Day 17: How high? How far?

Physics: After grading the exams last night, scores were middling. None too low, none too high. Most of the questions went pretty well and showed me their level of understanding, but one was a dumpster fire. I didn’t spend a lot of time teaching calculating height or range of a projectile, and every single student tanked that question. Obviously, that’s my bad, so today we reviewed that material thoroughly, tomorrow they’ll get a practice question, and Monday we will re-assess that one question. I asked them how they preferred this format (all question and answers contained in one packet vs all the questions on one sheet and answering on a second sheet), and they overwhelmingly preferred the packet, although there was a lot of wide eyes and deep breaths about how hard the exam was. Other than the dumpster fire question, I think it was overall mostly a successful assessment. I don’t mind them finding it a challenge, and the distribution of scores was acceptable once that one was removed. I’m still getting used to the pace of this course, and I dropped the ball on that content.

Honors Physics: I limited the amount of homework questions we reviewed, because that had been taking up too much class time. This does mean I was unable to answer all their questions, though. Considering either screencasts or posting annotated solutions to those problems where there were questions. Wondering where I’ll find the time. I have Robotics after school and the PLC from 5-5:39 with duty starting at 5:40 and going until I get everyone to bed at 11, so there’s not a lot of spare time today. Things to plan into future schedules. Then we reviewed the lab from last week about falling objects and air resistance and gave them a chance to update and improve their write-ups using more references to physics ideas and explanations rather than statements with no support. Obviously more discussion about that BEFORE the lab will be beneficial in future years.

AP Physics: Lab day! But first we had a quiz and then a conversation about the class and what my plan is. For the lab I’m still having them test the dynamic carts that are here, this time investigating which surface gives the best results (floor, carpet, tables, counters, etc.), and eventually I am going to ask them to give me their ideas for whether or not we should get new carts of if these do well enough to get the job done. I gave them leave to try any surface anywhere they wanted, so they could go outside and try interesting things and ask interesting questions, and two groups went to the dining hall.

I was a bit suspicious, so I followed them. One group was legit trying things in the dining hall and taking data. The other took some data and then sat down to lunch with their friends. I gathered them up and herded them all back to the classroom so we could have a talk about expectations and communication and not skipping class just because there happens to be food and friends nearby and you don’t think you’ll get caught. Kids make poor choices sometimes. I will add more structure and communication on my end to reduce the opportunities for them to make similar poor choices in the future.

Second class got more careful instructions about not taking off for the dining hall in the middle of class and engaged a lot more fully in the exploration. I really enjoy watching their discussions and decision making. They talk and discuss and disagree and argue and come to conclusions. I hear discussions about physics and experimental design. I hear choices being made with a consensus. I hear “well let’s try both and see which one works better” and “I think this would be much better if we did X instead of Y.” “Oh, yeah, I agree. I didn’t think of that.” It’s so much better learning and far more of a cognitive load for them, but it feels like terrible teaching, because I’m just hanging out watching them do stuff and occasionally asking questions. I know logically that my job is to curate experiences to allow learning to happen, not to always be the center of attention and source of information, but it’s a hard norm to change in my head.

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