Angry Bird Physics: Student-Created Short Films

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Students will demonstrate their understanding of projectile motion by creating a short film.

Big Idea

Communicating information on projectile motion in an engaging way is a great way to learn and practice physics.


The goal of this lesson is to help students learn that models can be extended to solve more complex problems. This lesson addresses the RST.11-12.7, HSA-RE1.A.1, and HS-PS2-1 standard as a way to effectively construct viable explanations of projectile motion by creating a short film that uses multiple sources of information and is based on the logic that projectiles accelerate at a constant rate of 9.81 m/s/s. The lesson also aligns to the Cross-Cutting Concept of Patterns because students use mathematical models to demonstrate an understanding of projectile motion using a short film. 

Students research concepts related to projectile motion using the NGSS Practices of Using Mathematical and Logical Reasoning (SP5) and Constructing Explanations (SP6) and Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information (SP8) with a short film on projectile motion. Students create a short film that includes a problem, the physics of the problem, a solution and tips to their peers. I assess student understanding throughout the lesson using informal check-ins and assess each student's work at the end of the school day.


10 minutes

This portion of the lesson begins with a routineSometimes the additional piece of information 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.  While students transfer the information being projected on the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room into their notebooks, I take attendance. 

Today's additional piece of information is a BIG IDEA which states that communicating information on projectile motion in an engaging way is a great way to learn and practice physics. I choose the activities in this lesson because I want students to learn that communicating information using 21st century skills is a great way to learn about projectile motion. 

Creating A Short Film on Projectile Motion

55 minutes

The purpose of this portion of the lesson is for students to learn that communicating mathematical reasoning in a step-by-step manner can help simplify challenging projectile motion problems. During the first five minutes of the section, I project a set of requirements on the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room. After discussing the requirements with the class, I distribute Chromebooks for student pairs to use while creating projectile motion short films. Some students ask, "Do we have to include a voice over when discussing projectile motion in the film?", and "Will we be able to edit the films once we submit them if there are errors in our explanations of projectile motion?" Most students spend the first 20 minutes or so creating a script for their projectile motion films in the lab notebooks. Students spend the last thirty minutes of this section creating a short film that they can use as an icebreaker during a projectile motion performance-based assessment which I introduce in this lesson

As students are creating their visuals I walk around checking-in with students to ensure they have met all of the requirements from the projected criteria. It takes a little longer for some students to get started than others, but after five minutes or so most student pairs decide how to divide the work and create a gameplan for they are going to create a short film on projectile motion. Below is one example of student work:

When students complete their short films they post the embed code on our Edmodo wall. I want students to learn that breaking problems down into more manageable parts may make a solution more viable than it may have appeared at first glance. Using computational models and logic to simplify solutions and recognizing patterns within projectile motion data is important for several of the lessons within this unit. Students make sketches and write scripts using whatever materials they like from the resource area which includes, but is not limited to: 

  • markers
  • highlighters
  • colored pencils
  • sharpies
  • dry erase markers and boards
  • chart paper
  • poster paper
  • Chromebooks

At the end of this section, I pause and ask students to return the materials they used during this section to the front resource station. A resource manager returns each material to a bin or labeled drawer so that they are readily available the next time the materials are needed. 


10 minutes

The closure activity is a writing prompt for a routine called a headlines with which students are familiar that asks students to answer, in 25 words or less, the question: "What was the most important part of today's lesson?" Some student responses include, "Creating a script before making a Powtoon on projectile motion" and "Choosing the visuals to communicate tips on how to best solve a projectile motion problem."  

This type of closure activity asks students to highlight connections to their previous understanding and key ideas within the lesson and also works to make student thinking visible regarding the underlying reasons behind their understanding.  I wrap up this activity by asking students to keep working on the exhibitions introduced in an earlier lesson. These are due in a week's time.