Day 2- Computational Modeling Physics First (CMPF)

We started today off with reviewing our discussion from yesterday. First, we made WB of how a flipbook would look like if we drew the motion. I guess it’s more like a comic strip than a flipbook, but you get the point. Our group got to examine what mass on a spring looked like. We were given instructions to have initial and final states, then it was up to us what we were supposed to draw in between. Our group decided to annotate our drawings with arrows and captions in case nobody knew what was going on.

During the WB discussion, it was brought up that there was an arrow drawn in Box H. Our group signified that the arrows determined the direction of the object’s motion since you wouldn’t be able to tell from one frame. However, the arrow in Box H was a bit confusing since we also stated that the final state is when the block returned to the highest point. I liked the discussion that followed and we were able to change our model.

In the next round, we wrote down what objects were drawn. It was a little strange at first since we already drew and labeled our drawings, but the reason for it made sense after we had our discussion. Drawing the objects and saying WHY we drew those objects took us into defining SYSTEM. After the class got into multiple debates and post-it wars, we ended up with the definition: collection of parts/objects that we suspect to cause/help a “change in moment of time”. Yes, we used the words state and motion for a while, but we kept editing the definition as a class. I have to remember to do this with the 9th graders when I actually teach this.

THEN- we went on to discuss and define state vs. condition. I’m not 100% sure where we left off with this because I feel like we were stuck on non-important parts. I think at this point, I got lost in my own head and started thinking about snacks and what I wanted for lunch. It’s a good thing that we finally had our 10 minute break and the discussion didn’t go on much longer. I still have some questions about state vs. condition, but I don’t even know what those questions are yet.


We switched gears at this point and Melissa had us draw on paper. First she said that we should draw a circle. Then we started asking questions to get more clarity on this circle that she wanted us to draw. I can totally see how this is going to go down in the classroom. Eventually, when my brain got out of student mode, I figured out why we were doing this.

After determining what was important to know in order to draw the shape that was in Melissa’s head, we went into what the computer needs to know. We use Pyret as our programming language, which has a lot of similarities to Python with the perk that it’s pretty easy to use. I think I need to figure out a way to introduce these terms to the 9th graders: library, run, function, define, call, hashtag/comment, argument. We ran into these words, but didn’t really stop to talk about them. I suspect that since most of us are teachers and have had programming experience, we can gloss over them. I can see some students getting stuck and feeling intimidated with the words. Mostly, these are words that are used in the English language but in different ways. For example, argument in programming is not going to be the same argument students encounter on the playground. I’m sure I can utilize some of the #MERIT18 skills I learned to get those vocabulary words in.

The rest of the time, we spent playing around with the different functions. We were given a list of functions and we got to discuss some “I wonder what would happen if…” with each other. For this part, we were encouraged to do some pair-programming with one person doing the typing into Pyret and the other person working as the brain. This is a strategy I used in AP CSP, and I will definitely be using this in CMPF. I enjoyed my group and liked that no one was trying to take over (unless it was me…I might have been the one trying to take over). Our homework assignment was to draw flags using the functions that we played with in class. I’ve included a screenshot of my program after I ran it. I would include my code, but I really want students to figure out that part when we get there.

Obviously I had some issues drawing the sun for the Philippine flag.

On to the next…

Well…I barely survived teaching during COVID-19. I almost wished I had written more throughout the school year, but it would be just so depressing. Each post would be something like this is what we planned, it didn’t go that way, complaints about something, and something about trying again tomorrow. What I do know is that we have to commend the first year teachers and preservice teachers trying to navigate through teaching PLUS unprecedented times (if I have to hear that one more time…).

CMPF- Day 1: June 28, 2021

But now- on to more exciting things! Today was Day 1 of Computational Modeling Physics First. My first Modeling Instruction workshop was in Denver in 2017. I met a great group of people, and when I reflect on my experience there, it fires me up to go back and teach.

So today’s workshop is a bit different from the one in 2017. We’re adding computational AND programming thinking on top of the already intimidating Physics content. However, I’m feeling pretty good about it. Our homework was to watch this video:

There are about a million “Bet you can’t solve this simple math problem” challenges going around social media. Initially, I was horrified at at the different answers people were coming up with. But after watching the video, PEMDAS has been taught to us incorrectly or poorly resulting in the variety of answers.

Throughout the day, being in student mode, I most definitely so engrossed in the activity that I forgot to write down some pointers of how to approach the class discussions. The other article we read for homework made me think how important it is for teachers to be able to lead discussions that don’t necessarily have a resolution or a “right answer” at the end. Reflecting on my teaching, I too have been guilty of getting students to participate in a discussion, but what I’m actually doing is asking them read my mind.

Basically, the biggest takeaway is that I can’t wait to go back into the classroom with real live students who are at varying levels of excitement for physics…so that we can go on this journey of Computational Modeling Physics First together.

Day 7: System Schema

I really should have been documenting what happened since Day 1, but it’s been such an overwhelming ride. I think today was the first day I actually felt great about what I’m doing. The first couple weeks included more than a few breakdowns.

As we all know, Mrs. F is a brilliant educator and one of the most hard-working people I know. She’s definitely carrying our Physics team! I’m sharing one of the exercises she shared with the group.

System and State Diagrams from Block 4

We whiteboarded some System and State Diagrams with given situations. This was done on Google Slides, and students were able to work on their slides as a group. This particular class got the System Schema before we whiteboarded. In reality, I should have whiteboarded before covering System Schema. I thought they did such a good job with using the tools for Google Slides that I’d share it with you all. They spent a lot of time of trying to draw the bicycle and the person using lines, then one of their group members discovered that you can take images and included it into your slide.

I enjoyed seeing everyone’s work all at once in Grid View on Google Slides.

I was able to hop into a Breakout Room when I saw students not making progress or getting stuck. It was also nice to get the chance to use a new tool to show our Physics learning. I think the students got a pretty good handle on the content, and I’m really happy with the way today’s lesson came out.

Schoology Header

As I was doing my daily stroll through Twitter for some edu-inspo, I came across this tweet:

Schoology’s current set-up allows us to create folders and subfolders that kind of looks like Google Drive. For me, it’s hard to go through files and files of paperwork to search for something I need. I imagine that it’s a similar experience for students. I really like how this format makes it more visual for our students, and it’s so very obvious which item leads you to the syllabus.

My versions have already gone through two iterations, but I think I’ll post them so that I have them to use as reference for later. Honestly, I was really bummed about starting the school year behind a camera, but I’m slowly getting more excited for it. Here are my own versions of Schoology Headers:

This is meant for AP Computer Science Principles (10th-12th grades)

This one is for Physics (9th graders)

AP Computer Science Principles Summer Institute 2020

June 29-Jul 2, 2020 @Molloy College with Jill Westerlund

pre-COVID: I took a one-day AP workshop in January with Jill to help me teach AP Computer Science Principles more effectively. It’s my first year teaching, and I mostly went along with the flow of relying on CodeHS as the vehicle to deliver the instruction.

I was wrong to do this. While CodeHS is an excellent tool to help teach the content, I should have crafted something much more meaningful. I’m pretty sure my one section of students were aware to the fact that it wasn’t really such a great experience on their end (and on mine). I did the homework assigned along with the students, and it really was a lot. The short video clips, while informative, did not help further the understanding into a deeper, more intuitive level.

[June 29-Jul 2, 2020]

During #MERIT18, we all experienced the drinking from the firehose moment of just having so much given to us. These four days were definitely THAT. On top of that, I signed up thinking 8:30am-4:30pm wasn’t such a bad schedule to do Monday-Friday. I thought, that it could probably be helpful in getting ready for the school year. Folks, here’s where I tell students the importance of reading AND comprehending: 8:30am-4:30pm EST. I’m over here living my life in Pacific Time, and it didn’t occur to me that I would be doing this 5:30am-1:30pm.

Day 1: June 29Course & Exam Description

Jill gave us a wealth of information on the first day. We talked about the new binder we all got in the mail + conceptual framework + Computational Thinking Practices (CTP) + Big Ideas + new requirements. So yes, there was a lot of information. I’m looking over my notes, and it looks like there are a ton of holes I need to fill in. My favorite part of this day was getting a list of the vocabulary Jill uses that were pulled out from the CED and how to think about the Create PT directions. As a group, we created a list of some requirements and tips on approaching the Create PT.

Day 2: June 30- Teaching- Create PT

We went through the new format for Create PT by completing a mock Create PT. We coded together using Snap! and then went into breakout rooms to fill out the graphic organizer provided as a group. This is where I had come to Jesus moment about being more involved in teaching programming (and not relying on CodeHS to do it for me). There would be a heavier emphasis on procedural abstraction and technical writing. When I learned to code, it was mostly like playing an instrument by ear. I could figure stuff out for the most part, but I didn’t have the language to go with it. Now, here I am teaching music theory (so to speak) without the vocabulary. I will be working on this so that I can help the students with their technical writing more effectively.

Day 3: July 1- Planning & Teaching

We unpacked the Conceptual Framework together and took a hard look at what was necessary in the course (and which lessons could be thrown out). Because we’re teaching in a blended schedule, I only see the CSP students once a week. Eek! This means our in-person (if we ever go back to being F2F) will need to be valued even more. This also means I may have to create my own videos for the students in explaining what’s happening in their programs.

Jill showed us how to lesson plan using Google calendar. While it might initially be not so exciting thing to say, SEEING the units on the calendar made it very clear how to approach the course. She’s sold me forever in using the calendar to do my lesson planning rather than trying to come up with some other cute template that I’ll only use for part of the year. However, I look at my calendar EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

Day 4: July 2- Assessing Student Progress

Jill presented assessment syntax that I whole-heartedly appreciated. The rest of the group gave ideas jumped in and we started building ideas of how we can assess students. I think at some point here, I definitely spaced out. I wrote down a lot of stuff and I see all the notes, but I do not have a recollection of what happened.


  • interactive journals- when I taught middle school, I used to have my students keep a math and science interactive notebook. Students would come back and tell me how it’s basically their survival guide to high school science and algebra. I will need to figure out a way to use this for computer science
  • unplugged activities- Teaching at a 1:1 school, I have zero worries about our digitally native students learning how to use their tools. However, I have found it challenging to teach them without their devices. I will need to include more teaching time away from their devices and interacting with each other.

Teachers Pay Teachers

Today, I opened up my “store” on Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) at the suggestion of my department chair after sharing something I made with him. The suggestion made to monetize my work is a great idea. My boyfriend thought it was a brilliant idea after I explained TpT. He was surprised that I wasn’t selling the stuff I’ve made already. However, I have mixed feelings about it.

  1. I’ve purchased lesson plans and unit bundles on TpT as a starting point when I absolutely had no clue where to start. It helped me and I’m glad I could help someone. BUT…
  2. When I couldn’t afford TpT materials, it forced me to make my own or be creative. It got to a point in my teaching career that I could stop purchasing ideas from TpT and start making my own.

Anyway, I thought I’d try it out and see how it goes. I don’t have much of a following as it is, but we’ll see! Check it out!

TpT- Learning with Miss Medrano

Teacher Appreciation 2020

It’s Day 51 of shelter-in-place here in the Bay Area. Traffic has reduced travel time from my home to work by about 30 minutes. We line up to go to get inside the grocery store. The bottom half of everyone’s faces are covered. People are losing their jobs….and…

Teachers are teaching…or not.

I’ve definitely heard people tell me that teachers should not be paid while we are sheltering-in-place because they’re not actually teaching. Teacher friends have reported that they’re receiving complaints from providing too much, too little, and everything in between. Parents who are also teachers are managing their class of 30 or 150 students while getting their own children to get out of bed and do their homework. Regardless of what the perceived situation is, the truth is, teachers are tired.

These teachers are getting up every morning to talk to a computer because students are too shy to come on to camera or they’re on devices that don’t have a camera. They continue to come to class despite the fact that they have been Zoombombed or TikTok pranked every class meeting. Then they go back to their lesson plans to find something fun and exciting for students to do without any immediate feedback. After all of that, they stay up all night to grade assignments and find a new way to offer meaningful feedback.

This is the time of the year we start to miss our kids already, because we’re going to have to say good-bye to them and remind them that they have the tools to succeed in their next adventure. This is the time of the year we hug our graduates just a bit longer in case this is the last time we see each other. We prepare the freshmen for their last physics exam, and try to get out of chaperoning prom. Although no one signed up for this, the teachers all get up every morning to do their job…whether or not you think we should get paid.

I see my colleagues bravely taking on technology even though it scares them. The technologically-confident are patient with us and sharing tech tools with us. I don’t see teachers finger pointing and blaming those who are tech apprehensive.

I am proud of my fellow teachers for fighting through the fatigue everyday. I am inspired by the amount of sharing, collaborating, and cheering each other on through texts, phone calls, and video conferencing. Thank you to all my fellow teachers for keeping it positive despite your own struggles.

Distance Learning Week 4 & 5

We had practice Distance Learning days scheduled for March 11-12, but then the rest of the Bay Area went into Shelter-in-Place around March 16th. The week before Easter Break, the wonderful Mrs. F and I discovered SlidesMania templates. We both thought of using it somehow, but then forgot to tell each other. I thought I’d try it out with my Physics freshmen students. It was the best way to go since our LMS kept crashing due to a sudden surge of users trying to access material all at the same time.

We did Ohm’s Law Lab the week before, which we mostly kept the same. Thank goodness for NSTA in the previous years because we already had it mostly set up so that the students are able to work on the lab pretty independently. This week was just pretty much their practice with using the Ohm’s Law equation and proportional reasoning.

Screen Shot 2020-04-19 at 4.30.02 PM

A lot of the students really enjoyed doing these slides. Here’s a screenshot of one of the student’s feedback. It’s only now that I realized I didn’t edit all the slides’ templates. I am so grateful for for creating this template. I took a look at their site, and it looks like they’ve added more templates since I created this April 6-9 slide deck.

If you’re interested, here’s what I created for April 20-24. This begins the exploration of Series & Parallel Circuits. Normally, this part is a lab that students complete in groups. Last year, I had the students complete everything on slides and then create a video instead of writing out their Claims, Evidence, and Reasoning. (One of the feedback from the upper class science teachers is that the students are all CER’d out.)

Mrs. F created a bunch of little videos to accompany the assignments, so I thought I should the same…then I petered out toward the end and ended up using her Wrap-Up videos. Hope you find this useful and enjoy!

4th Quarter- First Day of School

It is the fourth quarter it should be our last sprint towards the finish line. But it isn’t. I’m finding myself making new material in this last quarter. There were assumptions I made about student knowledge, which in retrospect, I really shouldn’t have made any assumptions. This is great practice for me moving forward. Now, I know to go over communication methods and how to use them.

With distance teaching, I decided to create some infographics for students (and others) to use in determining which communication method to use.

Communication Infographic

I was able to create this with input from my colleagues, students, and my awesome family of course. The conversation I had with students greatly reduced the amount of text-like conversations via email. Students also felt more comfortable signing up for video conference.

During our first week of video conferencing, I found new things to state out loud. For example, make sure to sign in with the name that matches my attendance sheet. Students made poor decisions and used extremely charged words as part of their handles. I also had to ask students to wear at least a shirt when chatting with the class. Our school has a dress code, and I considered asking them to be in dress code for the top half. Instead, I used the opportunity to talk about semi-professional dress (especially since I’m doing my classes in an old college hoodie).

Video Meeting Etiquette

I’m sure new things will arise and I’ll make something for it. It looks like making these flyers and baking are my new coping mechanisms as we all #stayhome during the pandemic.

Python Programming Unit (2019)

Day 1- What is Hacking?

Bryson Payne (Twitter: @brysonpayne) wrote the book we use for class.

In our Making, Hacking, Tinkering class, we have to Hack. I spent my Christmas vacation trying to figure out how to teach programming/come up with activities that suit the gamete of no programming skills all the way to lots of programming skills.

To start, I thought it would be kind of a good entry to explore different kinds of hacking. I was inspired mainly by all the videos floating around in my Facebook and Pinterest accounts. Titles like “15 Phone Hacks” or “Meal Prep Hacks” intrigued me as when did the word hack equate how to be more efficient. So the first lesson, admittedly, was a poorly executed assignment about hacking in the traditional sense vs. what it is now. I’m so embarrassed by this first attempt that I’m not going to even post a link to what it is.

Day 2- Intro to Python

Last year, we used Khan Academy’s Intro to JS: Drawing & Animation computer programming course. Mrs. C and I chose to do so because there were students who were enrolled in Making, Hacking, & Tinkering as well as Computer Science. We were initially going to teach Python using Bryson Payne’s book, “Teach Your Kids to Code” as a start. We had to switch gears when we found out they were going to be learning Python in their other class. But this year, we  discovered that they were going to be using JavaScript as the main language to learn through the CodeHS curriculum. So this year, I spent a while learning Python and figuring out the best way to teach it. To save my sanity, I just broke up the chapters into different lessons for the students.

From my CS session with Sheena Vaidyinathan (Twitter: @sheena1010), I realized the importance of having the students understand where certain terms came from. She stressed how important it was to know Seymour Papert. I mean, we teach the students who Gregor Mendel is in biology, why aren’t we talking about Seymour Papert? Unfortunately, his revolutionary fashion choices of the time period further encouraged certain stereotypes students have about “computer people” (even though we live in the Bay Area!).

Their first program is the traditional, “Hello, world!” Then they went into making MadLibs. Because they are high school students, they could have probably created a story for the MadLib assignment instead of just writing a sentence.


Days 3 to 20- What is Hacking?

In each of the lessons, I referred to Payne’s book for the order of which the lessons will go. For their programs, the students were making a whole bunch of spirals. As the quarter continued, we had a few questions come up:

  • How can we make turtle move faster?
  • Is there anything else besides lines and circles that we can draw?
  • How can I color the inside of my shape?
  • What colors can I use?
  • Where is my turtle, and how can I make it go to a certain location?
  • What is the coordinate system that turtle uses?

These were all really great questions! One student even took it upon himself to figure out how to code a heart so that he can put it on his Snapchat. This inspired me to create a Valentine’s Day assignment for the students. Doing so showed me that the students didn’t really connect what they were doing with the why. For example, to make a square turning spiral, students had to make their turtle turn 90 + 1 degrees. Keeping it at 90 degrees would create a square spiral. When it came time to make a triangle or pentagonal spiral, it was difficult for students to see that they had to change the amount of degrees the turtle had to turn to respond to the shape. I know how I’m going to improve the assignments for next year. For example, we will move through the spiral series just a touch quicker, and add more information to drawing circles sooner. I would also make the information for the programs

Days ???- Final Project

For their final project, I had students create a program of….who knows! The skills they have are:

  • drawing spirals
  • making lists (and calling it elsewhere)
  • pop-up text and num windows
  • some math functions


In the end, my initial goal of all learners loving coding was not met. I need to redo this unit.