Day 12: Organizing Kids’ Thinking

Thursday, 28 August 2014


A big question for me as a teacher of high school freshmen (ages 13-15) came up today: is it my job to model organization of notes when I lecture, demo, or otherwise speak to the class? The new freshmen seem to think so.

So we’re talking about wave reflection and interference when one kid asks me for what is essentially an outline. I had been building up these ideas sequentially but she wanted to know how many items there would be up front. As in, “there are two types of wave reflections and those are…” I hadn’t done that in the past because it felt like revealing spoilers.

How much responsibility does a lecturing teacher have to outline notes for students at ages 13-15?

I feel obliged to mention here that I don’t lecture that much, lest y’all think I’m one of those teachers.

On this day last year: Snakey Standing Waves

Day 11: Lending a Hand to Math

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


This just in: Math class pillages physics room for class materials!

My colleague is doing Barbie Bungee as a lesson on regression and she needs measuring sticks and tapes. I was happy to oblige because data collection & analysis in Algebra II classes is something I heartily endorse. On Friday, I’ll go watch the big drops.

The other big deal today was the organizing meeting for our FRC Robotics team, the WiredCats. I walked into the room after school and was greeted by this crowd of new and old faces:




The senior team members will start holding their fall training modules in the next month. With coach support, they’ll teach junior team members how to wire the robot, use the shop’s machines, design with CAD, implement pneumatics, write robot code, and write a business plan.

This day last year: Standing Wave Vines & Snapchats

Day 10: Great Warmups

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


In two of my classes, the warmup: What is ultrasonic sound? Who is Banshee from X-Men and what’s his power?

Pictured above, the warmup in the other two: Rank the pictures waves from greatest to least wave speed. (Given wavelength, all frequencies are identical, and amplitude.) Our first ranking task and it was a great success!


Ms. P, librarian, shares about library resources available for the musical instruments project. Kids write a 3-5 page research paper for this one.

Day 9: Seating Choices

Monday, 25 August 2014


Interesting. Freshmen still segregate by gender when given the option to choose their own seats. In case it’s not 100% obvious in this picture: all the girls are on the left and all the boys on the right.

Today, we wrapped up our wave properties lab, reviewed quiz results from their first real physics quiz, and I answered questions about their musical instrument projects (more on that tomorrow).

Day 8: Quiz Corrections

Friday, 22 August 2014


All four sections of physics took their first content quiz on Moodle. Kids are getting their first taste of how I dole out partial credit, how Moodle quizzes work, and (oh yeah) working on some physics.

Above is a quiz question straight outta Moodle and some exemplary student work + corrections. My directions to the kids: take the quiz, hit submit, put down the pencil, get a colored pen, correct anything you now know to be wrong. This is a tricky process to accustom kids to — I think it’s too many things to consider at once. Next year, I’m considering easing them into this process with a little more structure.

The second half of class was devoted to our wave properties lab. Here’s one group figuring out a longitudinal wave’s speed in a giant slinky:

See also: my other 180 posts that mention corrections

Day 7: Wave Lab

Thursday, 21 August 2014


Two classes had their first chunk of time on the wave properties lab. I tweaked this lab significantly from last year and am largely happy with the improvements. My regret is doing this lab after we took notes and went all traditional on wave properties. It would’ve been so much better up front on the first few days of classes.

Also, anyone know how to get a knot out of a giant slinky? Ugh, why do the kids always destroy these things?

Lab #1: Wave Speeds & More (PDF | Word)

Day 6: Making Waves

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


We grouped up and started our first lab, this one on wave properties like speed and wavelength. Above, kids try to find their lab partners via Frank’s subversive lab grouping activity. My only struggle with this otherwise awesome method is that there are 24 cards in the deck and my classes rarely have that number. My solution is to post the spares up around the room and ask kids to consider them as people.