Archive for the 'Classes' Category

Teacher Appreciation 2015

TAW 2015

I feel like the placement of teacher appreciation week is genius.  It’s always about the time when students decide that all work is optional and seem determined to spend the last two weeks tanking their grades.  And of course it’s about the time that I become extra determined to get some of that work handed in so I can prove that ‘Hey, these guys know enough to move on!  I know they do!  I have proof!’.

So the week has started with an awesome sign on my door.  (Which I’m contemplating making all of my kids sign at the end of the week to serve as a yearbook type thing…)

…and I opened my mailbox to find a package of pop rocks.

and after I find a can of Coke to drink with these…I’ll be back to chasing down students to bring up those grades.

Honestly…they could call this Teacher Motivation Week…because it totally works that way.

IHWH Slope-Intercept and Point Slope Form

Necessity is the mother of invention today.  Last Thursday, my projector died.  State testing for my students is today and tomorrow.  (Some classes today…other classes tomorrow…)  It seemed like a good time for a sponge activity.

Enter my variation on the I have… Who has… game.IHWH Intro Equations

My game is a little bit different in that it does not make a loop with the entire class.  I like the idea of having them find their partners, and then doing eliminations each round.


Colorful Cardioids and Star Polygons

So I have this string art Cardioid on the wall of my classroom. Picture it being something like this lovely art featured at ModFrugal, but instead made out of cheap white cotton twine on a grey carpet background.

When I put up the string art, I seriously did not anticipate the questions that I would get every year.  Every class wants to learn how to make ‘the string thing’, ‘the rebel alliance symbol’, ‘the moon’, or…’the butt’.  I knew I didn’t have supplies to bring true string art to my intro classes, but I did have basic art supplies and rulers.  They LOVED it, so I thought I’d share.

Step 1:  Distribute Circles Worksheet.

Step 2:  Have students number the points going around each circle.  (Their starting point changes the final product, so I gave them a choice as to where to start, and whether to go clockwise or counterclockwise.)

Step 3:  Distribute Directions Worksheet and help students follow directions.

Step 4:  Distribute another blank Circles Worksheet…encourage Creativity.

Step 5:  Discuss Cardioids and Star Polygons based on the level of the students.

During my 2nd demo of the day, a student suggested that I record using Stop-Motion and Rainbow colors.  I would have used colored pencils instead of markers, but my IPEVO Point2View camera couldn’t capture the yellows and greens.  Regardless…I LOVE the finished video.  I think I’ll definitely use stop-motion more often.

Let’s talk Collisions…

I’ve been working on renovating my new house for the last month.  This is moving week.  I feel like being sleep-deprived and tired is no excuse to have a lackluster physics lesson, so I started googling.

First off, I’d like to say that is downright awesome.
I looked at the above car crash web-quest and thought about assigning it to my classes as-is, but I’d like to give my spin.

My physics students were given 5 problems to try in groups of 3.  All collisions involve a car at rest getting rear-ended with both cars sliding forward.  My students are very advanced, but they are still somewhat averse to researching to find their own information.  So I took this basic premise of a car accident and decided to come up with 5 similar problems for the one direction.  The major question remained the same:  Was the driver who caused the accident speeding on impact?

I assumed ideal road conditions and no friction.  To make it more interesting, I looked up celebrities and their various cars to use them as the characters for each story.  Each accident had different sliding lengths and different posted speed limits.  I provided no pictures, just verbal descriptions.  I tried to write my problems like an American news story, so all speeds are in mph, and all distances in feet.

My students needed to use the web to find the approximate mass of the celebrities and their cars, and the braking distance for each car (from 60mph to 0).  From that they could estimate the acceleration applied by the brakes, and work backwards from the sliding distance to find initial velocity following impact.  One the impact velocity was found, the groups could use conservation of momentum to find the velocity of the first car before impact.

I understand that these are pretty idealistic conditions, and that celebrities probably don’t wail on their brakes with perfect reaction time in an accident, but this actually gave my classes even more to discuss!

I also didn’t assign jobs to the students, and was a bit more lax on presentation requirements.  I have one group bringing in lego constructs to re-enact their crash, and another is using posterboards and easels to show the accident and their calculations.

Example problem:

Somebody call the paparazzi! Paris Hilton has been texting while driving again! Thus far she has been able to keep her driver’s license and avoid jail time by using her tremendous wealth to hire the best legal defenses. Unfortunately, she’s been involved in a car crash with another celebrity!


Paris Hilton, driving a 2014 Luxury Cadillac Escalade with 2 wheel drive, rear-ended Justin Bieber’s Ferrari 458 while he was stopped at a Hollywood Boulevard stop sign. The two celebrities were the only people or objects in the respective cars, and the vehicles were presumably brand new.


Justin Bieber is FURIOUS!


The officers have already charged Paris with texting while driving, but if Bieber’s defense team can prove that she was going more than 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit before impact, then Paris will lose her license.


Police have determined that both vehicles slid in a straight line after impact, and were NOT attached to each other. Bieber and his Ferrari came to rest 78.75 feet past the stop sign, while Hilton and her Cadillac were 6.60 feet past the stop sign. Skid marks at the scene indicate that both drivers applied their brakes at impact until stopping.


The speed limit on this section of Hollywood Boulevard is 30 mph to allow safe travel for sight-seers and pedestrians. Was Paris really going more than 10 miles per hour over the posted limit? It is up to a team of contracted experts (that’s you guys!) to decide.


By picking situations with cars of various weights, my students have been comparing accident results.  What happens when a sports car hits an SUV?  What happens when two vehicles of a similar weight class are involved?  Why are the cops asking physics students to make such harsh decisions?

After the shock of having to do their own research wore off, good times were had.

Post-Thanksgiving Update

I feel kind of guilty because lots of stuff has happened in the past few weeks, and I’ve shared none of it.

I added my newest set of foldables to the master list.  My intro class is in the section on solving linear equations, and I’m going to try to be better about sharing my notes for the rest of the year.  I have to admit that I was pretty lazy about making foldables the past few weeks, mostly because my classroom printer died.  Part of my planning process is printing out rough drafts of my notes and cutting them to make sure that they fit properly in a notebook.  Without a printer, I’ve been sending drafts to the copy room and walking down to pick them up.  It was fine for the first week or so, and then the walking got old, and I got lazy.  The students had quite a few days of traditional notes from last year.  Luckily, the new printer is in the corner of my room just waiting to be installed.  I’m pretty excited!

I’ve been trying new things in Physics.  We did a lab examining the coefficients of friction on different toilet paper brands and various household materials.  I have a pretty limited lab set-up, so we used Pascars with mounted force sensors on a track and tried to pull across the material at a constant velocity.  In a perfect world, I would have presented a more fool-proof method with an inclined plane.  If I’m lucky enough to teach this class again next year (here’s hoping), I would like to have an inclined plane rig set up for demos.  We’re currently talking about work and energy.  The students are requesting an outside lab before Christmas.  It’s pretty cold around here…so we’ll just have to see about that.

I also bought a house!  Well, kind of.  We put an offer in on a house back in August, and three closing dates later, it really looks like December 16th is going to be the day!  It’s an older house from the 1950’s that needs a bit of love.  All of the outlets are two-pronged, so no grounds, and all of the flooring is tile!  When I say tile, I mean old classroom industrial style tile…it’s the weirdest thing.  There is also a bright pink bedroom, and a teal bedroom and all sorts of things that need to be painted.  It’s kind of freeing to get to design my own kitchen and bathroom.  Exciting times for sure!

Solving Equations using Addition and Subtraction


All Notes on a Single Page:

Powerpoint File (Easily Adjusted!)


Click to see the list of All Algebra Notes


Let’s have a fun Friday!

This is the Friday before my birthday.  It’s my personal policy to not assign homework on my birthday.  So what did we do?

Intro:  We played 1, 2, 3 Switch from Tom DeRosa.  I’ve played this game with my students every year, and I always get mixed results.  In the past, students have been really confused about how to handle the K, Q, J, and A cards, so I went ahead and printed number cards for each student.  (This also stops them from trying to play other card games…another problem I’ve encountered.)  I have some changes to the cards that I’d like to make…but when I do, I will share them.

This year, the game execution was flawless and everyone knew how to play.  My 1st hour class loved the game, and I could tell that some of them were going to take it home and play it this weekend.  I brought out my camera and took pictures of them happily playing cards.  This weekend I hope to print out some of the pictures and hang them up in my classroom.  4th hour, however, were not fans.  Some of them whined and asked me to magically conjure a worksheet instead.  My paraprofessional and I had a good laugh over their behavior.  After all…how dare we ask them to play a game?

I asked myself if maybe I’d done a better job ‘selling’ the game to 1st hour…but I really think this one comes down to student attitude…because 7th hour liked the game just fine!

Physics:  I bought inexpensive little stomp rockets from  Whenever I do an activity like this, it’s hard to say whether or not the students will buy-in until we try it.  When the rockets showed up at my place, I used my high-schooler sister as a test subject, and we shot the rockets at my mother’s house.  I had more fun than I thought I would, and I figured that this would be a safe and easy way to play with projectiles in a school setting.  It was about 34 degrees during lab time today and we walked to a park a few blocks away.  I had each student stomp the rocket 3 times, and with the help of their group, they measured the airtime and the horizontal distance traveled.  On Monday, we are going to estimate other properties of the rocket’s flight using algebra.  If this part of the lesson is successful, I will share the lesson here.

I took so many pictures of my two physics classes.  I was trying to capture the actual rocket launch, but I often missed and got a picture of teenagers staring straight up into the sky.  (Which are funny enough to send to the yearbook!)

I still have my usual round of Friday grading to do, but it was a good day!

Translating Words and Mathematical Symbols

 I feel pretty good about this one, because the students LOVED using a corresponding color for each operation.  This took my classes two days to do, but I’m hoping that having the symbols and their definition helps with the vocab troubles that I see in this class each year.

Section 1.5


Section 1.5 Open2


Section 1.5 Open1


Both Printables on One Page

Powerpoint File (Easily Adjusted)



Click to see the list of All Algebra Notes

Equations and Inequalities

Section 1.4



I did realize that it makes more sense to have Less than or Equal to next to Equals…so that is changed in the files below 🙂

Section 1.4 Open

Two Printables per Page

One Printable per Page

Powerpoint File (Easily Adjusted!)


Click to see the list of All Algebra Notes

Let’s Play Taboo!

So Wednesday is an early day…and picture day…and there’s an assembly in there too!

It really doesn’t pay to jump into anything new with physics, so I created a Taboo-style game that should last all year.

They’re all fancy and laminated and I’m super proud!

2014-09-08_0001 2014-09-08_0002

When my class plays tomorrow, they will have 1 minute to talk or act in such a way that will cause the team to say the goal word.  My classes are about 15 students each, so we’ll have three teams and half an hour to play.  I went through my whole physics book and ended up with about 200 cards to cover the entirety of the class.  Since we’re only in Chapter 2, my groups will be playing with about 60 cards tomorrow.  I think it will really help to just add in more cards throughout the year.

I’ve included my template at the bottom; here’s how to make one of your own:

Step 1:  Look in your textbook’s glossary.

Step 2:  Make important terms your “Goal Words.”  (You can use pop culture figures too!)

Step 3:  Pick 4 words that you don’t want your students to say during their turn.  (I laughed more than I should have when I decided that they can’t say Bow Tie when talking about Bill Nye…)

Powerpoint File


Finished Physics Taboo Game (More than 100 cards!)