Let's Get To Work!

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Students will demonstrate an understanding of work and energy by completing a tutorial using notes and an interactive website.

Big Idea

An object must be displaced in the direction of the force acting on it for work to be done.


This lesson addresses the SL.11-12.1a and HS-PS3-2 standards as it asks students to effectively compose a physics presentation on the connection between work and energy using information gathered from various media and sources. Students research concepts related to energy and work using the NGSS Practice of Constructing Explanations (SP6) that illustrate the connection between work and kinetic energy changes within a system.

At this point in the semester, students have constructed an explanation for energy, have used tools like EDpuzzle and PhET simulations to learn more about kinetic energy and potential energy and have modeled the mechanical energy of a system using a roller coaster model that they improve over time. Students begin by creating a multimedia presentation using a PowerPoint, PadletPoppletPrezi or Piktochart. Students use this presentation to demonstrate an understanding of the Work-Energy Theorem.

I assess student understanding throughout the lesson using informal check-ins and assess each student's work at the end of the school day. I want students to learn to integrate information from various points of this course into a coherent presentation. At the end of this lesson, I ask students to leverage prior knowledge like Newton's Second Law, and Lessons from Galileo to build an effective presentation on the topic of the Work-Energy Theorem. One goal of this lesson is to help students learn that synthesizing information from more than one credible source is an effective way to communicate scientific information.


5 minutes

This portion of the lesson begins with a routine where students write the objective and additional piece of information in their notebooks. I project a slide with the date, the objective and an additional prompt  on the interactive whiteboard with a red label that says "COPY THIS" in the top left-hand corner. Sometimes the additional prompt is a BIG IDEA for the lesson, or the Quote of the Day or a Quick Fact from current events that is related to the lesson. The red label helps my students easily interact with the information as soon as they enter the room and avoids losing transition time as students enter the classroom.

Today's additional piece of information is a Big Idea which states that an object must be displaced by a force in order for work to be done on the object. 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 get ready to leverage information gathered from their understanding of the concepts of work and energy to complete a tutorial using notes and the Physics Classroom website. At the end of this lesson students compose an explanation of the connection between work and energy in their notebooks.

Constructing An Explanation of Changes in Kinetic Energy

30 minutes

During the first five minutes of this section of the lesson, I project this slide on the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room. I want students to understand how important building effective models is to crafting an understanding of energy. One goal of this section of the lesson is to use mathematical reasoning to show the connections between work and energy. I distribute Chromebooks and ask students to spend the next thirty minutes or so creating a visual that demonstrates an understanding of the Work-Energy Theorem.  

Students work in pairs using information from class notes, our digital textbook, and the Physics Classroom website to construct an explanation of the Work-Energy Theorem. Some students split the work up into research and communication-based roles, where one partner gather research and the other partner organizes information. Other student pairs work together using a shared google document and create a list of tasks to complete. Some of the common tasks students complete in this section include:

  • finding sources
  • identifying relationships
  • locating images
  • summarizing notes
  • choosing layouts

Most student pairs split up the work and combine the efforts after each task is complete. I choose this type of activity because I want students to identify connections between concepts across multiple units of study. Some of the common themes include, "Work is the evidence of a force displacing an object", and "Work is done to accelerate a object to its final speed". Students enjoy this activity and ~80% students demonstrate understanding of the connection between work and energy by the end of this lesson.

Practice Problems of Work and Energy

35 minutes

After students construct explanations of the importance of the connection between work and energy,  I ask students to spend 30 minutes demonstrating their understanding of work and energy by completing an activity that helps students review kinetic energy, potential energy and work. I distribute Chromebooks and chargers for students to use in case the computers need to be recharged. During the next thirty minutes, students work in pairs to complete this handoutIt takes a little longer for some students to get started than others.

As students work together to solve the problems in the handout, I walk around checking in with them.  The purpose of this assignment is to get students to collaborate and synthesize information from various sources to solve problems like scientists constructing an explanation of a complex topic. Students spend thirty minutes solving a variety of problem types with their partners. After thirty minutes pass, I spend the last few minutes of this section collecting the handouts to grade and return to students at the end of the week.


10 minutes

The closure activity asks students to show algebraically that the total work in a system is equivalent to the change in kinetic energy. Students complete this activity as individuals using only the equations I project on the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room. Students write their solutions in their laboratory notebooks. I project the hint that students should use equations for work, Galileo's equation for final velocity and Newton's second law on the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room as a starting point. Click here for an example of student work.

One goal of this closure activity is to assess that students can use logic to show the connection between work and energy as an individual. Approximately 80% of students are able to demonstrate proficiency on this activity. To wrap up this activity I ask students to try this interactive activity for homework.