What Does A Physics Student Teacher Do To Get Ready

On Sun, Aug 7, 2011 at 2:41 PM, Luke

Mr. Peterson,

I just came to the realization that the school year is almost here.  I remember from somewhere that you guys start on the 29th-ish, but I'm guessing you might want me to start coming in before that.  So I've got just a couple questions about that.

1.  When should I start coming in?
2.  What should I be doing (e.g. professional development) during the week before school starts?
3.  What should I be doing now to prep for the semester?

Thanks, and enjoy the rest of you summer!

Awesome letter to get from your fall student teacher. After some of the details here is what I wrote. What would you add?

As far as professional development goes take no more than 20 minutes a day (35 minutes if it is after lunch, more minutes either time if you are enjoying it) and read all posts (except 
ones about teaching calculus) from this blog. Make sure before you read any posts you watch his TED talk. That does not count towards your minutes. He is the most on fire physics teaching blog at the moment. There are other blogs to consider as well. Teacher blogs will do for you every day what these books did for me. If you really want to go overboard get a twitter account and follow this list.

Experiential Exam Question

Today a question on the exam in my class was experiential. The best part of this question was when a student called me over after the lab and asked if when he was done with the exam he could try a few more scenarios to make his results better. I have to give an exam. I love that for at least one student the exam itself inspired new questions about this amazing world.

Physics Teaching Lessons From The Band Director

Part of my tech role is to be a coach for the other teachers in the building. Today I had a meeting with the band director. I learn a lot about good teaching when I talk with people from the arts. I asked him what kinds of questions a students would use to reflect on a piece of recorded music that the students might put into their digital portfolio. Here was the list:

  1. What do I think I am adding to this piece of music?
  2. What is my unique contribution to this piece of music?
  3. Who informed my contribution and how do I compare to that?
  4. What are my artistic influences?
  5. How does this recording make me a more confident artist?

I would like the product of everything I teach in physics to have the same questions at the end. What is my contribution? Who informed my contribution? How was I influenced in the making of this contribution? How am I different today than before this project? I need to think when I design a physics lesson or unit, will the students be able to answer these kinds of questions when they are done with the unit.

Breakfast Before Spring Break

This morning was the last two class periods before spring break. I had assigned a one minute video project on either producing energy for or consuming energy in a house. Today we were to watch the presentations. I got the question already last week, "what if I am gone Wednesday?" The answer: email your video to the class blog and we will watch it without you.

Because of crazy imbalances in the schedule I have one small section with a high number of early vacationers. The seven of us decided to do our presentation sitting around a table at Jackie's Place. We were having a great conversation about energy and our environmental responsibilities when an older couple from the booth next to our tables came up to us. They asked if we were a school or church group. They smiled. And they picked up the tab.

On the way out one of my juniors went to the clerk and gave her five bucks. My student looked her in the eye and said, "put it on the next person's tab." She smiled at me and said, "pay it forward."

I hope you all have (or had) a great spring break.

Home Energy Assignment

I have tried a lot of activities over the years to relate the energy in physics class to the energy in homes. Here is this years attempt. What do you think? What do you do? Much credit goes to the two references, which both are go to sites when I am making new experiences. I give this type of assignment in a forum so that students can see every idea that others came up with.

Energy is interchangeable. So what is the relationship between kilowatt hours on an bill and the Joules we measure in class? 

Read this discussion, which will be a lot of review and then study the example problems at the bottom. Use the information you learned there to answer one of the following questions. There needs to be a mathematical component to your analysis. I have a device you may borrow to measure the watts of anything that plugs into a wall, but most stuff is labeled so you should not need it. For example I just walked over to my microwave, looked at its model number and typed, "GE JES1036PWH03 watts" into Google to find out 1100 watts.
  1. Does it cost more to bake a potato in your home's microwave or conventional (the one under the stove) oven?
  2. What time of the day does your family use the most amount of electrical energy? Explain why, using appliances and the wattages to prove your point.
  3. How much difference in cost is there between playing your favorite video game for two hours or your favorite way to watch a two-hour movie?
  4. What costs more to operate during the eight hours you sleep, your alarm clock or a night light? How much does each cost?
  5. How long can you charge your iPod or cellphone for a dollar?

Bots For Cows

This week our school is raising Money for Heifer International. I am not sure how this goes in other schools but when student council has a fundraiser for an organization you collect money in your first hour class and turn that money in at the end of the week. Then the student council takes the dollars raised by your class and divides by the number of students and that first hour class gets breakfast. In seventeen years of teaching my first hour class has never won. The main reason for that is that for about ten years the idea of competition for fund raising repulsed me. I am less hoity toity now, so game on.

When we got the email about the fund raiser I forwarded it to my students with an email saying, we are going to win this. I had no plan. I Wednesday I asked the Holy Spirit into our class here is the result.

Right now we are building simple bots in class. This is inquiry for our DC Circuit unit. As I have been trying standards based grading this year I have looked for ways for students to totally control demonstrations of learning. So the simple bot project has them build a bot, and demonstrate with modifications to the bot any standards that they feel they know but have not gotten credit for. I like quite a bit how this final challenge of a unit has works out.

Wednesday when I looked around and asked the students how we could fund raise, the conversation led to auctioning off our bots to buy cows for people that need them. Here is the very quick Google site that my students put together to show off what they have learned and what their bots can do. Watch the movies, there is at least one funny one. Suggested donation is $100. If you want to give more or less add a comment to the page and I or a student will contact you. The bots are in some sense worth $3. But the learning and excitement in first hour has been priceless. It has been some of the funnest conversations of the year. And the worst thing that could happen is my kids have been excited about the donating and have given deeply out of their own pockets.

Video Your Trials

Today in the student presentations I am learning that taking video of every trial in an experiment is both instinctive and essential for today inquiring minds.

In the attached example it was actually part of their planned data collection: they measure the height later in logger pro. But several of my students have used video of early trial to improve experimental process and or recover from errors. Great stuff and cellphones and iPods were out in force.