Tri 2 Reboot: Days 1-6

My first trimester, with 4 preps (3 totally new, 1 in a new context), got a little busy at the end. So here’s the 180 blog reboot.

For the second trimester, I am going to follow each day of my 10th grade trimester-long physics class instead of following each day of school. The class meets 3 times each week. These 10th graders are seeing mechanics for the first time. They came from a trimester-long biology class in the fall. Some of them were in my 9th grade math class last year and some are my advisees (and one is in both of those groups).

Here’s what happened in our first two weeks.

Day 1: Buggy lab for distance and (change in) time

Day 2: Buggy Lab, Take 2

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Two experiments in the first two days of class? Of course! After a board meeting at the start of class and a bridging activity to go from thinking about distance to thinking about position, they quickly took new data. It was total (and mostly great) chaos, and it was slightly less crowded than last trimester since we pushed all of the desks out of the way before we started this time.

Day 3: Our second board meeting

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Their first board meeting (on Day 2) went pretty well. A highlight was a student turning to me in a quiet early moment and saying, “Can I just ask them a question?” They were ready to try jumping in and talking to each other without my moderation on that second day—a good sign of things to come this trimester!

The second board meeting was productive, too. They were ready to ask each other questions even more quickly, and they went back and forth about the meaning of the slope and the intercept without getting defensive—they were just trying to figure things out together.

 

Day 4: Whiteboarding CVPM problems

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We talked about making good mistakes, asking good questions, and generally how we do whiteboarding in physics class. The first group went up and got us started. It felt like a slow start to the work, and the usual struggles with getting heads wrapped around motion representations seemed more intense than usual. At the same time, everyone was all-in on thinking, trying, and solving, so I let them work at that pace and trusted that we would get (at least a little) faster as we got better at “doing class”.

Day 5: What even are these graphs?

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Day 5 is about when we hit our peak on confusion and frustration with how challenging it really is to think in terms of graphs (and to translate between multiple representations for the same idea).

I started the class off in the deep end of this kind of thinking and learning—I knew/hoped I would have most of them on board with me enough to do that since several had me as a teacher last year and since I have a good relationship with the students in this grade in general (which is helped out a lot by being a 10th grade advisor). And with only 10 weeks, there it’s tough to figure out how to prioritize time for the necessary culture and endurance building versus deep and challenging content and experiences.

They were handling the confusion well, and they were so engaged in figuring things out that they actually were having some trouble with the whiteboard presentations. Smaller conversations would break out around the room (all on topic!). We weren’t doing this as-a-class. Not yet.

Day 6: It all starts to come together

Today was the day we were working toward.

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The whiteboarding presentations clicked together as a class. Everyone was engaged (as before), but now they were really working together to build the ideas and try out their thinking. Questions came from all over the room. The students at front were calm and patient, happily changing their board when the class convinced them. Others were productively, helpfully picky, trying out all of the edges of these new diagrams and representations.

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The last group was a triumph. They used an intentional mistake that they had made themselves in their first attempt on paper. It was also an idea that was still held by some in the room, so it prompted a lot of great discussion. When working to convince everyone that there should be a part of the velocity-time graph showing where the value was zero (so along the time axis) instead of a gap or an immediate jump from one speed to the next, one student offered to her classmates, “In this part, it is showing that the object is moving through time, but not through space.” I mean, really. Are you kidding me with these kids? How awesome can they be?

I kind of adore the photos from today. In the first one, there’s a student who wasn’t in the group crouched below the board. He wanted to point out what he was asking them about, but he also wanted everyone to be able to see. In the second photo, you can almost feel the effort from these kids—the tilted heads, the leaning forward or out of their chairs, the determined looks on their faces. What they did together today was wonderful, and wow did they ever work for it.

The icing—they were totally able to appreciate how great that work felt. More than one of them was exclaiming how they had started really liking the class. Best of all—my advisee who let me know that it was going well now by stopping me at lunch to say, “You were right,” and then walk away.

And we get 8 more weeks together.

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