Course Review Strategy Revisited #physicsed

Following several discussions with a number of science teachers, we’ve decided on a review strategy to prepare students for our cumulative standardized final exam in NY Regents Physics.

To begin the review sequence, students will be given standardized exam question printouts from previous years and will cut out the individual questions.  Questions will be sorted into the main course topics and pasted on a blank sheet to create a worksheet consisting of single topics of questions from multiple years’ exams.

Each day, we’ll being the class with a 10-minute review video covering one of the key topics of the course.  These have been created previously as part of the Physics In Action podcast, so this is very easy to implement.image

  1. Scalars & Vectors
  2. Motion Graphs
  3. Kinematic Equations
  4. Dynamics
  5. Friction
  6. Uniform Circular Motion & Gravity
  7. Momentum & Impulse
  8. Work & Energy
  9. Electrostatics
  10. Electric Circuits
  11. Circuit Analysis
  12. Magnetism
  13. Wave Basics
  14. Wave Behaviors
  15. Modern Physics

Students will then be given a previous year’s Regents Exam, and asked to complete the first half of the exam.  This will be repeated the following day, with students completing the second half of the exam.

On the third day, the exams will be graded and reviewed as a class.  Students will then break down their scores to provide a separate score for each key unit from the exam using a diagnostic guide provided by the teacher.

Corrective actions must then be taken by the student based on their score in each topic.  For scores above 85% in any topic, no corrective actions are required.  For scores above 75%, three of the four corrective actions must be taken (student’s choice).  For scores below 75%, all four corrective actions must be taken.

The corrective actions for each unit are comprised of

  1. Determine correct answers to the problems you missed, showing all work including your initial formula, substitution with units, and answer with units.
  2. Read
    1. Textbook chapters covering unit in question OR
    2. Regents Physics Essentials Review Book chapter covering unit in question.
  3. View topic tutorial and associated pages on Take interactive quiz at end of section until you score 85% or higher.
  4. Complete practice worksheet on topic and check answers.

This sequence will be completed three times over three weeks leading up to a final in-class exam, followed by the formal state standardized exam.  Students who have completed their practice exam and corrections for the week may be released from class early, while those who need more practice will benefit from more class time as well as a lower student-to-teacher ratio as the week progresses.

Of course, the monotony of review will be broken up by occasional activities and supplemental lessons such as the always-popular time dilation discussion, reading of “Icarus at the Edge of Time” by Brian Greene, and other end-of-year activities.

Course Review Time – What Works Best? #physicsed

It’s closing in on that time… the dreaded end-of-the-year, when we finish our standard curriculum and begin to intermix “additional topics” of student interest in with review for our standardized final exam.  But how do you keep 25 to 30 students productively across various topics based on individual needs at varying levels of aptitude?

student_girl_reading_on_floor_hg_clr I’ve tried a number of techniques… we cut questions out of old standardized exams and paste them onto unit-specific pages, using these unit-specific pages for practice.  The students not only review the key topics, but also see the range of questions asked in previous years before diving into problem practice.

I’ve given previous exams, with students working through them at their own pace, scoring their exams, then working with me to jointly develop and execute an individualized action plan to attack their areas for improvement before repeating the process.

I’ve incorporated clicker question reviews.  I’ve had students develop their own questions.  We’ve jumped headfirst into hands-on lab exercises requiring knowledge of several “units” tied in together, and we’ve worked through projects to examine applications of physics in the real world.  Each week students perform a different online assignment on one of our key topics, coupled with video podcast reviews of 10-15 minutes in length, in a flipped classroom approach.

With all these methods, implemented in a variety of configurations, I still haven’t found a review method I’m thrilled with.  Nor even satisfied with.  Without fail, the students who least need the review get the most out of the time, and the students who are in dire need of review find ways to avoid strong engagement.

One proposal for this year is to have all students take a practice exam, which is graded with separate scores for each key topic (in the vein of SBG).  Students in need of extra help in any unit are assigned chapters to read along with a problem set from either the APlusPhysics review book or a stand-alone question set.  Students most in need of review are assigned the most work, and students with the least need of review can finish up their work assignments more quickly, leaving the instructor more time with the struggling students.  Each week students engage in another practice exam, again working to build familiarity with the questions, with classes interspersed between online question reviews, practice exams, and instructor-led topical review discussions and guided practice.

I don’t expect to find a magic bullet that addresses all situations, and talking to other teachers I find this to be a very common issue as well.  I’d love to hear what you’ve tried – what’s worked, what hasn’t, and open this question up to the experience of others!

A New Kind of Physics Review Book #physicsed #Regents

New York’s Regents Physics curriculum outlines an introductory algebra-based physics course covering a range of topics from classical mechanics and electricity and magnetism to waves, optics, modern physics, and even touching on the Standard Model. Several commercial textbooks are available supporting this curriculum relatively well, but as the year comes to a close and students prepare for the formal culminating standardized Regents Physics Exam, review books focusing on problem solving make their way into the equation.

tim_studying_hg_clr Currently, there are several Regents Physics review books available which are quite well done and that I’m very fond of personally. Over the past few years, I’ve pointed students toward several of these books, and even supplied them for my students in some cases. What students have reported, however, indicates that in many cases they quickly become overwhelmed with the size and layout of the review books, especially given the time constraints they have for review before the exam is given. When most of these books contain a minimum of 400 pages, students begin to view the review process as a daunting endeavor, and therefore never begin. When the shorter books (~ 250 pages) contain hundreds of problems but no included solutions, students see a workbook instead of a resource, and become frustrated when they can’t check their answers and obtain immediate feedback. Regardless of the reason, if students don’t engage in the review book, however well written and complete it may be, its effectiveness is extremely limited.

Based on student feedback, input from other physics teachers, and requests from several of this year’s crop of Regents Physics students, work has begun on a review book designed to meet the needs of current Regents Physics students in a friendly, engaging, and efficient manner.

So what’s different about this project? First, the book is not intended as a textbook replacement, but rather a summary of just what students need to know to be successful on the Regents Physics Exam, without any extra fluff, similar to an SAT prep book or an AP prep book. There’s a time for pushing further into topics of interest, building deeper understandings, and refining analytical skills — all extremely important in a modern physics classroom, and well supported by a wide variety of modern resources. This book is designed to meet a different need — to assist students in achieving their highest possible score on the Regents Physics Exam in as efficient and straightforward a manner as possible, while reinforcing fundamental physics concepts in as simple and clear a manner as possible.

Second, this book is designed from the ground up to be high-school-student friendly. Target length is 300 pages, fonts are designed for easy readability, and hundreds of sample problems are included immediately following the concepts required, streamlining adoption and specific topic reviews in both traditional and SBG classrooms.  Detailed solutions (not just answers) are provided immediately following the questions, utilizing the problem-solving format required for optimal scoring on the Regents Exam. No external answer key required! Fun illustrations and clear diagrams abound throughout the text.

Third, the text is tied in to the website, providing students a pathway to obtain further problem practice with immediate feedback as well as receiving help on tricky concepts in the Regents Physics and Homework Help online forums.

physics_md_clr Target publication date for the APlusPhysics: Your Guide to Regents Physics Essentials is May 2011. Instructors interested in learning more and/or reviewing the text may contact the publisher directly by e-mailing or through the APlusPhysics website.