Whiteboard Presentations

It has been a while since I have had group presentations to the whole class since I usually focused more on a “speed dating” format to increase the amount of engagement.  Today in all of my classes I assigned a homework problem to each table to write on their whiteboards and present to the class.  We have been working on practice CST problems for the past two weeks as homework and I wanted to make sure that everyone took time to do the problems and share them with each other. 


Normally I have had a hard time getting students to focus and pay attention during student presentations.  Today I was able to get all of my classes to turn towards the presenters, remain quiet, and refrain from drawing, looking away, or otherwise not paying attention. It took a lot of insisting and constant reminders, but they all got to the point were students we respectful. I got a lot of practice with using proximity and non verbal signals to redirect behavior and keep a positive atmosphere during the presentation.


I feel like I’ve been using more engaging strategies as a bit of a crutch and while I don’t want to lose those tools, I think next year I want to spend more time developing proper behavior during presentations in all formats so that when a group presents, everyone knows to turn their chairs (not just their necks/bodies) and look at them.  I think positioning and posture needs to be instructed slowly and deliberately next semester to help make sure students follow routines correctly.  With all of the craziness that is coming as the year ends, I was happy to have some success with behavior improving, even if it was just temporary and took several sets of instructions to occur.


Practice Based Curriculum

With CST’s coming soon we have been reviewing content and I’ve been thinking a lot about what we have learned and how we have learned it.  I feel like the way I designed my curriculum focused too much on the “what” and not enough on the “why.”  While many of my students are doing well and have certainly learned a lot, I don’t feel like I’m creating many new scientists.  I feel like we went through the material the way the state standards organize it, which is very similar to a book’s table of contents.  I worry my students may be good at physics, without being that great at science.  Today I felt inspired, and starting coming up with a curriculum plan to focus on basic science skills, with physics being the case study.  I’m thinking about designing a why curriculum, that could apply to any science, and picking physics as my area of interest.  Below is what I came up with over the last 45 minutes or so, with standards referring to California State Standards for Physics.  I think a lot of this is similar to the intent in the ASU Modeling Curriculum that I failed to highlight while I went through it.  The pace is also slowed down and much more emphasis is put on the individual practices.  I would love any and all feedback.

Unit 1: Measuring

Standards: 1a

We see and experience many different things on a given day.  As scientists we try to understand out life better by measuring everything that we experience.  By giving numbers to our experiences, we can compare them, rank them, or plot them on a graph.  Numbers allow us to explore what is going on in our lives and look for ways to predict future events using models.

We will measure everything in our lives.  We will discuss observation and find ways to accurate describe what we observe.  We will rank ourselves as a class.

Observation (relative observations, relative motion, map directions)

Measure distance/height, speed (distance/time)

Make Galileo’s Inclined plane measurements

Recording information (lab notes, data tables, Cornell Notes for research, information organizers)

Unit 2: Modeling


As scientists, we try to make sense of what we observe and measure.  Models take the information that we gather and describe patterns.  When we discover a pattern, we can predict what will happen at a later event.  The ability to predict allows us to make better choices to optimize our desired outcome.

Graph stories

Equation of a line

Constant Velocity Model

Unit 3: Cause and Effect


Standards: 1b, 1d

2 a-g


While it can be useful to understand a pattern and be able to predict the outcome, it can be even more useful to understand the causes for patterns and behavior so that we can manipulate them to our advantage.  Things happen for a reason.  The better we understand that reason, the easier it is to affect the result.

Functions – and lots of equation solving



Unit 4: Communication of Ideas

Science is an ever changing field.  Many scientists work together to gain a better understanding of how the world works.  In order to work together, they have to be able to effectively communicate their ideas.  It can be easy for you to work together in groups because you can talk to each other and show each other what you are observing/manipulating.  It gets difficult when scientists need to communicate their labs to other groups of scientists that are in different rooms/cities/countries.  Communication is very important because you want other people to be able to read a paper and understand what you did and what you discovered.

Lab Reports

Poster Presentations

Classic Case Studies

Asynchronous trans-class labs

Unit 5: When Models Break Down


Standards: 1c, 1e, 1f, 1g, 1k


Sometimes we have a model that works perfectly in some situations, but completely fails in others.  That’s ok.  Our world is complicated, and sometimes we need to re-evaluate our observations and create new experiments.  We need to be able to identify when a model will work and when a situation requires a more complex model.

CV vs Acceleration

Impulse/Momentum vs FBD’s and Newton’s Laws

Energy with friction

Unit 6: Case Study


Standards 1e, 1f, 1g, 1i, 1L

2g, 2h

Over the last few months we have developed ways to explore our world and achieve a better understanding of how things work.  Our goal, in all of this, is to improve our lives and the lives of those we care about.  Before we can make any time of change, we must understand the problem and the principles at work.  Now we will use this process to choose an area of study, as a group, to explore and explain.

Group Project on mechanics case study

Background research (Cornell Notes)

Lab design and execution

Data collection and modeling

Lab report/Poster Presentation

Feedback and reflection


Today my seniors came into the room and formed a circle around the masking tape circuits that decorate my floor.  They came in and looked at the circuits and a few made comments about what they are.  We have seen the schematic drawings a few times but haven’t really sat down to understand what they mean.  Then, without prompting, one of my students started explaining what the circuits represent and which light bulbs he thought would turn on.  Immediately, another student proposed a different idea and the two students went back and forth trying to explain what would happen.  In the explanations, they made connections to the play dough lab from the previous class periods.  I just sat there with a grin on my face while they talked back and forth.  We then decided to table that discussion for later, and decided we would try testing it with an experiment.  I thought it was awesome how the floor diagram worked as a discussion starter that drew on previous knowledge from the lab we did as a class.