Pace Car

I was very nervous to start Pace Car. When Mrs. F and I originally learned to do this activity, I believe some tears ensued. I did warn my students that tears may fall during this learning exercise, and it might be me (again) or them (maybe again?), but that’s part of the learning struggle for right now. We completed the table using current velocity (v) for Top Car. It was then discovered that Top Car had too little of a delta-x when using current velocity as part of its next-x equation: next-x-top-car(x, v): x + (v * delta-t)

There was disagreement whether or not to use current-v versus v when representing current velocity. However, my students were just lucky to end up with the efficient (lazy?) teacher who didn’t want to write “current” repeatedly. Mrs. F and Mr. R went with the current-v notation. I’m not sure if that brought anymore understanding to the whole Pace Car activity, but it brought upon confusion when our students tried to help each other out. There was some audible debates that went on with which notation to use.

For Middle Car, we used next-x-middle-car(x, v): x + (next-v(v) * delta-t). It was at this point that the students had trouble differentiating between “next-v times v” and “next-v of v.” At the beginning of discussing Middle Car, I found out how intentional I really needed to be with my words. We talked about the function notation and how f(x) looked like next-v(v). From here on out, students started to refer to next-v(v) as “next-v of v” and trying to multiply next-v and velocity decreased by a lot.

When we got to Bottom Car, the students intuitively knew to find the average between current velocity and next velocity. After talking to Mrs. F, I realized they didn’t actually understand WHY and how finding the average worked out. The next class, they learned a little calculus. We talked about how the velocity is different at every point between 3s and 4s. We arbitrarily picked the numbers 3 and 4, but I’m not sure if the students can be flexible enough to shift their thinking for other intervals. Anyway, we talked about how there is the possibility of having an infinite number of points (velocities), and how nobody has time to find the average for an infinite number of points in a time interval. So we decided as a class that we would just pick the beginning of the time interval (current-v) and the end of the time interval (next-velocity).

The code for Bottom Car ended up being- next-x-bottom(x, v): x + (avg-v(v) * delta-t). Some of the students found out really quickly that they’re going to have to use the whole definition of average velocity.

We’re taking our Pace Car Quiz this week, I’m going to see how well we did in presenting Pace Car this way.

Day 30: Quiz and turning our motion maps

We’re about 10 days out from taking the final, and we’re just now taking the first quiz for velocity. During the next-x discussion, a lot of the students LOOKED like they were paying attention. There were lots of copying down whatever was being written down on the board. However, today, after looking at the quizzes that were turned in coupled with the questions that were asked during office hours, it does not seem like we actually understand the next-x function.

I asked some students to explain velocity, delta-x, and the next-x function and how it’s all related, and there was a lot of challenge articulating how they all work together. I forgot about the video that the students watched about Independent and Dependent Variables. Because the students are 9th graders, most students have had some sort of instruction about IV and DV. It was pretty exciting to some that they recognized something from previous classes. The most we got in our discussion is that they drew a second axis line. The students have their motion map axis (which some have named as position) and the second axis line (that some figured out is called time).

Next class, I’m hoping to move the data points so that they can see a slope on their newly formed graph.

Buggy Lab & Simulated Motion

Started Unit 2 with a lot of grief. This year, Unit 1 ended with a lot of…fireworks. The Physics team reworked the Summative that we had created during the Zoom school days. It turned out that it didn’t necessarily work with our 9th graders this year. We’re rethinking the Summative, and instead of a project, they should just go ahead and do a test.

Buggy Lab

We started Buggy Lab pretty strongly this year. Now that I knew what to expect and where the pitfalls in the directions may lie, it was much easier (AND faster) to execute the activity. There were only 1-2 groups this year that calculated for the distanced traveled by the buggy instead of recording the position of the buggy. I believe last year, we had at least 2-3 groups do this in every class. So I’m getting better at making sure the students get the right directions.

The students recorded on receipt tape (that thankfully I purchased some extra rolls). Note to myself, the receipt tape does not need to be thermal paper, but the markers do show up better on that type of paper. I had them save their receipt tapes…just in case, but now I’m realizing we saved the number lines last year because it took us 2-3 classes to figure out the activity.

Simulated Motion

After the Buggy Lab, we jumped into the next-x function. Thank goodness that Mrs. F reworked the Activity worksheets so that it was easier to get the point across. The entire class used the sample data to look at the simulated motion. This year, I had the students whiteboard the evolution of their understanding of the next-x function to get them thinking about their thinking process. During the whiteboard discussion, some misunderstandings came out. For example, students thought that the value equal to delta-t matched the input from their first example. Another misunderstanding was that the delta-x is velocity.

I really appreciated how their change-of-position value progressed to become delta-x which then became (velocity * delta-t). I loved how some of the students got really creative with their interpretation of the next-x journey. But the best of all, the students who participated in the discussion understood how delta-x becomes velocity * delta-t.

Day 11: Game Day and Flag Drawings

Game Day: System Schemas & State Diagrams

Since I gave my test a day later than the other teachers, I had to create my own problems and make it just different enough. Introducing the conditions earlier caused some focus to be diverted away from the drawing system schemas and state diagrams. Students focused on weird details and not really the big picture. Grading it is kind of tricky for me mainly because of what I really wanted students to focus on vs. what they actually focused on.

Draw a Flag

We started drawing with Pyret. I know that Bootstrap Algebra does this exercise, so I’m glad that the Algebra teacher who is using Pyret and I went over the exercises and the verbiage we’re going to use. We didn’t think that the redundancy in exercises would be useful, but definitely agreed that we should call things similarly and emphasize the way we use words.

Overall, I’m finding that the students were having a hard time breaking down the flags into shapes. For example, the Italian flag, they saw it as three shapes laying on top of each other. Whereas, myself (and kids who think like me) saw the flag as three differently colored rectangles beside each other. And then with the functions that took in 2-arguments, students had a hard time seeing they can draw 2 things and write an identifier that draws those two things and then do the same thing for the 3rd thing. For example, the Russian flag. I had a couple students who couldn’t see that the white rectangle on top of the blue rectangle can be one shape.

Students had a really hard time with combining two objects to make it one object.

I’m not sure how I can make the thinking better of writing an identifier to make two shapes become “one” shape. I think it’s like counting. one is one. I don’t know how to teach the concept of one. Thank you to all our teachers who cover this concept. I’m having a hard time having students that if you combine two things as one identifier, it can be “drawn” together as one.

Days 9 & 10: Whiteboarding System Schema & State Diagram

For the sake of time, I wanted to skip this whiteboarding session. During the #cmpfb sessions, they could not stop emphasizing how important this session was. So naturally, I thought it’d be a good one to skip. After talking it over with Mrs. F., it was determined that I should not skip this board meeting.

I’m so glad we went through it. We took photos of the whiteboards because we didn’t finish all the presentations in one class. The students did a great job of asking questions about the system schema each other’s whiteboards. They didn’t do a great job of asking about the state diagrams. I think that there was too much emphasis put in the details of the position, shape/orientation, and motion that they missed the big idea: State Diagram should show a change in position and that each object in the diagrams should be in the System Schema.

Day 10: board meeting continues

First we did our Game Day Prep (which is just a drawing state diagrams and system schema quiz). Mrs. F in 404 wrote an awesome Review for students to complete. I don’t think we emphasized the same things due to a difference in opinion. But we covered the same things for the most part. Then we did the Draw It! discussion. This is where I tell them to draw “it.” Some blocks took longer than others, but eventually, we got to thinking that they needed to know the shape-name(size, composition, color). I wrote it like this for them on the board (and continue to write it like this) so that they get used to seeing the name of the function and arguments of any function.

We finished the ladybug portion of the board meeting, and for the most part, the students were really good at telling a story. I don’t think I’ll emphasize the position, motion, and shape as much as Mrs. F in 404 did. Last year, we did it as suggested from the #cmpfb workshop. I found a great deal of success, and Mrs. F thought it didn’t go well for her. This year, I don’t think it’s going well for me. So I might just revert back to the way I learned how to present the information.

Days 7 & 8: System Schema and State Diagrams

Day 7: Flipbooks

Template used for introducing the Physicists

Today, we finally go the chance to introduce the Physicists of 406. I normally like to do this on Day 2 or Day 3, with Day 1 being a 45-minute period. I had no idea that missing that normal Day 1 would throw me off my timing so bad. Regardless, students filled out some information about themselves. I believe I got the idea from Jill Westerlund when she had done the AP Computer Science Principles Summer Institute. I used to do a different one, but students wouldn’t know what to put in because it was too much freedom. But maybe I’ve gone overboard with these ones.

After completing our introductions, we looked at the skate park. Instead of giving them the link, I had them google “energy skate park pHet.” Students clicked on the first result. To my surprise, the skate park has changed. I should have included the word “basic” in their search to be able to get the old one we used. The original skate park had a skater whose pronouns we did not assume. The new version has a variety of skaters that included a dog. Of course we chose the dog as our example because who can resist the hilarity of a dog skating endlessly on a frictionless ramp?

Their jamboards turned out okay. We talked about each box being a “state,” and how each “frame” needed to be different from each other. There was some struggle with the idea that the time difference between each frame needed to be the same. Some of the discussions got stuck with the idea of the distance covered by the skater stayed the same. We were able to debunk that idea by using the “Speed” option and showcasing the speedometer. Students made the argument that they couldn’t have possibly covered the same distance if they were having different speeds. [That was an interesting statement, but I had to gloss over it for the next unit].

Day 8: Practicing System Schema and State Diagrams

Mrs. F and Mr. R (our new colleague) came up with a template that helps students organize their thoughts about what to include in their state diagrams. In the previous classes, we talked about how conditions make up a state, and what those conditions are. It boiled down to conditions are position, shape, and motion. At some point in my planning, I found an old slide from last year where I drew triangles in between states to show the change. Students identified or listed those changes.

I think that this template worked pretty well. It helped students determine what conditions were changing from state to state. I’m hoping that this is a scaffold we can take away soon enough so that students don’t get stuck on the technicalities of scaffolding.

There were a couple of blocks that got stuck on adding extraneous items into the system. At one point, we had listed the skaters clothing items individually. When they found out that they would have to address each of those items in the drawings, we went back to the stick figures. Then we discussed the importance of the mountains in the background. Thankfully, we came to a consensus that the mountains were not relevant to the system and didn’t add to the changes.

Homework is to finish all 6 stations in drawing a system schema and state diagrams. Historically, students have not done this homework for various reasons. I would be delighted if students came to class and actually had this assignment done.

Days 5-6 Observation Stations continues

I really should have lumped Days 4-6 together since it covers Observation Stations, but it looks like I was feeling particularly ambitious about posting each day.

Day 5: Progress Check + Presentations

Since it was our first year last year rolling out the Computational Modeling- Physics First #cmpfb curriculum, it was not as intuitive for us to write the progress checks and summative assessments. This year, with new members on our team, we thought it important to asses each standard. This is also pretty important as we transition towards standards-based grading altogether.

This was the very first ever frosh Physics summative assessment, and everyone’s anxiety level was quite high. Students walked into this saying they were going to fail. We wrote it so that it was basically a review and asking them WHY we did the activities. I gave Mrs. F’s Blocks 1-2 and my own blocks 20 minutes to complete the assessment. I have to remember that when we print out the feedbacks offered from Pyret, it shows us the line of code. So when we print out this picture, it looks a tad weird. I saw in the Discord chat that someone writes some code and asks students to fix it. This might be an opportunity for us to fix the way we ask for the feedback that Pyret offers.

Feedback offered from Pyret. This shows us that the data type Number requires a numbe be in front of the decimal point.

Then after the assessment, we did the presentations from Part 1 of Observation Stations. The jamboards had varying levels of detail. Some groups offered Newton’s 3rd Law (and there was a call and response during the presentation) while others kept it simple. There seems to be more motivation this year to show off the language learned in previous science classes. When I explored their use of physics vocabulary, there were definite misconceptions. I will need to take note about their misconceptions so I can address them in later lessons.

Day 6: Physicists & Observation Stations Part 2

We spent the first part of class introducing each other to the class + 1-2 things shared on their personal profiles. When I first started doing these slides, I think I might have been one of the few teachers asking students to complete an About Me slide using a template I saw from a summer workshop. It really is good practice for teachers to ask students about themselves. However, I see that the benefit of it decreases by a lot when ALL six of the core teachers ask students to do this. If I were in their shoes, I would imagine I would have some canned responses.

About the Physicist slide students complete as a way of getting to know them.

We then finished the rest of the Observation Stations. Since we were pros at it by now, the rotations went quicker and students were able to discuss the initial, middle, and final conditions with more confidence and speed. I appreciate that they were using trying really hard to keep it to conditions, but some started to veer off to explain WHY things were happening. There were students who were excited to use momentum, energy, and force in their explanation. I did not do as great of a job at refocusing them to concentrate on their direct observations. There were a lot of inferences going on. I wonder if I should include that in their assessment.

For this whiteboarding session, the questions got better! They started asking questions about the location of various objects in relation to other objects. They also asked about why certain objects were present in some pictures and not all the pictures. I really liked the questions that asked about how much time it took between condtions and if it was the same amount of time. The homework for this activity gets a bit nebulous since I want them to reflect on what they did without just saying what they did. I wanted them to think about what they did, what they thought about it, and what to think for next class–without writing an essay about it. I think once we get to the part of wrapping up our activities and how it relates to energy, both teacher and students will feel better about what’s next.

Day 4- Observation Stations Part 1

Since we ran out of time last class, we started the class by completing Pyret WS1. This is the worksheet where they type out a series of expressions in the Interactions Side of the editor. We came up with some things that we noticed after completing the exercise.

Each block noticed slightly different things. Because I want them to work in their notebooks, I’m modeling what they should be writing in their notes. I’ve been using the GoodNotes app on the iPad, and then uploading the PDF to Schoology. Students have said that they appreciate this so that they don’t have to find a notes buddy for those who have them in their IEP plans.

We started the Observation Stations. The three stations we went with were: popper, ball drop, and ladybug (wind-up toy). I’m not sure why I went with rubbing hands first instead of ball drop last year, but it didn’t seem to make too much of a difference. Last year, I feel like our conversations with the Whiteboarding went better. This year, the students seem to be more bashful. However, I suspect that because we didn’t complete our introduction to the physicists that we have this bashfulness.

Overall, I don’t know what’s going on, but it seems like things are running slower even though I’ve cut out a bunch of the beginning of the school year stuff. Well, I do know that the Block 3 class had at least 30 minutes less class time because of the scheduling, but I don’t think we should really be this far behind. I wonder if it’s because I know more and trying to get students to the end faster…or if it’s because it was fresher in my mind/muscle memory last year. Either way, I need to pick up the pace as my colleagues are blowing through their lessons! Whew!

Day 3- PEMDAS is “wrong”

Today, students were introduced to why PEMDAS is “wrong.” First, we went through a couple of viral math problems in class. I forgot to include these in my slides, so I picked a couple from Google and forgot to actually work it out before showing students.

We had some fun with these problems and there were some answers I had never seen before. I believe 9 5/8 was oneo f the answers. The students immediately came out of their shells and passionately argued for their answers. It was interesting to see that some students did not budge. After, we watched a YouTube video that explains why PEMDAS is “wrong.”

Between the Amelia Bedelia video and this video, the idea of clear and agreed communication became even more apparent. Students really understood that it was important to get a sense of where the other person is coming from and come up with agreed upon rules to properly communicate their. messages. When we started Pyret, students were really excited to come up with feedback to contribute to our Feedback Fiesta on our Schoology page. I was really excited that students wanted to contribute to a group study page of all the things that could malfunction with Pyret. Hopefully it continues throughout the year.

Day 2- Write It, Do It

For this class, I had the opportunity to use my performing arts skills! Students were given one of three images. Essentially, all three images had a green triangle on top of a blue square with a red circle next to it. All three pictures had some sort of variation so that they were different enough.

At some point, a student from each block pulled me aside to tell me something in private with the message that essentially said: I don’t mean to embarrass you, but I think you gave both of us the same picture….

Here’s where all 2 years of high school musical participation acting skills comes in. I definitely played up the fact that I probably made a mistake and forgot to give everyone different cards. Then some of the kids would say something like yea, we all have green triangles on top of blue squares and a red circle.

So I tell them that this is a learning opportunity for me to model that mistakes happen during learning. It’s fine. Practice makes progress. Let’s just play along and pretend I gave different cards. The students were more than happy to play pretend.

These aren’t exactly the images that we used for the activity, but I drew it out just so that we have an idea of what the type of images we used. They’re all very different pictures, but all three have the same elements.

Then we do the big reveal and BOOM! They all had different pictures…We all giggle a little bit knowing that my Oscar-worthy acting skills were all leading to a discussion. Students offer what they thought about our “practice round.” Some offer suggestions for what we could do better for the second round.

Overall, the second round went much better. Some students offered feedback that they didn’t do better the second time because of too much detail or generally confusing their partner. Block 3 lost some class time due to their class having less time due to schedule adjustments. Block 4-6 pretty much finished and we were able to get through the wrap-up.

Slide design courtesy of