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

Posts Tagged ‘Final Exam

As I sit here grading my final exams, I realize I am putting in way more effort than my students.  I am making a promise to myself and I intend to keep it.

My final exam next year will…

  • begin with a multiple choice section on basic concepts & terminology
  • have lots of basic problems with multiple choice answers
  • have a very small written portion – I’m keeping the Road Runner cartoon, it’s my favorite part
  • be graded in under two hours

One of the questions this year asked the students to discuss three principles used in their Rube Goldberg project and explain the application of the principle.  I was looking for concepts like inertia, momentum, kinetic energy, and force.  I just graded a paper where the principles listed were ball, dog, and ball.

If it’s multiple choice, I won’t have to learn that after a full year of physics, one of my students thinks “dog” is a physics concept.  I just wish it was a joke and not the truth.


Yes, I showed a five minute episode of a Roadrunner cartoon as part of my Physics final exam. The students were instructed to watch it through the first time and maybe jot some quick notes. They were shown the video a second time in order to have enough time to get their thoughts together.

Their task was to identify five principles of physics that are done either correctly or incorrectly in the cartoon. The students needed to identify the principle, explain or define it, then use an example from the cartoon and explain whether or not the cartoon got it right. If they got it wrong, they needed to explain what should have happened.

I actually had three videos, the first was the Apollo 15 video of an astronaut dropping a Falcon feather and a hammer on the surface of the moon. The astronaut says, “Mr. Galileo was correct” as the objects hit the surface of the moon at the same time. I wanted the students to tell me what Galileo was correct about. I got a lot of right answers, but I also got a lot of wrong ones.

The second video was a very old scene from Buck Rogers. I’m talking about the newsreel version, very old and dated. That particular segment didn’t go over as well, the kids didn’t see enough of what was wrong in the show. Let’s just say that I won’t be using that video segment next year.

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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