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

Archive for May 2012

This is me. It’s been a good year.

This has been an incredible year for my students and me.  They continue to give me unsolicited positive feedback over the courses and me as a teacher.  I’m not going to lie, it feels great to know they appreciated me.  The students have seen a direct correlation between their effort and their grade, no more learned helplessness.  Even better, they’ve really learned the material.  I’ve become a better teacher by doing less and letting the students control their outcome.  It’s the kind of story you want to shout from the mountaintops.

So how does a year of SBG wind down?  The AP exam is done, so the students are done, right?  Nope, they are working harder than ever and I’ve become an observer.  Those last few concepts that we started in the fourth quarter were probably the hardest of all.  The kids want those grades to improve.  Every day, they come into class, join up with a classmate or two, meet at the whiteboard and work out problems on whatever concept they want to improve.  This has been going on for over two weeks now and it blows my mind.  The routine has been to stop when there is 15 minutes left in the class.  They erase the boards and I hand out a concept quiz to anyone who wants one.  Everyone is working bell-to-bell and I’m sitting back and watching them help each other master integration.  This is teacher heaven.  As we enter the last week of school, I’ll allow two concept quizzes in a day, not just one.  The quizzes have to be on two different concepts.  Its crunch time and they are feeling it.  I don’t want to pull the rug out from under them now.

First time through using SBG is a hell of a lot of work.  I’d say I got 80% of it right, the other 20% needs tweaking.  Some of my early quizzes were too hard, others were too easy.  I gave some insane quizzes on domain and range.  I’m sticking with WebAssign for Calculus, but I’m giving it up for Physics.  I’ve added a few inquiry labs to my physics routine and I’m hoping to add one or two more next year.  Calculus has been officially approved for the AP label, but honestly, the class isn’t going to be much different.

The biggest difference to me is the connections I have made with these students.  Usually by now I want them gone.  Not these kids.  I don’t think they are really much different from previous years students.  I think the real difference is the way they were mentored through the classes, rather than just lectured to.  I have more students going on to study engineering than in any previous year.  When the pressure of every quiz or test is gone, the classroom becomes more relaxed.  This year we covered more material in every course and had a lot more fun doing it.  Best of all, I have relationships with these kids that are stronger and more lasting.  I’m going to miss them but I’m also going to keep in touch.

I can’t wait to do it all over again in September.

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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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