Day 21- It’s Friday!

Today, we whiteboarded some of the homework. I’m really glad we did, because although the students were able to regurgitate some information, there were some heavy misconceptions.

Misconception #1

img_0864Thought: The position is decreasing as the velocity is decreasing. The object is not accelerating because it is slowing down. Although the position is decreasing, it is still going in the positive direction.

We proved how the object, although decreasing in speed, continues to move in a positive direction. A student was able to show that the position was increasing, but I erased the photo of the explanation. He drew arrows to show that for each second, the position has increased from its previous place.

Misconception #2img_0865

Thought: The acceleration is decreasing as the velocity is decreasing.

It was really hard to convince the students that this graph was showing constant acceleration. During this very heated discussion, a student remembered that in the last unit, we had a straight line on our x-t graphs. That shows a constant velocity. Even though the position was changing, the velocity stayed the same. Here, it was way more difficult to convince them of that the rate of change of speed is staying the same, even though the speed is changing. I guess that concept is pretty difficult to digest, but I need to figure out a better way to show it to them.

Whiteboard Sample

MedranoPhysics These two students did a great job with their whiteboard. I asked them to send me the photo of their work since they were taking a picture of it. To their credit, they answered all my crazy questions:




  1. How do you know it’s going in a positive direction?
  2. It seems as though since the velocity graph is showing a positive slope, that the car would slow down going up the ramp. (They thought I was crazy…but I know there’s probably a student or two out there thinking it.)
  3. In a position-time graph, if it’s slowing down, can it be going in a positive direction?
  4. What does a negative acceleration mean?
  5. What does a positive velocity mean?


I thought all the students did a wonderful job today, despite it being a Friday afternoon….VERY warm afternoon.

Day 17- Is it speeding up?

Today, we covered one of the most difficult labs this semester: Is it speeding up? Last year, or maybe every year, we think it’s really difficult. I opened up one of the labs from last year, and it looked really good. So this year, I think it’s going to go much quicker with some of the changes:

  1. Brainstorming. This year, I had students discuss at table partners: What can you do to see if the car is speeding up? What information do you need? We came up with some great answers. The first group immediately went to, well we need the velocity at the top of the ramp and the velocity at the bottom of the ramp. The next two blocks struggled with this part.
  2. Materials to gather data. We thought about what materials we’d need to find out what the initial and final velocities were (and students also insisted we find out the velocities in between). We tested out as a group how reliable it would be to have a human timer. (Note: if there were more days/time in the year, we would have the students figure out this out on their own rather than using a lot of guided questions.) Students decided that using a motion detector might be best.
  3. Gathering Data. Students went into assigned groups and collected data using the motion detector. We discussed some rules about using the motion detectors (such as, the car should be seen by the motion detector).
  4. Data Tables. We had students collect data in their packets so that we would only have one computer out with Logger Pro, and everyone else engaged in the activity without the temptation of the Interwebz. I walked around and helped students determine which part of the Logger Pro data they should use. Some groups figured out what part of the graphs they should use. Hopefully, next year, we’ll be at a better place so that they can take the time to figure it out.
  5. Analyzing Data. I created an equation sheet for them to use to see which line of best fit they should use. And we had conversations about the kind of graph that would best fit the dots on their Desmos graphs.

Conclusion: Ms. F, who teaches a couple doors down, came in to check on the data that we were getting. Her students were getting terrible velocity-time graphs. As soon as I said that, I checked my graphs, and they were equally terrible. For whatever reason, the line of best fit was y = -ax^2 + bx + c. The first block of the day, I had them make their whiteboards, but then realized later that their whiteboards needed information that would come up from the discussions.

Took a picture of what their boxes should look like before and after the lab.
A student with his group’s setup.

The following Logger Pro screenshots are examples of the kinds of data we received. If you know why we were getting y = -ax^2 + bx + c as the line of best fit, I’d love to hear it!

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Day 17- Building continued

Day 1 of Building- Students mainly counted their LEGO pieces. The reason we do this is so that students know how many pieces they have and have discussions of how they can use certain pieces that didn’t initially show up in their Plan phase.

This is one of the videos created by the students to document how far they’ve come after Day 1.

For each day of the build, students are required to come up with a log using Google docs and a video of them working. The video is to show that one person didn’t dominate the group and take over all building responsibilities. So far the logs haven’t been that interesting. One group decided to have chat in it.

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Screenshot of one of the group’s Google document. Each student had to type in a different color. Yes, I know we can see the version history, but this also makes it more interesting to read.

Overall, the builds seem to be going pretty well. Here are some photos of their builds on Day 1:

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Some of the builds look very different from the initial building date. Part of the assignment was to use ALL of the pieces. They were purposely kept from them so that they can problem-solve along the way. I think that this form of problem-solving is kind of superficial, and somehow, if I were a student it might make me feel like I’ve been cheated somehow. However, in the past years, when the pieces were given and they were given the same assignment, the kind of planning that happened this year didn’t happen. In fact, most of the students in the past ended up building using all of the pieces, and then drew their plans after…which totally defeats the purpose of planning your building. Anyway, here are some of the structures after Day 4 of building:

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This is one of my most favorite units to do in class because the students really talk to each other and are having serious problem-solving conversations throughout the whole thing. There seems to be more modern art sculptures that are showing up in their builds. I can safely assume it’s because some of the more oddly shaped pieces weren’t anticipated.

Day 16- Acceleration Intro

Whoa! I’m not a fan of the class days where I have to do a lot of talking and explaining. The students get bored, everyone gets restless staying in their seats. The discussion was totally worth it. First, we asked the students to draw something fast and slow. We got a lot of fast race cars and very slow snails. Then, I asked about what their motion maps would look like, and we added it on.

The truck and snail artwork are courtesy of a Block 5 student. The motion maps are courtesy of Ms. Medrano.

After discussing what it meant to be fast or slow, we talked about what it measured. They all agreed that it measured a speed. So when I asked them what “speeding up quickly” or “speeding up slowly” looked like, we got a variety of answers.

img_0711In this first picture, students wanted to outdo their classmates and drew a graph instead of a motion map or whatever else. So they drew a position-time graph that had a horizontal line that represented fast, and one with a slope that represented speeding up quickly. When we presented, the other students didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with their thinking…because they all thought it was right. One group, however thought that it was wrong, but they just didn’t know why. After more arguing, a student raised his hand and finally said what this picture meant.

There was a group of girls that are really active in participation. They showed us their board, and although when I first walked around, it looked fine, when it came time to present, there were so many errors.

img_0708 Before I took the photo, the student erased what she wrote for Fast because it was wrong, even though I encouraged her to just correct it in a different color. For the line “Fast,” they drew the same sized arrows with different velocities written on top. So it seems that the students substituted time values with velocity. Underneath, speeding up quickly meant that the increase of speed increased with each second. Rather than increasing speed at a constant rate, it increased speed at an increasing rate. That was really hard for me to explain how it was not acceleration (open to feedback!).


A group that was very quiet throughout the whole discussion thought something different. During the “speeding up slowly” discussion, they showed me what they drew. Some of their classmates looked at it, but were upset at their drawing (mostly because we haven’t done something like it yet, and they had a really good answer). Then the rest of the groups started to think that if I’m speeding up, then that means my velocity is changing!…and then we started drawing v-t graphs that showed a constant change.

For Block 5, my block with the most energy, a team of teachers came in to observe another classroom. My students were convinced that they were there to observe the students and maybe “tell on them”? I have no idea. But no matter what I said, they didn’t seem to believe me that the teachers were there to observe me and the classroom, not their individual behaviors. I assigned an algebra-heavy homework assignment and a reading to go with Acceleration from Physics Classroom.


Class 12 Physics- Proportional Reasoning

We had a Physics Learning Team meeting, and we looked over where we are today compared to what we did last year. We are behind. I know that we took an extra day to make sure we really knew how to write the Claims and Evidence for the CER (Claims, Evidence, and Reasoning). However, I’m unclear to where the time went.

Last year, we wanted to include a Proportional Reasoning lesson because we do a lot of Proportional Reasoning thinking throughout the year. This year, was Take Two for this lesson. At the beginning, most of the students seemed to be tuned out because the math was so easy. We made it easy so that we wouldn’t be teaching math, but the proportional thinking. Because I lost so many of them so early, maybe we should make the math part a little bit harder.

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This was the first question we gave after the Proportional Reasoning Intro. Here is the Proportional Reasoning document: Proportional Reasoning document. Then we gave this as the first practice problem. The first block informed me that I needed to go over the meanings of coefficient and variable. Then we went over how to isolate the variable by using the opposite operation. Once we got to the algebra, it was easy enough.


Both Mrs. F and I decided that we should include some sort of table. Such as this one to the right. It was much easier to see what the coefficients are. However, it wasn’t so easy to see the coefficient that match the variable. Also, it was hard to see that delta x is one variable.

There are still quite a few kinks to work out, but I think we’re getting better each year.

This year, I also made it a requirement to reflect on how we did on the quiz PLUS what we can do better next time. Students who got a 100% saw it as something that they didn’t need to do. However, with growth mindset, we can always do better or improve something. Somehow, that message didn’t come across as strong as I hoped it would.

Day 10 MHT- Field trip to Chorus Room

MHT students went across the street to the DePaul campus to see the construction of the chorus room. It was supposed to be ready by the end of the summer, but there were some complications. One of the main complications was that the hole (or something like it) required by HVAC could not be supported structurally. The design team had to then go back and redesign it so that it would fit all the requirements. Another complication was that the door needed to be bigger. I’m also writing this a week and a half later, so my memory of what happened isn’t great.

What I do remember are the students becoming obsessed with building codes. Someone asked about building codes for ADA and for residential. There were a few students who were trying to make prison cells as dorm rooms, and it turns out that there are requirements. (It was a great lesson in treating every person humanely.)

Overall, the students learned some things that were incorporated into their projects. They do presentations tomorrow. (This part I’m really excited about!)

Day 9- Quiz, Iso Name, College Dorm Planning Day 2

We took our very first pencil and paper quiz. Students had to convert mat plans to iso/ortho views of the structure. Most of the students did well. Quite a few misread the front. I think we’ll have to review where the front is on a mat plan. Very few students struggled and asked for cubes so that they can have it in their hands. The point of this was to visualize without the cubes as aid, but I’m still conflicted about taking that away from them.

Their isometric name projects were due today. Most of them did a really good job. Here are a few of them.

I’m really pleased with how creative the students got with their names. I encouraged them to let their personalities show. Some (very few) took the opportunity that I gave in class to get started on their name projects. For the most part, I think they came out really great!

Then I had students work on their college dorm buildings. There was still a lot of brainstorming happening. I tried to get them to see that they needed to start drawing so that they can meet the September 19 deadline. I’d like for them to meet the deadline without being under great stress. Somehow, time management skills need to be incorporated into the teaching…not just an after thought.

Here are some photos of their progress:

We had a discussion on the importance of creating a building beautiful and functional in AND out. One of the groups decided they were going to build their dorm inspired by the UC Santa Cruz banana slug. (Goooo Slugs!) One group used 3D Builder that came with the Microsoft Surface to do the drawing. Another group used Fusion 360 to do their drawing. Next year, I’d like to use Fusion 360 or SketchUp to complete these drawings.

Day 8 Physics-Quiz Preparation

All my Physics related blog posts are probably going to start with I hate how Schoology is down for our freshmen class. It’s really throwing a wrench in my organization and work flow. Over the long weekend, we assigned some homework pages that are meant to be practice for students about graphs and equations. I had quite a few miss the homework because they didn’t have anywhere to check to confirm what their homework is. Over the last ten years, my philosophy on this has changed significantly. It should have been on the student to complete their homework, but if they don’t know what’s for homework, then how can they complete it? Argh.

We ended up whiteboarding the homework. It was the original plan, so it was totally fine. The students did wonderfully! I’m so proud of how they all came up to present their problem and answered my questions wonderfully. There were some common misconceptions that came up like making graphs have even intervals. Another common one was that the cyclists had the same velocity at the moment the lines intersect (on a x-t graph). For the most part, it went well. I think students understood it more. I did get one student who was convinced that the negative slope meant that the cyclist was slowing down. We went back to the buggy lab conclusions and most of their peers were really excited to show how the negative slope meant the opposite direction.

I really enjoyed seeing the students work together on their whiteboards because they wanted to do a good job.

Day 8- College Dorm Project Day 1

Today, I introduced our big building design project. In the past, students were required to design a building, any kind of building, using all the pieces that come in the Lego Architecture Studio box. Students were not allowed to create pools out of leftover pieces. What ended up happening last year is that students built their buildings without having a plan. This year, I decided to give them a purpose.

As an alumni of UC Santa Cruz, I receive some emails and news including the one about the university asking faculty members to open a room up to students due to the sever lack of housing available. Because this class is made up predominantly of seniors, I thought that this might be a good way to introduce buildings. I found an article of a study conducted by Hare Kiliçaslan (I tried to copy and paste the name from the article) of Design of Living Spaces in Dormitories. It’s a short and easy to understand enough article that I felt comfortable giving it to seniors without having to break it down as a class. They used the article to inform them of design choices.

Some of the students were excited by this endeavor and got to work by drawing on the whiteboards. Others were excited by the idea of creating a dormitory space in a part of their favorite city. Some students were more slow to start because it was overwhelming. One question in common was does it need to be affiliated with a school. Meaning, can UC Santa Cruz dorms be located in Kansas? We had to discuss accessibility to the school. Students are required to keep a daily log of their progress and thoughts. I’m super excited to see what the students come up with.

Days 5-7: 3 Days of Buggy Lab Discussion

THREE DAYS!!! Three days of discussing the Buggy Lab. It really didn’t help that Schoology is down. I totally messed up and made like three assignments of the same assignment in Google classroom. So naturally, we have confusion. Learning is hard enough without our tools malfunctioning. With this hurdle, listening and paying attention have become a tad bit more difficult.

For the first part of the discussion, I asked students to make a graph of their work. They all scaled them the same way so that the differences and similarities can be more easily seen. They had to identify their buggy color, street direction, starting position, and the m value given on Desmos.

They eventually arrived at the following conclusions:

  • linear graph = constant
  • Increasing slopes = positive direction
  • Decreasing slopes = negative direction
  • Red buggies were fast and blue buggies were slow.
  • Slope tells us the speed.
  • y-intercept tells us the starting position.

Day 3, I realized that they knew to say those things, but didn’t completely understand why or what it meant. So Day 7 (3rd day of talking about buggies…) I thought it would be a good goal to try to get them to understand meaning by writing CERs.

My colleagues and I have been thinking and thinking about how to teach our ninth graders how to write CERs. Finally, it came to me. Our students may not understand what we’re doing but they sure do understand photographs! I thought to find a couple of photos that may or may not be clear in what the people in the photograph are emoting. (Here is a link to my slides: CER Slides)

Photo Credit: Buccina Studios via Getty Images from Huffington Post: Why Crying When You’re Happy Actually Makes Snese

Photograph 1: A couple seems to be celebrating a joyful event.

The first photo I chose was purposeful. I Google searched for black and white photos of people showing joy. I picked the one that showed joy, but could be interpreted differently based on the evidence chosen. This particular couple looked happy, but the woman also had a handkerchief to her eye (she could be crying?). It really drove the point that I wanted to make clear the difference between observation and inference. We don’t know if the man was clapping, but we can say that his hands are together.

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Photo Credit: Barbara Parker Narita Link to photo 

Photograph 2: A man getting off the bus to meet his family at the Manzanar Internment Camp.

I’m not sure if the caption that went with the photo is totally accurate, but it was very much unclear what was happening. The man could be getting on or off the bus. Who were the people in the photograph? Students were asking each other great questions, and trying to come up with great answers. They were excited. When it was time to share, they were even more excited to talk about who was right and wrong. My Block 4 seemed to be bent out of shape because I didn’t pick a right/wrong team. It was also a great chance to talk about how a group of Americans were sent away to live elsewhere because of fear. There were some definitely discomfort in the classroom because of what we were talking about. However, students were beginning to ask great questions such as what is racism and what is not?

Transition to Buggy Lab

Both my colleage, Mrs. F (Mrs. F’s #teach180 blog) and I were super excited at how excited the students were…then we brought it back to the Buggy Lab. It was such a terrible transition. They were not excited to talk about Claims and Evidences in relation to the buggy. It also occurred to us that we had to rewrite the answer key AND the rubric since we weren’t really focusing on Reasoning at all. However, I do think the students did a really great job of trying to keep up and write their own claims and evidences. We recognize that they’re doing something difficult, and we keep improving how we scaffold it for students.