I had the privilege of attending the Rochester Area Physics Teachers Out-Reach (RAPTOR) meeting at Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday, Jan. 14, from 9 a.m. to noon. With more than 20 physics instructors in attendance, I was thrilled to meet many great teachers, reconnect with old friends, and walk away with a bunch of new ideas and resources.
The meeting began with some collegial discussions and socialization, followed by introductions — introductions of both the RAPTOR association itself, and of the individuals in the room. RAPTOR is a group of physics teachers centered in the Rochester area focused on sharing ideas, demonstrations, discussing concerns, issues, and solutions, with the goal of improving physics teaching and learning for all involved.
Special thanks to the RIT physics department for hosting us on a Saturday morning!
Tom Frys provided information on the annual High School Model Bridge Contests. These are held each year in conjunction with National Engineers Week, and are quite popular both in Syracuse and Buffalo. Interest is developing in Rochester to expand the program locally as well. Examples of bridges were presented, as well as design specifications. Organizers are very willing to work with the RAPTOR teachers to make the event a success in the area.
Dan Fullerton talked about APlusPhysics.com and the Regents Physics Essentials book. In addition to highlighting what resources were available, I tried to focus on showing ways in which these resources could be utilized in a classroom to provide differentiated and personalized instruction outside of class, leaving more valuable classroom time for active learning, exploration, and instructor assistance. I also presented an example of how Regents Physics Essentials and APlusPhysics are used at Irondequoit High School to streamline mid-term and end-of-year review activities.
Brendan Noon then presented on Planning a Differentiated Lesson w/ Game Show Review. Following the style of Jeopardy, students create their own review game shows. This can be implemented in a wide variety of ways, but leaves many options available for differentiating by level of Regents questions, assigning higher level questions to higher level students, and also assigning less frequently found topics to higher level students, while maintaining heterogeneous class groupings. Recommendations included having all students answer all questions (check by whiteboard presentations). It was also noted that TestWizard contains quiz functionality (even if many of the solutions are incorrect and need to be checked in advance.) Following the meeting, I noted in a recent catalog from the AcademicSuperstore that Jeopardy-style classroom equipment is still being sold.
Next up was a discussion of the Common Core Standards and Assessments, and the wide range of ways they are being presented and implemented in physics classrooms. Brendan Noon began the discussion by highlighting data showing statewide graduation rates are up, though college readiness has not increased.
This has led to xix shifts in ELA/Literacy and six shifts in mathematics. Highlighting key shifts, ELA shift 1 deals with applying strategies to reading information text, teaching strategies for informational texts, and scaffolding for difficulties. Noon shared a Buffalo State “Reading Log” format for physics, which covers the NY State / Common Core standards. Students diagnose their own vocabulary, interpretations, question themselves, re-read, graph/diagram, etc. These are typically assigned as homework, and at Buff State, are graded on a five point scale, with five points for completing them correctly the only rubric required.
There is a big focus on getting students to use textbooks at some level. Schools have been given money specifically targeted for textbooks (and only textbooks). Schools can also document the use of this money as part of their School Improvement Plan reports.
Questions were raised about what grade level texts must be specified as. Noon noted that any textbook which is specified by the author/publisher as targeted at a specific grade level, is by design appropriate for that grade level (at least as far as the “legalese” of the current common core documentation is concerned.)
ELA Shift 2 deals with handling primary source documents with confidence. Many see the text itself as a source of evidence, but it’s also possible to use a wide variety of sources such as websites, fiction and non-fiction books, and even popular magazines as sources. Further, it’s quite possible to use different interpretation levels within the same texts as well as different texts with different interpretation levels to differentiate student expectations. The ultimate goal is to stop referring to and summarizing texts, and teachign students to start reading and understanding as we build a community of independent learners.
All teachers are required to create two units of common core materials this year, although there is no statewide system of verifying this is completed. This is being met in a wide variety of ways from a wide variety of instructors with a wide variety of success:
- “Read book, answer questions”
- “Read article, generate an argument”
- “Some districts not doing anything”
Text can be words, data, or arguments. A great source for these types of questions is ACT review books with science passages — it’s easy to add one of these to the end of a test for practice and help students build these skills throughout the year.
Next was a sharing/discussion session to close out the meeting. One member demonstrates applications and demonstrations of falling discs and gyroscopes, another showed a quick demonstration to build thinking about conservation of energy and magnetism, yet another discussed challenges and experiences teaching in an urban environment.
Members discussed how RAPTOR should be a terrific resource for new teachers as well as more experienced instructors.
Steve Whitman talked about the use of Interactive Physics as a classroom resource, providing several demonstrations and discussing potential for further development of teacher training and supporting resources through a grant with SUNY Brockport.
Meeting closed with distribution of a number of terrific door prizes!
For more information, check out the RAPTOR Facebook Page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rochester-Area-Physics-Teachers-Out-Reach-RAPTOR/261529007244589