Applying A Problem-Solving Protocol to Work Problems

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Students will demonstrate and apply their knowledge of the concept of work by using the G.I.R.L.S. protocol to solve problems.

Big Idea

Solving problems using the G.I.R.L.S. protocol is a great way to learn about the concept of work.


This lesson addresses the HSA-REI.A.1 and HS-PS3-1 standards as a way to effectively compose a physics presentation demonstrating how to solve a problem using the concept of work. At this point in the semester, students have constructed an explanation for energy, have used tools like our digital textbook, EDpuzzle and PhET simulations to learn more about kinetic energy and potential energy and work. Students have also modeled the mechanical energy of a system using a roller coaster model that they improve over time.

This lesson aligns to the NGSS Practices of Developing and Using Models (SP2), Using Mathematical and Computational Thinking (SP5), and Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating information (SP8) for science that illustrates the connection between work, force and displacement of an object within a system. Students begin by creating a mindmap in their notebooks. Students use this information along with ideas from notes, readings, and EDpuzzles from this unit during a silent conversation to communicate their understanding of the concept of work.

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 create a headline that captures the essence of today's lesson. One goal of this lesson is to help students learn that communicating solutions to word problems in a coherent way is a great way to learn about physics.


10 minutes

This portion of the lesson begins with a routine where students write the objective and additional piece of information in their notebooks as soon as they enter the classroom. Today's additional piece of information is a Big Idea which states that solving problems using the G.I.R.L.S. protocol is a great way to learn about work. The objective of the bell ringer is to give students a clear understanding of the focus of today's lesson. While students spend 5 minutes copying this information in their notebooks, I take attendance in our school's standards-based grade book, Jumprope

After five minutes pass, I ask students to create a mind map on work. Students spend two to four minutes making a mind map on "Work" in their notebooks. I spend the last minute of this section asking students for ideas on work and I create a class Mind Map on Work  on the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room. A mind map is a diagram students construct using words, images, and other key information that come to mind  when students here a word or phrase that they place at the center of the diagram.

Later in this lesson, I ask students to get ready to leverage information from their understanding of the concepts of work and energy to solve a set of problems and give mini-lectures on how to best solve a problem that relates to the concept of work to a small group of their peers. At the end of this lesson, students compose an explanation of the connection between work and energy in their notebooks.

EDpuzzle: Physics & Work

15 minutes

Within this portion of the lesson, I use a video to introduce an example solution to a word problem that relates to the concept of work. I include a set of notes that I project at the interactive whiteboard in the front of the room. This part of the lesson focuses on the mathematical model for work. For the first ten minutes, I play the notes at the front of the room for the entire class and pause at the pause points I embed as green question marks in the video.

During the first ten minutes, students take notes in their notebooks. I ask students if they have any questions or concerns about the methods discussed in the video. We have a whole class discussion for 2-4 minutes. Some student queries include, "Does the definition of work depend on distance or displacement?", and "Do we ever need to know the mass or coefficient of friction to solve a work-related problem?" During the last minute of this section of the lesson, I email this video and notes to the entire class so that students can watch, pause and replay the video outside of class. During the next section, students are given a set of activities related to these notes to complete in small groups.

Silent Conversation on Work

20 minutes
During this section of the lesson, I use the silent conversation strategy. First, I tape six visual scenarios similar to the one covered in the EDpuzzle in the previous section to chart paper on each station and ask students to have a silent conversation on the concept of "work". The silent conversation strategy is a protocol I introduced in an earlier lesson where students take turns annotating a set of artifacts using their prior knowledge.

During the next thirty minutes, I ask students to have a silent conversation on the concept of work using these artifacts. Students may speak to each other during the first and last five minutes of this section, otherwise they must communicate by writing comments on the chart paper for their peers. Students spend five minutes at each station, visiting 3 stations of their choice. Some student annotations include, "W = F x d. ", "Why is there no direction if force and displacement are vectors", and "What if the object's displacement is negative?"

One way I modify this activity for students who need a bit more structure is to ask students to rotate around the room in groups of four and give student teams 3 minutes at each station. At the end of this section, I collect the chart paper and read the student reflections on each paper during my prep later on in the school day. Students benefit from discussing the multiple viewpoints on each artifact from today's lesson.

Mini Lectures on Work

25 minutes

During this portion of the lesson, I ask students to spend twenty-five minutes creating visuals on chart paper to explain work in a physics context. Each visual must include:

  • A title
  • A word problem similar to the one we discuss in the EDpuzzle 
  • A G.I.R.L.S. protocol solution

After students complete a visual I ask students to split into pairs to run a mini-lecture on their visual to their partner for five minutes each. These new pairs include one student that created the visual and one student from their table who created a different visual. The student who created the visual goes first during this sequence of min-lectures. 

Mini-lectures include:

  • An overview of each problem
  • Discussing each step in the solution
  • Identifying tips for solving similar problems in the future

After the first mini-lecture, students switch and present their information to their partners. Students spend the next five minutes of this section giving each other warm and cool feedback. Students assess their min-lecture partners using this Rubric during the mini-lecture. After students receive feedback, they spend between 5 and 10 minutes using the feedback to address any misconceptions or errors on their visuals.  I collect the visuals and rubrics at the end of this section to grade and return to students at the end of the week. Click here to see an example of student work. 

Closure: Create A Headline on the Concept of Work

5 minutes

The closure activity asks students to identify the key parts of this lesson and also works to make student thinking visible regarding their ideas on what is important for teaching other students how to solve problems that relate to the concept of work. During the last five minutes of class, I ask students to use a headlines routine to capture the important elements of today's lesson. The headlines routine asks students to create a short sentence that encapsulates key ideas on a particular topic or lesson.

Some student responses include, "Reading the comments at different stations to help solve the problem ", "It was hard trying to explain how to solve problems to someone without talking", and "The most important part was teaching my solution to my team." I collect and assess student responses to this closure to determine whether students are proficient in the understanding the concept of work.