Today I did another round of what Frank suggested after a post on problem solving a month or so ago. I added a twist I really like. First half the groups work on one problem and half the other. I then had all the groups with the same problem get together to discuss it to make sure they knew what they were doing. then I had them pair with a group with the other problem and explain it to them, but nobody could write anything down. Finally I asked students to go work on the problem individually that was not the one they whiteboarded.
I love that this involved lots of conversation as well as a chance for students to try something on their own at the end. Tomorrow we’ll have some work time where I’ll check in with students individually to make sure they were able to solve their second problem on their own.
Yesterday I was a bit dismayed at how problem solving and whiteboarding was going. Then some people left some comments, and I tried what Frank suggested for problem 6a and b from Practice 3 here, and it was perfect. Particularly for this set of problems; the students were asked to first solve the problem using CAPM and UBFPM (constant acceleration and unbalanced forces), then to revisit it using energy. Instead I had half the class do one, half the other, then they paired up and explained their method to the other pair. After that I asked them to reconcile that the two equations were actually the same…which took a bit of rearranging or substituting slightly different variables, but they all got there eventually.
Yesterday and today helped me remember that I have seen some success (here and here) with getting kids to dialogue for problem solving, just not in the large group presentation style. That’s what’s been working for me, but I’m sure that will evolve as I get better at facilitating discussion (still got a ways to go, but happy with the progress so far). Thanks everyone for helping me out!
Recently, when students are presenting whiteboards and either (a) we get that ‘deer in the headlights’ look, or (b) something really puzzling or difficult comes up, I have been stopping the presentation to have all the student pairs discuss what they think about the topic. This does two things, I think. 1) It gets the audience more involved, and 2) it gives the presenters a chance to regroup and think about what they want to say. I’ve been enjoying this twist on whiteboard presentations.
Today we worked on problem solving with the Central Force Particle Model (CFPM). I really, really like force vector addition diagrams (FADs) here, as after a week of qualitative analysis kids understand that if the motion is uniform, then the net force should be towards the center, so the FAD helps them get the direction of the force(s) causing the centripetal force correct. Also, I have really been enjoying doing mini-board meetings for problem solving whiteboarding, as this group is doing.
Below is the force addition and free body diagrams for a group before we whiteboarded.
Here is the corrected version. I love whiteboarding!
I like to mix it up. So today when students were working in groups on problem solving, I decided to do a modified whiteboard face off by simply having two groups next to each other compare and share their solutions. The difference between this and Kelly’s version is I had every group find a partner group, so I had 5 face offs going on at once. I already do whiteboard speed dating a lot to expose kids to a variety of methods and ideas about a problem, and I will be adding this to the repertoire for that purpose as well.
Over break I thought a bit about how to get more kids engaged in discussions, particularly when everyone did the same problem (I do that a lot as we progress in a model, particularly with harder problems). I tried splitting the class into two different board meetings (where students form a circle and ask questions of each others’ boards), and I love it for two main reasons; 1) It takes class sizes of around 25 and makes the circle smaller, so more kids can be involved. 2) More importantly, I can’t be in the circle. Not once did they look to me for an answer. Not once did I feel the need to interject because of silence. I was an observer rather than a participant. I heard much more discussion from more people. Another benefit is that you can try to manipulate the groups a bit to put students who are more hesitant in the same group with folks who encourage discussion. It’s a keeper.