Bouncy Ball Lab

So taking a page from Lee Trampleasure’s blog “Bouncing Ball Lab Introduces Models and Foreshadows Future Physics Concepts,” I tried a version of the Bouncing Ball Lab with my Regents Physics students on the 3rd day of school.  Our goal was to introduce our general physics philosophy, start using the metric system, review graphing procedures, slope, y-intercept, equation of a line, and really get students to begin to understand that graphs have meaning.

After reviewing the metric system briefly, we took about a period and a half (some classes shortened due to fire drills) to determine our procedures and best practices, collect data, graph and analyze data, and finished with a roughly 10-minute debrief.  A little more time would have been helpful, but for a first run through early in the school year it worked pretty well. With some coaching through the process, I was quite pleased with the product of many of the groups.

Further, the lab introduces many of the modeling concepts and practices we’ll use throughout the year.  Though I haven’t been through a formal on-campus multi-day workshop (yet) on modeling, I have sat in several workshops and appreciate the strategy that allows students to build their own understandings through this process, something we try to emulate quite regularly throughout the year.

My department head is actually sharing some of the whiteboard results with our math department coordinator to demonstrate how some of the math skills the students are being taught in their math-specific classes are utilized in physics.  Hopefully it’s the start of some further synergies.

Without further ado, some of their work:








Terrific Regents Physics Resource:

Yes, it’s been awhile since my last post.  We’ve had some family excitement in the recent past, including two difficult losses, but I’m thrilled to most recently have added a baby girl to our family (I’m heading to the hospital to bring mom and baby home today!)  All are well, and we’re so excited and blesses to have such a wonderful addition.


I’ve been long overdue on this post, but wanted to share a great online resource with high school physics teachers.  Anthony Mangiacapre, author of the terrific St. Mary’s Physics Online site, has another winner on his hands.

123Physics is a site that includes more than 1300 multiple choice questions to assist students in preparing for the NY Regents Physics exam (as well as most any algebra-based physics course).  It includes link to the St. Mary’s online physics lessons, Tony’s terrific Youtube video channel, and even a collection of physics clipart.

Most attractive, though, is the set of online review questions.  Tony has set up the site to allow students to take a full Regents exam online (multiple choice questions), with selections from many recent exams (2000s).  Further, you can set up practice quizzes on the following topics:

  • Electricity
  • Energy
  • Mechanics
  • Modern Physics
  • Waves

Upon choosing a main topic, you can select a sub-topic to focus on.  For example, the waves topic is broken up into:

  • EM Waves
  • Index of Refraction
  • Reflection
  • Refraction
  • Sound
  • Wave Characteristics
  • Wave Phenomena

From there, you can choose which type of question to focus on, either general knowledge, reference table, or plug-in types.  This provides students a huge range of quizzes they can create to test their knowledge on any specific topic, or type of problem.  In my experience, students MUCH prefer doing work on the computer compared to hard copy paper — for some reason it just seems to be more fun and/or engaging, and the instant feedback provided allows students to fix their mistakes and work through any issues immediately.

Tony already has a tremendously valuable student resource in his St. Mary’s Physics Online resource, and with the addition and tie-in of 123Physics along with his Youtube videos, Tony has managed to share his terrific resources with not just his students, but with all interested students and educators.

RAPTOR Physics Teacher Meeting Minutes 1/14/12 #physicsed

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.

Brendan Noon has created a WIKI depository for teaching materials at

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 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

Physics Teacher Out-Reach Web Meeting 1/14/12! #physicsed #physics #edtech

Brendan Noon The Rochester Area Physics Teacher’s Out Reach (RAPTOR) will hold its first meeting of 2012 at the Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday, January 14th from 9 am-noon EST.  Physics education enthusiasts all over the world are welcome to attend this meeting live via this link.

The meeting will feature a presentation by Dan Fullerton, author of Regents Physics Essentials, Honors Physics Essentials, and developer of, as well as a presentation and discussion centered around physics lessons addressing New York’s Common Core State Standards and how these changes will affect physics education.

Come for the free donuts and stay for the demos, and if you can’t attend in person, join us online!

Special thanks to Brendan Noon of Science With Mr. Noon for organizing this event.



Rochester Area Physics Teachers Out-Reach

Saturday January 14, 2012, 9:00 a.m. to noon

Physics Building, Rochester Institute of Technology

Rooms TBD


9:00  – 9:15 a.m.     Refreshments, Socializing, Introductions and Announcements

9:15 – 9:35 a.m.     Physics Demos that make Students Think!

                                   Bring your favorite demonstration that introduces a topic in physics

9:35 -10:05 a.m.      A “Novel” Approach to Regents Review with

                                   Dan Fullerton (West Irondequoit High School)

10:05 – 10:30 a.m.  Differentiated Instruction with “Game Show” Review in Physics

                                   Brendan Noon (Williamson High School)

10:30  – 10:55 a.m.   Critical Components of Unit Writing for New York State Common Core Standards Shifts in Physics

                                     Brendan Noon (Williamson High School)

10:55 – 11:00 a.m.    Refreshment Break

11:00 a.m. to noon  Physics Share-A-Thon



RIT has a nice interactive map at:    If you search “Gosnell building, Building 8” it will pinpoint the location and show a photo. The Room # is 3335.