31 We had a half-day today, with a half-day inservice after lunch. In the group I was in, we talked about how we can implement PLCs effectively, how to generate time in our schedule for common planning and working with kids on remediation or enrichment, and some of the demographic issues we are battling. For example, over 40% of the special needs children currently attending school in our district are currently attending my school’s feeder middle school. This population will be coming to us over the next several years, which will make it a big challenge to reach AYP. Anyway, we were all given this book and told to read it by January 9th. Hence, the sticky note. This book will probably reside unread on my bedside table until winter break. Happily, it is short.



Weight vs. Mass

30 The conceptual students are finding the relationship between weight and mass. This is two classes’ worth of data, so 12 groups, each with 6 objects to measure mass using a triple-beam balance and weight using spring scales. I made this graph, but my students had to graph by hand and did not have to determine uncertainties in the slope or y-intercept. I did that for my own pleasure.

Today was a strange day because we administered PSAT/NMSQT tests to all the 10th and 11th graders, then we had periods 4-8. Tomorrow we have a half-day followed by inservice, and will meet for periods 1-4. During 4th period, I have hall duty. I don’t mind having hall duty twice for each of my other classes meeting once, since this means I don’t have one class getting absurdly ahead of the others. However, due to this wacky schedule, I am not assessing my conceptual classes this week.

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Projectile Practicum

29 The AP students used the launch velocity calculated using energy conservation to predict the landing location, given a specific launch angle and landing height. Each group drew an angle and height out of a bag.

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28 This is the front desk in my classroom, briefly today. ACK! See, we had an “X” schedule today and slightly shorter than usual periods, and the AP class did not get a chance to clean up properly at the end of class. I told them to just pile everything on the front desk, and I would take care of it, since I had a planning period next, so I had a little mess to deal with.

I decided to mix conservation of energy with  projectiles, so the task was to use the height of the ball bearing launched vertically to determine launch velocity, and then tomorrow when I give them an angle and a launch height they will be able to place a target at the correct spot on the floor.

The green “Newton” apple in the upper right was part of the conceptual class’s discussion of forces for the Balanced Forces Model, which I am starting with them before getting into acceleration. This was a suggestion from my online PLC. I have never done force before acceleration before, so this will be an adventure for me!



27 See the guy on the left? That is best selling author and star of two 3-part NOVA series on PBS, Brian Greene! The guy on the right is one of my AP students, who got his book signed by Greene and who dreams of discovering a previously unknown fundamental law of physics. We were at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia for Greene’s talk and a panel discussion as part of the New Frontiers in Astronomy and Cosmology program. Two others of my AP students also came to the event. It was an evening of science awesomeness, especially since we sat behind Nobel Laureate Charles Townes! Amazing!

At our wacky homecoming day events, I tried to sell red and gold LEDs to wear at the game. It was pretty sunny out, though, so it was hard to tell that they actually glowed. Sigh.

And here is our 8th period class in class colors!



26 Whenever my AP students take a test, I make a histogram of their multiple-choice scores to show them. Today’s test on applying Newton’s Laws had 24 multiple-choice questions, including the three questions from the previous test that the fewest students got correct. I’m pretty happy that my students did a lot better on this test than on the first test…at least on the multiple choice part. I am still working on scoring the two free-response questions I gave them. I use the “AP score adjustment” whereby getting somewhat around 35% of the possible points results in the passing score of “3”, so I make that my “70.” This way, most kids pass the tests. This is AP Physics C, both Mechanics and E&M, taught as a second-year course with 8 class periods/week (2 singles, 3 doubles).

And today’s spirit week theme was “Throwback Thursday.” I’m the one in 18th-century garb. That one boy really likes wearing bedsheets…


25 One thing I have noticed is that the Modeling Instruction materials for physics do not have a lot of practice materials in them. Practice is what helps you get better at things (it builds myelin layers around the circuits in your brain), so over the years I have made various practice materials for my students.  Today we were getting ready for tomorrow’s assessment of x vs. t and v vs. t graphs with my conceptual classes. So last night I made some practice problems. I drew them by hand on graph paper with a sharpie pen and a ruler, which was much more relaxing for me than trying to create them all on the computer. Doing it on the computer is easy enough with OmniGraphSketcher and Excel, but drawing these out by hand is very soothing for my brain. Soldering is like that too. I am perfectly happy to sit and solder for hours at a time.

Anyway, we did not get to go over the answers in class, so I made a colorful answer sheet, scanned it, and put it on Moodle. I hope the different colors help the students get which parts are which. The photo above shows two of the six “problems” I gave the kids.

Also, it was “Disney/Pixar” day at school for spirit week:

(Army guy, Buzz Lightyear, shiny Superman (?), Dalmation, Elastigirl, kid from Up, ?, Cheshire cat, “Kitty” and in front is Hercules)


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 24 Today we were testing more toothpick devices for protecting eggs, for Physics Olympics. The student who made this one wanted frame-by-frame analysis so he could see how his device hit the wall. So we turned to Logger Pro, of course!

Also, today’s theme was “Crazy Sports Fan Day” and as you can tell we are near Philadelphia. The signs I am wearing proclaim that “I love ALL the sports” and “Sports ‘R’ Great”, plus my face has small “I ❤ sports” messages where people put decorative eye-black.


23 This week is spirit week. Homecoming is this Friday, with the dance on Saturday night. The monday of spirit week is ALWAYS pajama day. It is a tradition!

(Yes, we had school on Columbus Day. I don’t celebrate Columbus, so I am fine with it.)



22 My first period class made my day on Friday. While a few students worked silently by themselves, the rest divided into two groups to look at a set of graphs and answer questions. The graphs were originally given as x vs. t graphs and earlier this week the kids drew the corresponding v vs. t graphs. We were looking at the graphs again and these were the questions:

  • What is the total distance?
  • What is the total displacement?
  • What is the average speed?
  • What is the average velocity?

The two groups were awesome. They had good discussions. They asked each other questions. They explained things to each other. The video clip above isn’t the best discussion I heard, it’s just the one I got to with the video camera and which then had the best sound quality. Another group had even better discussion, with better participation among the group. Unfortunately, I could not make out what they were saying once I looked at the video.

I’m sorry this post is two days late. I think that may wind up being par for the course if I wind up with more videos. Deal with it! 😉


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