ask for volunteers from each station to provide a verbal summary of where they are because I want students to provide me with feedback. I also want students to reflect on the task and the connections between the information they collectand concepts they already know. This helps me see where they are in terms of their ability to apply mathematical logic to physics concepts. 

During the next section, students are given a chance to apply these skills by creating infographics about momentum and impulse in action. 

Creating an Infographic on Momentum

30 minutes

I distribute Chromebooks and give an overview of an infographic creator called piktochart.  I show students how to login using their school email powered by google. Then I give a quick tutorial on the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room on how to choose a free infographic template and modify it. Then I ask students to work in teams of 2-4 to create an infographic that illustrates the physics of either:

  • Motor Vehicle Safety: Crumple Zones & Airbags

  • Padding as Protection in a Sports

  • The Importance of Follow Through in Sports

An Infographic is a visualization tool that combines non-linguistic models of information in an eye-catching format that both informs and illustrates a conceptual understanding of a complex topic. I tell students that each infographic must:

  • Include a title that demonstrates the purpose of the visual. 
  • Have a clear and consistent organization that is both engaging and easy to read.
  • Present mathematical representation of the physics concepts related to the momentum scenario.
  • Include sources that are credible using the MLA format.

I use this type of activity so that students can synthesize the information they gather from the close reading activity and communicate accurately and concisely. I choose to conduct this portion of the lesson as a pair driven activity to keep students accountable for completing the lesson at the end of the 30-minute timeframe. In my classroom, students share authority over their learning process and often have a set of choices on how they are assessed. So when a few students ask if creating infographics by hand, I agree. Students use Chromebooks to research additional information on their topics and find graphics resources from websites like Pixabay and flickr to help communicate their ideas. Most students complete this activity within the given timeframe. However, I give students who were not able to complete this assignment during class to turn it in at the end of the school day. This typically means students work through the advisory period, which is similar to homeroom to complete the assignment without penalty. I assess this assignment using the common physics rubric found here on the reasoning and logic and representation domains.

Extension: Homework Questions

10 minutes

The Homework activity asks students to solve real-world problems similar to those we introduce within the lesson. It also gives students an opportunity to practice applying mathematical reasoning to related physics problems. 

At this point in the semester, we have applied the G.I.R.L.S. protocol to several types of problems, so I think students are comfortable with this activity. Students complete the assignment in their notebooks or on loose leaf paper. Later this week, I check student responses to this closure to determine whether students are proficient in the understanding the mathematical behavior of key momentum terms.  I assign this homework at the end of class on Monday and collect it at the beginning of class on Thursday to grade and return at the beginning of class on Monday. Some of the common mistakes I notice when I look at student responses include missing units and a lack of a concluding sentence.