Day 16: Test Two and Conversations

Physics: Test day. I caught up on all my outstanding grading last night, so I’m using this time to plan labs and write this. Students are giving me much more thorough answers than when they use their own paper. I’ll talk to them tomorrow about how this format felt compared to the other. Unfortunately, not many students actually finished in just the 45 minutes, so I need to cut some questions out if they are going to answer more fully in this format.

Honors Physics: (written before class) I have stacks and stacks of papers to hand back to honors, and we are going to have some loooooong conversations about how to make an argument, how to use data to support an argument, and how to use good habits when labeling forces. I don’t have enough time to have all the conversations I want, which will probably end up meaning that I have to have them within the practice of applications of newton’s laws and then momentum. We shall see how I can fit it in.

(written after class) Ran out of time. Gah, 45 minutes is such a short amount of time if I want to answer questions AND teach new material. Something is going to give, and I think it’s going to be content coverage, since I really don’t care at all about hitting every topic, but I do want to have rich discussions and answer their questions and respond to their learning needs. Research paper after research paper supports depth over breadth, but when I brought this up to Charlie his response was how do you choose which topics to leave out? Aye, that’s the rub. All the topics are SO NEAT, it’s hard to pick which ones to leave out. That’s why I also think going at it from a theme perspective rather than a topic perspective can be super useful. I’ll think it through, talk to the higher-ups, and see just how willing they are for me to experiment with weird things that may end up with complaints about “not teaching real physics”.

AP Physics: Continued goal-less problems and applications of Newton’s Laws. I think I need to move on to more challenging things. Honors needs more practice with applications, but I think AP is getting restless. I think I’ll jump ahead a bit and do some AP Practice so they can see how much they already know and can do with just what we’ve learned, but how much there is still left to learn. After the models we’ve done, I can only imagine projectile motion being absurdly easy. I hope it works out like that, because it’s ruining the life of my regular physics students.

For the second class, I gave them the first question from the 2017 AP C Mechanics and had them go for it. Even though I told them they could work together, they all started out working independently. After fifteen minutes I stopped them and told them that was the amount of time they would have on the AP test itself to complete this question, so see how far they got, and then group up and discuss what you did. A few minutes later I handed each group a copy of the scoring guides as well. Discussion became significantly more rich and interesting and heated almost instantly. One group ran into a problem and worked out the models themselves for a comparison, but had made an algebra mistake. Once we talked through the algebra and she found the mistake, she literally ran back to her group waving her paper in the air and shouting, “I know how to do it! I know how to do it!”

I met with another student to go over a homework question that had given her some problems, and she also expressed concern that I’m not teaching the class to a challenging enough level. I assured her that we’re in week 3 and have plenty of time to do very challenging things, but building this foundation of understanding how to put models together with two relatively simple ones will help when we get to more complex models of energy and momentum that can also require using the knowledge of forces and kinematics to fully answer. I don’t follow the philosophy of starting brutally hard and making everyone’s life miserable in the name of ‘rigor’ when you can have the same learning outcomes with gentler methods. I do plan to challenge them more and more over time and ask more complex analysis from them, but it’s week 3. Honestly, complaining that my class is too easy makes me feel pretty good about how I’m approaching the process. I’m not going to ignore these rumblings, and I’m so happy that students are willing to check in and chat with me. I think tomorrow after the quiz and before the lab we should talk this out as a class so they know I’m aware and on top of things.

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