Day 36 – The Mistake Game


Physics  11 – Today the physics classes did group whiteboard problems and presented their work to the class.  We used the Mistake Game, where each group had to include a mistake on their whiteboard.  In the above example students did not convert from km/h to m/s.   It was a great way to reinforce the idea that we have to work with common units when doing our calculations.

Day 35 – Make Just One Change


Science 8 – The title of this post is taken from the book of the same name by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana.  The thesis of the book is

formulating one’s own questions is “the single most essential skill for learning”—and one that should be taught to all students.

In the old (current) science 8 curriculum, students learn about body systems and the immune system.  In the new curriculum the focus is shifted to only the immune system.  This is a perfect example of how the new curriculum is improved and better matches the needs of today’s students.  It is less important to acquire basic knowledge of organs and their function and more important and relevant to analyze how the immune system works, how it interacts with microbes, and how it relates to vaccinations, pandemics and epidemics.

So we’re going the new curriculum on this one!

Day 34 – What Does It Take?


Physics 11 – Kinematics is culminating and things aren’t going super smooth.  Group work and classroom work is going well, but when individual work rolls along, things are falling apart.

Next week all students have the option to re-test their graphing learning objective.  To re-test, all they have to do is pick up a review sheet and complete it.  The students that did pick one up were encouraged to stick around for 5 minutes and go over the first question with me.  Every one of them hit a A-Ha! moment when doing this.  That’s what it takes.  A willingness to try and a willingness to give 10 minutes of time.  Despite the option to re-test, very few students picked up the worksheet, maybe 10 out of 80 students.  I’m not sure what the rest of the students are expecting to happen.

Day 33 – Naming Compounds




Science 9 – Despite the difficulties I have in getting students in grade 9 engaged, there are some days that are winners.  In the past, I would spend 15 minutes in front of the class and show them the rules for naming compounds and writing formulas for compounds. This year I asked the students to find the patterns themselves.  They see this as a challenge and worked really hard on the task.  When done, the students put their results on whiteboards and we went over the rules.

The Cognitive Load Theorists out there would likely poo-pooh the lesson. This was one of those “discovery” type lessons, albeit with a fairly generous entry point.  And in the end we summarized the rules on paper which could have been done at the very start.  However, CLT has nothing to say about motivation or engagement, and there is a big difference between having 30 kids mindlessly blasting through some worksheet/textbook type questions, compared to having 30 kids hunched over desks, participating in science discussions with their eyes wide open and focused on the task.

Day 31 – Using a Triple Beam Balance


Science 8 – Today we needed to measure the mass of eggs for the start of our Eggsellent Osmosis Lab.  I borrowed a set of triple beam balances from another teacher and she warned that some of them were not working. It turns out that none of the balances were able to be balanced using the adjustment screw.  It was pretty frustrating…  until the students themselves figured out strategies for a work around.  Lots of groups noticed that they could zero the balance with a small mass, and the later subtract the mass from the egg’s mass to get a resultant measurement. Other groups need some help figuring this out but still managed to use the balances correctly. It was pretty nice to see.

Day 30 – Graphical Solutions to Kinematics Problems


Physics 11 – Another mostly successful day. Students were able to solve a variety of kinematics problems without having seen any kinematic equations yet. I really encourage this type of work for a few reasons.  First, I think it’s important to sketch a v-t graph regardless of the calculations because the graph clarifies the object’s motion.  Second, it keeps students away from blindly applying an equation and the dreaded statement, “I get confused on which equation to use.”  However, some problems are more easily solved with using equations directly.

Day 29 – Bohr Diagrams


Science 9 – Students started learning how to do draw Bohr Diagrams today.  When doing them for ions, the students sometimes get confused on calculating the correct number of electrons. I broke out my Math Cubes to help with this, and they quickly help students get past this hurdle.  They place down the number of cubes = # of protons and then pair them off with electrons (a different colour of cube) until the number of extra cubes is equal to the ion charge.  Even writing this, it sounds a bit weird or strange, but actually doing it makes the visual representation really clear.

Day 28 – Mini Whiteboards and Plickers



Physics 11 – This year every student of mine has their own Plicker card.  In previous years I kept one laminated set of plickers but it was a bit of a pain to work with.  It took time to hand out and collect, and it was too difficult to ensure that each student had the card number that they were assigned to. What I did this year was combine a plicker with mini whiteboards.  Each student received a plicker card printed on regular A sized paper, one A sized sheet of card stock. These where then slid inside a plastic sheet protector and voila!  Not only do they have a plicker card but they have an erasable surface for questions that involve writing down an answer or graph.  For example, I can ask students to predict the v-t graph of an object’s motion.  I still use Peer Instruction with Plickers and it continues to be a solid system to use.

Day 27 – Graphical Representations of Acceleration



Physics 11 – Students worked in groups and made different graphical representations of uniform acceleration.  With only a little bit of nudging, kids were able to mostly do things correctly.  I had the whole class work on the same problems, so when we did our whiteboard meetings I had the students find similarities and differences between the different groups.