Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

Archive for January 25th, 2010

This is not a rhetorical question.  I am clearly making myself crazy.  When I started teaching robots using the  CMU curriculum, the students handed in 800 papers to grade in a little over a week.  Two nights grading until 1:00am … yeah, I put a stop to that right away.  But I keep doing this to myself and I need advice.  How do I keep the kids working, doing their own work (not copying from friends), and yet not bog myself down with endless grading, paperwork and prep work?

I’m looking for those little nuggets of gold, advice that came from your own hard work or maybe a supervising teacher or friend.  I don’t care where it came from, I want to know what you are doing to make your teaching life easier.  Here is what I’m currently doing; some of it is good, some, not so good.

  • In my Physics classes, I give assignments and simply check that it was attempted.  90% of the students attempt all of the problems.  I give the answers with the assignments so they know if they got it right.
  • In Conceptual Physics, those students copy from each other.  I tend to collect their work (when they actually do it).
  • This year I no longer take late work.  That has greatly reduced my workload since I’m not going in circles constantly grading the same assignments over and over again.
  • I do keep an Excel grade spreadsheet in addition to the school grade book.  Yeah, double work, but Excel is so much faster and more flexible.  I can assign each student a code and then post grades with their code and not their name.  I carry my data on a USB drive and can highlight, add comments, change color and do all the sorting and reporting I need.  I also keep past quarters and years, something I can’t do easily with the online system.
  • My midterm exam this week will be physics problems with multiple choice answers using Scantron.  I don’t have a choice, I have about 24 hours to grade 100 exams.  This feels wrong to me, I like partial credit and seeing their thinking process.
  • I use ExamView software that comes with our textbooks.  This software lets me use provided questions and create my own to generate tests.  I always do two tests and then alternate rows.  The kids know the person next to them has a scrambled version of the same test and copying is a waste of time.
  • The carbonless lab notebooks have been a big help, so we now do more lab work.  That certainly didn’t lessen my grading load.

What great wisdom can my readers impart?  I’m tired.

What’s New in 2013/2014?

Every year brings a change, this one is no exception.

I will be picking up the sophomore honors Algebra II class to keep them separate from the juniors. This should help accelerate them and put them on a stronger track towards Calculus. Looks like there will be only one section each of Physics and Calculus, but still two of Robotics & Engineering.

Hot topics this year are going to be the Common-Core Standards, Standards-Based Grading (SBG), improving AP Calculus scores, and somehow adding Python, maybe as a club.

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January 2010
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