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

Day 1, Year 15.

Started the year off a bit differently. We had a schedule change that involved not meeting all 6 classes in one day. So instead of a 45-minute class session (that had been the case for the past 6 years), we had to pivot and do a 75-minute plan. I had Mrs. F sub my Block 3 class because I was sick! Grateful for those colleagues who will get your back!

Day 1 Agenda- Thank you for my slide theme for the year. My goal is to create my own template…one of these years it’ll happen.

One of the students from Block 5 pointed out that I never said my name…and they came up to me privately requesting that I say my name so that they know how to pronounce it. How thoughtful are my new students! Then I showed the Physics is Life video that Mrs. F and Mr. M introduced to my first year of teaching Physics. It just doesn’t feel like the first day of school unless we show it.

Mrs. F found an activity of 31-der-ful. I ended up doing it a little differently and had students use the whole deck instead of giving them 25 cards. They create a 5×5 grid that has all the rows and columns adding up to 31. One group in Block 6 completed the activity in record time. They said they just set out the cards and it just so happened that the first try met the requirements. One student, allegedly, went to the bathroom to look up the answer (but I’m pretty sure that was their group throwing them under the bus as a terrible prank).

Four Tasks worked out better than last year’s gamified syllabus

The students then completed 4 tasks that included a group activity of 4 challenges, practicing screenshots, signing up for Remind, and going over Tips for Success. Students completed the 4 challenges of moving cups using a string and a rubberband. Mrs. F found this activity on a blog, and will need to link it here when I find it. It was great fun and there were students who were following it as written (and also students who didn’t). I learned so much about who already knew each other because of practices or classes over the summer. Overall, I thought that this was an awesome activity.

Students starting the four challenges. Cups start stacked.
Cups getting into the pyramid as Challenge #2.

I’m totally looking forward to getting to know my students and working with them for the rest of the year! Woot! Positive start to a new year!

Day 6: Station Observations Part 2 #cmpfb

For Part 2 stations, I picked the more exciting three stations: Airzooka, Mass on a Spring, and Ball Drop. I gave the groups 3 minutes and 6 seconds at each station. After the rotation, we gathered back together to complete our whiteboards (which I did on Jamboards again). I told them about how Mrs. F and I have an informal competition going on and we’re constantly striving to show each other how excellent our students’ works are. So I encouraged them to show some pictures of the initial condition, final condition, and the changes in between.

The whiteboards were significantly better this time around. Students took the time to include photos of what they considered to be initial conditions and final conditions. This helped the dialogue for our whiteboarding sessions as well. After they finished their whiteboards, I prefaced our whiteboarding sessions with asking them if they have ever experienced telling a story that they were excited about to somebody who didn’t match their excitement for their story. I asked students what kind of reaction they’d like from the person listening. They mentioned things like ask questions that would make us elaborate what we mean, not asking questions that would have them repeat what they said, and things like body language to show listening.

With that, I explained that the whole purpose of today’s exercise was to improve our whiteboarding sessions from Part 1. Last class, we practiced presenting and being good audience members. This class, we will work on having an actual science dialogue. This will be audience participation required. I set some expectations like the class has to ask 3-5 questions out of the presenting group before we can move on to the next group. Across all three classes, the majority preferred the dialogue whiteboarding experience.

Some students asked clarifying questions like

  • How far were you to get the airzooka to move the ping pong ball until you couldn’t move it anymore?
  • Which ball did you put on top to get a more exciting result?
  • Would the ball’s “boinkness” differ depending on the order you put the balls? Would it change if you used more than two balls?
  • Would the spring lose “springiness” if we pulled too much?

Some students found stock images from Google image search and used it in their slide. I learned to ask about words that they included from those images. When they told me they couldn’t explain it, we all learned a lesson in using words we’re not prepared to address. I think one group included “equilibrium position” in their mass on a spring slide and when I asked about it, they couldn’t really explain it. So we talked about using images and the words it includes, and perhaps not using them if we’re not ready for it. For some students, it clicked why I wouldn’t let them use the word energy. For others, they were still wondering why their physics teacher didn’t know the meaning of friction or any energy types.

One class wanted to know what would happen if we stacked all the balls used in ball drop to see if their “boinkiness” theory from the class discussion would hold. It was fun to see the class coming together to make it happen. They directed each other and I pretty much stayed out of their experiments. They only asked me if it was safe to try.

I think the key part was to explain BEFORE whiteboard presentations what our purpose was. In the post-whiteboarding discussion, we talked about how much richer our discussions were. A couple students noticed that I didn’t say much and that they learned from each other. Five years of whiteboarding sessions, and I feel like I finally ran a session successfully. I feel pretty confident that our classes will use the whiteboarding sessions to be a richer and more meaningful to the learning experience.

Day 5: Observation Stations Part 1 #cmpfb

Started the class with having students reflect on their Pyret homework assignment. They came up with some great reflections about what they noticed about Pyret. There are still a lot of students calling the feedback messages errors, so that just means I’ll have to be way more intentional about calling them FEEDBACK instead of errors. I guess it was just much faster to convert our language over the summer since we’re a whole bunch of modeling teachers. The class that called them constructive criticism reverted back to errors. Looks like this will be a whole year of feedback reminders.

We discussed the meaning of observations. It was interesting that students were immediately saying that it means to analyze something. The idea of analyzing vs. observing were always quite different to me when I was a science student. Upon further discussion, it seems that their definition of analysis is to take in the information through their senses and make sense of it. For example, they see an object. Based on past experiences, they’ve determined that object is a blue marker that maybe smells like cheese. They had to analyze the information coming into their brains to make sense of it. I really like that idea and should have kept that idea of input and analysis going, but that wasn’t today’s goal.

Today, we observed the Rubbing Hands, Popper, and Wind-up Toy stations. We talked about the initial conditions and the final conditions and of course the changes. I think I did pretty well with Blocks 1 & 2 in setting up the rules and the procedures of how to successfully do a whiteboard session. During Block 3, I think they were trying to get to the end, but sadly, there was no real “end.” Block 3 is very results-driven and across the board, all three classes were concerned that I’ve never heard the words kinetic energy or friction. Here are some sample whiteboards from the three classes.