Physics According to You

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Students will demonstrate an understanding of the changing nature of science.

Big Idea

Over the course of history, knowledge gets refined as scientists gain access to more information.

Warm Up

5 minutes

At the beginning of each lesson, I have a quick bell ringer activity to get students focused on the tasks for today's lesson. There is a slide with the date, the objective and an additional prompt projected 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. 

I give students 5 minutes to transfer this information in their notebooks. I want students to keep the objective in their minds and to get ready to combine information from multiple sources into a cohesive presentation. I spend a 1-2 minutes reading the slide aloud so that students who may have difficulty processing the written information have the opportunity to hear the words spoken aloud in context. I talk to students about the process of revision that we use within our classroom to edit and communicate our ideas is analogous to how scientists have revised their definitions for certain physical quantities over time. I have a dial at the front of my room with different student grouping on it entitles, "How are we Learning?". Students work in partners, teams of four, whole class, individually and on "Activities-In-Hand". Each type of grouping has a short description of what students are doing when the dial points to an activity type. One of the cool strategies is to have students speak either in 12-inch voices or 6-inch voices, which means a person who is either 6 or 12 inches away from a conversation cannot hear that conversation. Throughout the semester, I ask students to use their 6-inch or 12-inch voices when we are working in pairs or teams. 

Quick Student Summaries on the Nature of Physics

10 minutes

I think of Physics as a model-dependent science which gives society insight into the inner workings of our universe. Throughout this course of study students are given the tools they need to become familiar with identifying, creating, and refining models. I believe that to become proficient in the application of physics concepts, students need the ability to internalize understanding and be mentally agile. With this in mind, the first few days of the school year are focused on building the framework for a community of learners within our classroom. I believe that collaboration is an important component of scientific learning.

During the first five minutes of this activity, I give students a writing prompt to complete in their notebooks. In this section of the lesson, I choose an activity where students share their answers to the question "How has physics changed over time?" as a class. Students spend one or two minutes writing their answers in their notebooks and then they share their answers with their station partners for the remainder of the five minutes. At the end of five minutes, I call on a representative from each table to share their answers with the class.  An example of a student's response can be found here. Many students talk about technology changes here not specific physics content. For example, one student mentioned how phones are changing from land lines to cell phones. Another student spoke about how primitive the world would be if Steve Jobs had not been born. I spend one or two minutes emphasizing that an underlying understanding of physics concepts and the historical shifts of models within physics helps drive innovation in technological fields. 

Meanwhile, I make notes in my Classwork Assessment chart. I keep this chart on a clipboard with me when I circulate the room for the remainder of the class, to take attendance and make notes on any student connections, extensions to their understanding or consistent puzzles or misconceptions.  It has some easy checklist columns to note if students were prepared and actively participating in an activity. I keep multiple copies of this chart on my clipboard so that I can keep track of what is going on during each portion of the lesson.

This part of the lesson focuses on considering multiple viewpoints on the changing nature of physics. I then spend the last five minutes of this section circulating from group to group asking individual team members questions about their summary to ensure that each student contributed and understands the summary that they table reporter shared earlier in this section.

I create this part of the lesson because I want students to summarize their group's feedback and to give candid reflections on the collected information in order to highlight how physics models have changed over time (SP8). During the next section as a class, students will be given a more concrete example of a particular physics model that changed over time.  

Investigating the Development of Physics Models

45 minutes

For the first five minutes of this section , I ask students a series of questions related to their commutes. Then I ask one or two students from around the room to describe their commute to the class. This leads to a discussion which involves blocks as a unit of length. I ask a few clarifying questions like, "Are the block city blocks or avenue blocks?" (In NYC avenues tend to be much longer than blocks.) Next, I ask students if their description of their commutes make sense to a student in Atlanta or Boston or New Brunswick and ask them why or why not. Students eventually say something along the lines that it would be easier to explain their commutes to students from different cities if the routes were described in meters. I push back, by asking would their descriptions change if they were talking to students from different times in American History? Students typically reply that they do not have enough information to answer that question. I then reply I will give them a set of notes that should shed some light on whether the way we measure length in meters has changed over time. 

During the next portion of this section, I project a set of notes on the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room on how the standard by which we measure distance has changed over time to the entire class. Students spend ten minutes recording these notes in their lab notebooks. After ten minutes have elapsed and we have discussed the idea that physics models of understanding have changed over time, I use the next five minutes to give students an activity prompt called Physics according to you that gives them the opportunity to investigate the historical context of physics and create a multimedia report from their perspective.

At the culmination of this semester, students will present a closure project which includes a 15-20 page paper, a visual and model of their choice that best represents their academic growth throughout this semester. With this in mind, I chose this activity because I want students to learn how to create a multimedia presentation that draws information from multiple sources. This activity hones in on the ability to process information from several credible sources and to communicate ideas in an accurate and visually appealing manner.

After introducing the activity prompt,  I distribute Chromebooks for students to use in pairs. I ask students to spend the next 30 minutes conducting research on the development of our current understanding of physics. This is part of my larger goal throughout the year of giving students multiple points of view on the conceptualization of physics. I ask students to pay particular attention to the fundamental quantities of time, mass and electric current during their investigations.


Student Perspectives on the Evolution of Physics

15 minutes

During this section of the lesson I ask students to spend 15 minutes sharing and discussing their presentations with a partner. I distribute a consortium rubric to each student that each student will use to assess their partner on the domains of representation and communication.  While students are discussing their visuals with their partners, I circulate the room with my clipboard and take any a few low inference notes based on the conversations I overhear. After 15 minutes have elapsed, I collect the rubrics from each lab station to review when I assess students visuals. 

An example of a student presentation that gives an overview of the historical shifts in understanding for basic physical quantities of the metric system is shown below:


 An example of a graphic organizer for student research notes is shown here.


10 minutes

I provide students with an Exit Slip with a set of writing prompts for a routine called a 3-2-1, where students are tasked with both identifying their personal level of understanding of key ideas within the unit and identifying the underlying reasons behind their understanding. I choose this routine because I want students to highlight how their thoughts on the fundamental concepts of physics are connected to what they already know and the ideas introduced in class.

The student responses on extensions to their knowledge and conceptual shifts are of particular interest to me because if I can identify events that trigger shifts in thinking for a majority of my students then I can incorporate similar events throughout my curriculum and help students have easier ways to access and internalize content. To wrap up the lesson, I remind students that I will return the exit slips at the beginning of the next lesson and we will go over the feedback from their exit slips during the beginning of our next class.