Saturday, February 27, 2016

How to Teach Motion Graphs Through Inquiry

Discover how I took my students love of sports and used it to teach them how to interpret motion graphs in a guided inquiry investigation.

I used to find it difficult to have students understand how their motion correlates to a line on a graph.  I would have them walk, then stand, then jog and we would graph it.  The problem was that the graph was made after the motion not at the same time they were doing that motion.  That all changed when I discovered two websites.  These two websites gave me the opportunity to first do an inquiry investigation where they were able to see the motion of an object and the graph they were creating at the same time.  We all know that when students can learn through inquiry they own their learning.  This is now how I start my motion unit.

The first activity I do is a guided inquiry activity using the motion of skateboarders from the site: skateboarders- distance time graphs of skateboarders.  My students are given questions like draw what a constant slow speed looks like and draw what a constant fast speed looks like.  They manipulate the speed of the skateboarders to represent the question and then draw the graph the skateboarders create. For my advanced students I have them make the skateboarder to three motion, draw the graph that was created, and then trade with a partner to see if they can figure out the three motions from the graph. To see this in action you can watch my live scope on this at

The second activity I do is another guided inquiry but with more information given using the site Football Distance Time Graphs.  The football is not American football but world football also know as soccer. The students get to watch clips from the 2000 FA cup between Manchester United and West Ham United.  Sometimes they have to match the graph to the motion of the highlighted player and sometimes they have to match the player to the graph.  I like doing this one second because after each investigation it explains what they discovered and then it ends with a 10 question quiz that is similar to typical multiple choice questions they would see on a test. 

Doing these two guided inquiry investigations really sets a good foundation of motion graphs and makes it easier for students to describe and interpret the different motions for motion graphs.  If you try this let me know how it goes in the comments below

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Inquiry in Science: Fun with Toys

True inquiry involves students coming up with their own questions and ways to test the question.  The problem that I ran into is the fact that I am required to teach certain topics in a certain time and it leaves very little time for this open-ended questioning inquiry.  I still want my students to do inquiry since I feel it is very important to allow students to discover information on their own. So I do a more controlled inquiry.

When I did my speed science stations my students already learned how to solve for speed.  They also had a basic understanding of the scientific method and the importance of keeping an experiment controlled and doing multiple tests.  Keeping this in mind I wanted to give them a fun inquiry investigation.  

What student doesn't love wind-up toys?  For my Group Collaboration Station I gave my students 3-4 different windup toys and just a question: Which wind-up toy is the fastest?  That was it. I provided the question but they had to figure out how they were going to answer it.  During their investigations they realized the toys didn't move straight so they had to problem solve to get them going straight.   

When doing inquiry investigations in your class it is so important to leave students alone at the beginning and allow them to struggle.  Give them the time to discuss with others and share ideas before you offer support.  Your support should just be probing questions. For example, when I saw that students were touching the windup toys to keep them straight I used this as an opportunity to discuss variables and asked them to come up with a solution that kept the windup toy straight without them touching it.  Most ended up making some type of track.  

By the end of the class period all my students, from my lowest special needs students to my highest Gifted students, came up with a controlled experiment to test the windup toys and determine which toy had the fastest speed.

For more information on this inquiry check out my Periscope replay on youtube.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Going Digital: Student Collaboration

How can you introduce technology into the classroom without loosing student collaboration?

Digital Day of Learning is coming up on February 17. Many teachers will be trying new things but going digital does not mean that students are put in front of a device where they only communicate with the device and no longer talk to other students.  Making sure students are still talking to each other, collaborating with each other, and sharing ideas and thoughts is very important especially for our language learners.  

One way you can go digital but still make sure students talk and discuss the information is by having them work in pairs and use GAFE (Google Apps for Education).  For example, if you are having them do an online investigation or watch a video, one partner could have their device open to the online investigation and the other partner could have theirs open to a Google Form.  They can work together to go through the investigation and answer the questions about it on the Google Form.  In my example in the picture the students are filling out an investigation handout on a Google Slide as they go through an online simulation to discover the relationship between speed, distance, and time.   This was part of my speed blended learning stations.

You can learn more about blended learning science stations and follow the digital blog hop for more ideas by clicking here: Blended Learning Science Stations