Students are getting ready for a unit test, so today's goal is to review the major concepts of electrostatics and electricity. These concepts include Coulomb's Law, electric fields, and Ohm's Law (HS-PS3-5). To accomplish our goal, students work through a practice test individually and collaboratively (SP5 & SP8). After that work time is over, I provide the practice test's answers using my sharing solutions strategy in hopes of giving students another resource to study for their upcoming unit exam.
I provide red felt pens for the last section of this lesson. If it's not possible to buy pens, I suggest asking students to bring a red pen from home. The reason I don't make students provide their own is that they usually forget them. I also use the pens for different activities throughout the year, so they come in handy on multiple occasions.
I start class with a reminder that the Electrostatics & Electricity Unit Test is tomorrow. This means that we are reviewing today, so I remind students about testing rules and procedures and pass out the practice test. I explain to students that I'd like them to work the first fifteen minutes completely alone on this practice test, with no resources other than a calculator and equation sheet. Because I make enough copies of the practice test so that each student has one, I allow them to write on the test. I do ask that students only use a pencil for this first fifteen minutes. Although I don't explain the entire procedure at this point to prevent cheating, we use different color pens throughout the class period. My goal is that when students leave the classroom today they have an additional resource to study from and a clear understanding of what they accomplished individually, with a partner, and with teacher assistance.
Once everyone has their practice test, I instruct them to work through as many problems as possible in the next fifteen minutes. I'm strict on the time requirement, so I set an egg timer at the front of the room and let the students begin working. My role throughout their work time is to just observe, which means when I walk around I'm very stingy on answering any questions and am just making sure that students are on task.
I design the test so that it is a good representation of what students see on the actual unit test. The questions cover concepts such as electrostatic force, dissipated power, current, and electric fields. While the questions are slightly more difficult than those on the actual unit exam, I've done this purposely because I want students to be well prepared. Also, the practice test has a mix of conceptual and quantitative questions just as the unit exam during the next class period includes.
During this time, I also make a list of partners for the next activity. I pair students based on grades - quite simply I go to my grade book, sort the class by overall grade, and put the top person with the bottom person. The second from the top then gets put with the second from the bottom, and so on, until everyone has a partner. Pairing students by course grade is meant to provide an additional resource for the lower scoring student and help reinforce the knowledge (through peer teaching) of the higher scoring student.
Now that it's time for students to work in partners, I quickly read the list of partners that I've already organized (based on their current grades. See pairing instructions in the "individual" section above.) I then tell students they need to move to sit with their partner, who will be their only additional resource for the next 15 minutes. Students must also use a pen for this session, and no pencils are allowed. I'm flexible on what color pen they want to use, as long as it's not red. Again, the goal is that when students leave the classroom today they'll have an additional resource to study from and a clear understanding of what they accomplished individually (using a pencil), with a partner (using a pen), and with teacher assistance.
I reset the egg timer for 15 minutes, and continue to walk around and observe the pairs while they are working on the practice test. Once again, I'm extremely stingy on answering questions because I want students to try their absolute best with their partner.
Finally, it's time to pass out a red pen to each student and have students return to their original seats. Once everyone is settled, I quickly read the answers to every question from the answer key and ask students to write down the correct answer on their individual practice exams with the red pen. I find that reading the answers not only saves time, but also encourages students to be responsible for their own learning. I read all of the answers first so that I'm sure each student has the correct answers, which gives them another resource to study from for the unit test.
I spend the rest of this time answering questions from students and modeling any problems that they need to see. I model the problems on the front board and I select problems to go over by asking students which ones they'd like to see. I simply choose students who have raised their hands to see a problem, and go around the room until everyone's questions are answered. In the past I've had no problem finishing before the end of the class period, but if students still have unanswered questions they are welcome to come in for extra help or send me an email from home to gain clarity.
Before students leave, I suggest they look at how much they were able to accomplish in pencil, how much they finished in pen, and how much they had to correct in red. If the majority of their work is in pencil, like this student's, then they are close to ready for the test. If there is a lot of work in pen, then they need to spend a decent amount of time studying before the test. If the majority of the work is in red, then it's probably necessary the student come in for additional help and spend a large amount of time studying before the test.