Understanding Check: Forces and Newton's Laws

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Students will demonstrate their understanding of forces and Newton's laws of motion on a formative assessment.

Big Idea

Formative assessments are an essential tool for measuring current levels of individual understanding of the physics concepts of forces and Newton's laws.


The goal of this lesson is to help students use each other's strengths to construct explanations for concepts that relate to forces and Newton's laws of motion. This lesson addresses the RST.11-12.4 and HS-PS2-1 standards because it asks students to use their notes and collaborate with team members to create a study guide on forces and Newton's laws. I also ask questions on concepts from previous units to assess students' ability to retain information across units.  This lesson aligns with the NGSS Practices of Developing and Using Models (SP2), Analyzing and Interpreting Data (SP4), Using Constructing Explanations (SP6) and Obtaining, Interpreting and Communicating Information for Science (SP8) because students will use their prior knowledge to explain factors that are related to both the forces acting on an object and its changes in motion.

Within this lesson, students demonstrate their understanding of the key terms that relate to the forces acting on an object on a practice understanding check. Students apply the G.I.R.L.S. (Given, Image, Relationship, Looking For, Solution) protocol to at least eight problems of their choice from this unit and create a single note sheet that they can use while taking their understanding check. Students then collaborate with their peers to rank and revisit problems from their notes to correct any misconceptions that students at their table may have. Finally, students complete the understanding check using their note sheet, a calculator, and a writing utensil. Within this lesson, I ask students to focus on deepening their current understanding of forces and Newton's laws. I assess student understanding throughout the lesson using an understanding check, and grade each student's work at the end of the school day on a scale of 1 (Advanced Beginner) to 5 (Highly Proficient).

Review: Forces and Newton's Laws of Motion

30 minutes

In this section of the lesson, students create a study guide that shows how to answer questions from the practice understanding check using the G.I.R.L.S. protocol and other helpful hints on forces and Newton's laws of motion. Students take a piece of card stock and fold the paper lengthwise once and twice width-wise to create 8 equal windows. In each window, students write information from this unit that they consider important for developing an understanding of forces and Newton's laws of motion. Students may select problems from homework, our digital textbook, notes or practice problems to add to their note sheets.  During this lesson, students each must create a single sheet of Notes. Some students hold mini-conferences with their table mates to help them in understanding any challenges that they face. Students are told that they can use this note sheet during an understanding check.

After completing their study guides, students work together to use a strategy I call the Sage on The Stage. At each table, students spend fifteen minutes to rank eight questions from the unit from least challenging to most challenging. Students then work together to annotate their note sheets to reflect changes that the student expert(s) at their table suggest. For example, if an expert notices that a student has incorrect dimensions or units on a solution, the student with the error on their sheet would make changes to their sheet to correct the error. In the next section of this lesson, students use this note sheet to take an assessment on forces and Newton's laws of motion. I choose this activity instead of an open notes quiz because it helps students use the multiple viewpoints of their peers to identify key ideas about forces and Newton's laws of motion.

Understanding Check: Forces and Newton's Laws

40 minutes

During this section of the lesson, students use their user guides, a calculator and a writing utensil to take an assessment on their understanding of the forces and changes in an object's motion for different scenarios. Students sit in groups of four at lab tables with a four-way table divider. Students may use the single-sided set of notes they just developed for this assessment.  

I take final questions from the whole class and then distribute the understanding checks to each student. I turn the "How are we learning arrow" to individual and students take the assessment. I project a message on the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room that tells students good luck and has a timer embedded in it. Students spend the next forty minutes completing the understanding check on forces and Newton's laws of motion. I collect and grade student understanding checks in our standards-based digital grade book by the end of the school week. 


10 minutes

To wrap up this section of the lesson, I ask students to look at the Minds on Physics modules that I post on the class Edmodo wall for homework.  I give students multiple chances to demonstrate mastery of concepts that relate to forces and Newton's laws. With this in mind, I give students this homework assignment to give students multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery. I also ask students to share their medal success codes with me by midnight on Thursday morning to meet the HW deadline. Today's module asks students to interpret physics word problems to either predict the acceleration of an object or determine the magnitude of individual forces. Each module has a progress bar and a success bar. As students answer questions correctly their progress bar goes up. If students begin to answer questions incorrectly their health bar decreases. If a student's health bar reaches zero before completing the module they will have to attempt the module again. The content remains constant, but the questions change either in order or phrasing each time a student attempts a module. Once a student's progress reaches 100% on a module, students receive a medal success code. 

If a student demonstrates mastery with little to no evidence of stumbling, he or she receives a gold medal success code. If a student reaches mastery but stumbles in one or two instances, he or she receives a silver medal success code. Students who receive a silver medal success code are given the opportunity to continue practicing and can attain a gold medal success code. Students record these alphanumeric codes on a record keeping sheet which correspond to either gold or silver medals on a Minds on Physics module. If students receive a gold medal, I give them credit for being highly proficient in their understanding of forces and Newton's laws of motion. If students receive a silver medal, I give them credit for being proficient in their understanding of forces and Newton's laws of motion. Students must demonstrate mastery of a standard at least three times to be considered proficient on their final report card using our school's standards-based grading system.