Marc Reif 2022 APSI Summer Presentation Schedule

AP Physics C Mechanics, Online Week 1 June 20-23, 2022 (Hosted by Walton High School)

AP Physics C Mechanics, Online Week 2 June 27-June 30, 2022 (Hosted by Walton High School)

AP Physics 2, July 11-15, 2022, anticipated to be in-person at Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas

AP Physics 1 for New Teachers Online, July 18-22, 2022 (Hosted by Rice University)

AP Physics 1, July 26-29, 2022, anticipated to be in-person at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, Little Rock, Arkansas

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AP Classroom (selected) Vocabulary

Some basics for those new to the College Board’s Question and Resource Database for AP students and teachers. Possibly easier than reading through the College Board’s FAQs. Please notify me of any errors or omissions.

Publicly Available

These have been released to the public. They may (possibly) be found posted on the College Board’s AP Central website. You may use these questions in print or online. You do not need to use the lockdown browser. 

Teacher Use Only 

Questions that are included in the AP Classroom database but are not otherwise available. 

Topic Question

Formative questions that are intended for you to use without a grade for accuracy. You may assign a completion grade. The light bulb ( ) symbol shows a topic question. There are supposed to be at least three for each topic. Many are marked “Teacher Use Only” , a few are “Publicly Available.” You may use these questions in print or online. You do not need to use the lockdown browser. 

Secure Questions

Questions marked by the blue shield (). Most (all?) of these came from the International Practice Exams (IPE*). These are “real” AP exams that non-US students took for the purpose of earning college credit. The Secure questions are restricted. For in-person use, students should only use the questions and the solutions in the presence of the teacher. The students may not take pictures or copies of the questions or the solutions out of the classroom. Collect work on paper and scratch paper after use. For online use, these could be assigned with the College Board’s Lockdown Browser. Students should not be taking screenshots or in other ways saving images of the problems or answers.  (*=The IPE is a different exam from the Operational Exam that most US students take every year. The Operational Exam is the source of the released Free Response questions every year.) Fall 2021 – College Board no longer requires the Lockdown Browser! See below:

Personal Progress Check

Blocks of MCQs or FRQs for formative assessment. These have been written for all units. You may use them in print (FRQs only, MCQs don’t print) or online without the lockdown browser, but you are not allowed to separate them, they must be used whole. These are also Formative questions that are intended for you to use without a grade for accuracy.

AP Daily

Instructional videos by expert AP teachers on every(?) topic and skill in the course. Each is relatively brief, typically less than eight minutes long. You can assign them and see how much your students have viewed. Also useful for teachers to see how other AP teachers present a topic. 

Faculty Lecture

Longer videos (~40 minutes) by college professors, giving an overview of an entire unit. Accessible under the “Course-level Resource” tab. Check this out: The second one for APC Mechanics was given by Brian Greene, string theorist who wrote “The Elegant Universe” and starred in the TV miniseries of the same name.  

General Note about use of College Board materials. (not vocabulary)

The College Board does not allow you to post their materials on an open website or electronically mass distribute them. It is okay for you to use them with your own students on paper or electronically (preferably behind a password-protected Learning Management System). If you want to distribute publicly available materials more widely than your own classroom, you may share with people the link to where they are found on the College Board’s own website. 

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From 2-stage to Second Chance Exams

Most of my students in AP Physics 1 struggle with unit tests for a good part of the year. There are lots of reasons for this, including a lack of previous experience with physics, the difficulty of the material, and the difficulty of the tests. I do attempt to make each unit test model a mini version of the AP Exam. When a student does poorly on one of these exams, they often panic. Many are students who are used to making As in everything. They have usually done very well on tests. They don’t really have a recovery strategy when they bomb a test.  This year is no different, and perhaps a bit worse due to virtual/hybrid instruction and a reduced class time. I have a lot of students struggling with tests. 

To help out those students who bomb a test, I came up with “Second Chance Exams,” inspired by my previous experimentation during face-to-face instruction with “2-Stage Exams.” I learned about 2-stage exams from this article by Carl Weiman (Nobel Prize winner in Physics (and founder of the PhET Sims site) and others:

Physics Exams that Promote Collaborative Learning”

The article was published in The Physics Teacher. If you teach physics and you haven’t joined the American Association of Physics Teachers, go ahead and join today

Here is my own summary of how I implemented the original approach. First you write your unit test, the “Stage 1 Exam.”. Mine are usually 10 multiple choice questions and then one or a couple of free-response questions. The source of the questions is usually old AP Physics B questions modified to be more like AP Physics 1 (make them more conceptual than calculation). I also use questions I wrote myself from scratch, and a few questions modified from other sources to be AP1-like material. The grades are scaled so that they approximate the distribution of points that corresponds to an AP Exam score. Even with the scaling, some students make a panic-inducing score.

I construct a “Stage 2 Exam” by taking some of the most-missed questions from the original test and rewriting them. If they were already conceptual questions, I change them into slightly different questions. If they were mathematical questions, I typically modify them to be more conceptual. In both cases, I focus on the mistakes in understanding that students typically make on the Stage 1 questions. 

Students take Stage 1, individually, in a typical manner (paper and pencil in my classroom, in a normal year). Then, immediately after they all finish (45 minutes to an hour into a 90 minute block), I pass out Stage 2, and students work together in their lab groups to complete that assignment as a group activity. Because of time limitations, I usually actually did Stage 2 at the next class period, although that is not the approach recommended in the original article above. 

This 2-stage approach works well for building student understanding, and improves grades. The Exam score is 75% Stage 1 (individual score), 25% Stage 2 (group score).  

In the current year, teaching Hybrid model, I came up with a different approach. Class time is greatly reduced. Many of my AP students are hybrid or full virtual and small-group collaboration is more difficult. I write and score the Stage 1 version of the exam in the same way, but I have been administering it online, using Canvas. For the second stage, I did something similar to what I describe above. I wrote a largely conceptual second stage as a Google Doc. I distributed it to the students who made a score of less than 80% on the first exam via Google Classroom. Students have to answer all of the questions to my satisfaction on the Google Doc to earn a replacement score of 80% on the Stage 1 test. Once they submit their work, I comment on what they wrote and return it to them. I only enter a grade if they complete the whole assignment to my satisfaction. Otherwise the Stage 1 Test Score remains the same. Students are allowed to work with a partner(s), look things up, or ask me questions. I do have lots of conferences (face-to-face and via Zoom) with students who submitted Stage 2, but still are stuck on some of the questions. Of course, some students ignore the whole process and just let their test scores remain low. Despite that, the system does seem to be working. It relieves a lot of the panic. I can focus students on their errors of understanding. They are encouraged to reach out directly to me when they don’t understand a second (or even a third) time. And the Stage 2 tests are relatively easy to grade. 

Here is part of a “Stage 1” Free Response question (modified from an old AP Physics B exam question):

And here is the “Stage 2” version: (I just noticed I did go ahead and ask the same question twice, probably because I saw so many calculation errors on what was supposed to be a review question)`

Here is an original Stage 1 question that was conceptual

And below is a Stage 2 version of the same question:

Here is a summary of my online version changes from Weiman Model:

Reif 2nd Chance versionOriginal Weiman 2-Stage
Optional, by invitation (test score <80%)Whole-class activity
AsynchronousDuring class, immediately after exam
Students worked individually or with partnerSmall group activity
Successful completion raised grade to 80%Exam score combination of 75% Stage 1 Score and 25% Stage 2 Score

My 2020 Online version is really a kind of modified test corrections. It seems to me to have advantages over test corrections:

1. The questions are new, so students can’t just ask somebody who got it right the first time. 

2. I can focus the questions on what the students didn’t understand, based on what they wrote on the first test.

3. The Stage 2 Tests are much easier and quicker to grade than test corrections. Everybody is answering the same questions. Everybody’s assignment is the same length. I can write an assignment of the length I want to grade, rather than grading everything that the student needed to correct. 

Let me know what you think! Stay safe!

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updated – Marc Reif 2021 APSI Presentation Schedule

note: All registration is through the College Board CVent system. Use the calendar found here or click on the links below.

If clicking a link takes you only to generic information, contact me, or try one of the other links to a same-subject workshop to find a course descrition.

AP Physics C Mechanics/Electricity and Magnetism- Combined. ONLINE

14 June to 17 June (Monday-Thursday) CDT ~ hosted by Lincoln Public Schools, Lincoln, Nebraska

AP Physics C Mechanics-Only ONLINE

22 June to 25 June (Tuesday-Friday) EDT ~ hosted by Walton High School, Marietta, Georgia

AP Physics C Mechanics/Electricity and MagnetismCombined ONLINE

28 June to July 1 (Monday-Thursday) EDT ~ hosted by Walton High School, Marietta, Georgia

AP Physics 2 (ONLINE)

12 July to 16 July (Monday-Friday) CDT ~ hosted Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas

AP Physics C Mechanics/Electricity and MagnetismCombined (ONLINE)

19 July to 23 July (Monday-Friday) CDT ~ hosted by University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas

AP Physics 1 for New Teachers ONLINE

26 July to 30 July (Monday-Friday) CDT ~ hosted by Rice University, Houston, Texas

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Peer Instruction Online Update

I really like Eric Mazur’s Peer Instruction technique. You can read about how I have used it in a face-to-face environment here:

Original Peer Instruction Blog Post

This instructional technique increases student engagement (they ask if they have a question for the day when they come in!), allows them to practice their argumentation skills (Science Practice 6, Argumentation), and can increase understanding of the basic concepts. 

The basic sequence is 

1. Project an interesting multiple choice conceptual (or maybe semi-quantitative) question

2. Students answer individually (no discussion) and anonymously

3. Students view a graph of the class’s responses

4. Students discuss with each other how they responded and why. They try to reach consensus with their discussion partners.

5. Students answer the same question again.

6. The class views the responses and the teacher leads a consensus-building discussion

The way I have used it, Peer Instruction depends on students discussing face-to-face, but how do you do that with a hybrid or online environment?

One short answer is that you can do this with This is an add-on to Google Slides. It allows you to add many types of questions to a Google Slide. The students join a Pear Deck session, view the question, and enter their responses. You can then show the graph of student responses from Pear Deck, and go through the sequence above. You need to have made a slide show with the same multiple choice question in it twice. Here is an example of a Pear Deck Slide show for a Paul Hewitt Next-Time Question.

If you don’t want to use Pear Deck, or you want to try and get the effect of Peer Instruction asynchronously, I did read about a way to use Peer Instruction online without live interaction. In The Physics Teacher journal online, I read this article, Peer Tutoring in Web-based Concept Tests. The authors used LON-CAPA to collect student justifications along with their responses. Instead of interacting live, the students can view other’s justifications.

A modification of this involves providing simulated interactions. You would present the multiple choice question, have students answer, then have them view student statements about the question and the choices. Then, after the simulated interaction, they vote again. 

Here is the Paul Hewitt Next-time question that is embedded in the “Original Peer Instruction Blog Post” referenced above:

Below are a few “student” statements I wrote to go with the question, based on my memory of how this discussion typically goes.

“The scale reads zero, because the forces on the string from each side are in opposite directions and cancel out.”

“The scale reads 100 N because the string has to hold up the 100 N weight on each side.”

“I know the objects are at rest, but it seems like each object has an effect on the scale, so I guess 200 N.”

“The scale reads 200 N because the string has to hold up two 100 N objects.

“If the scale read 200 N, wouldn’t that mean that a 100 N weight was flying upwards?”

“The scale can’t read zero because we know if you touch the string there is tension in it, right?”

Please share thoughts on using Peer Instruction in the Virtual/Hybrid Classroom in the comments.

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Covid-19 AP Physics Writing “Workshop”

Science teachers want students to think like scientists, write like scientists, and investigate like scientists. Writing has special prominence in AP Physics 1 and 2.

In order to learn to write like a scientist, students have to practice writing, get feedback, respond to the feedback, and revise their writing. Using an LMS and a few simple guiding principles can make that writing-feedback-revising cycle work in the classroom.

The Covid-19 Pandemic has caused a lot of changes in the lives of teenagers and their teachers this spring. School for us closed on March 12, and we went to online instruction through Google Classroom and Zoom meetings. The College Board elected to make all AP Exams online, 45 minute exams. The AP Physics Exams this year consisted of only two free-response questions. The questions could be answered completely by typing. None of the questions required drawings, diagrams, graphing, or derivations. In previous years, all of these tasks were very important parts of the AP exams. I spent a lot of time last year training my students to do them. Now, they were going to write about the tasks, and they were free to use notes, textbooks, or Google to help them answer the questions.

So, I changed the way I wrote my assignments. I turned drawing free-body diagrams into “describe the forces” and “calculate” into “does this equation make sense”? And I changed the way I assessed assignments. I instituted a new grading scheme. I commented on every part of every assignment. Relatively flawless work earned a 100%. Students whose work had major flaws were allowed to revise and resubmit multiple times. If a student didn’t get the work up to my standards, they earned a 60%.

This system worked very well. Rather than checking for right answers, I was looking for correct understanding. Instead of getting a grade, students were getting feedback and felt compelled to respond to the feedback. It sometimes took a couple of tries for the student to get it right, but they did improve.

So, I came up with some guidelines that worked for this grading scheme:

  • Make short writing assignments, 10 questions or fewer. One page is ideal (no scrolling).
  • Assignments involve explaining a physics idea or ideas in words.
  • Make all the assignments in an easy to grade format in Google docs.
  • Give directions to the students for their response “Type your coherent, paragraph-length response in this box”.
  • Use your judgment as to whether the answer is good enough. Make a rubric or scoring guideline before grading, to make sure that you are consistently grading.
  • If a student misstates, misinterprets, or doesn’t use one of the ideas in a correct response, they must correct their answer
  • Give students low grades (60%) and demand corrections before improving the grade.
  • Write comments on each response to show them how to correct.
  • If the corrections are not correct, write a more directed comment and ask them to redo. If there are lots of mistakes on a longer document, pick only the most important questions and only demand that they redo those.
  • Grade fast so they can work on their modified response right away.

Here is an example of an assignment I wrote. Students learned this topic virtually. Below is the stem and the stimulus for part (a).

And here is the stimulus for part (b).

Below is a student’s modified answer to part (a) with my original comment. The blue check mark means that the comment was marked as resolved. The first attempt earned a grade of 60:

And below is the same students modified answer to part (b) with my original comment:

And here are the general comments between student and teacher.

Yes, the Google Classroom Learning Management System (LMS) makes this easier, but it could be done without it, using Microsoft Word’s reviewing features, for example.

The assignments were short, students knew they had the opportunity to revise and the feedback was (relatively) swift. A number of them seemed to improve in their writing as we went through the process of reviewing for the AP1 exam.

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Modeling in AP Physics 1: Pacing Guide

A/B/C Block

Marc Reif

The AP1 Exam is Wednesday, May 5, 2021.

For 2020-2021 The students in AP Physics 1 will have had no previous physics course. Most had Pre-AP Biology or Pre-AP Chemistry in the previous your. Many are concurrently enrolled in PreCalculus, some in AP Calculus (usually AB), and a few will be in Algebra II or III. 

Instruction begins on Friday, 13 August 2020 Our school is on A/B/C block. Each class meetings two 82-minute sessions (A/B) and one 42-minute session (C) every week. We have about 160 meetings before the AP Exam. There are about 34 A/B meetings  and 13 C meetings in the first semester and 31 A/B meetings in the second semester and 12 C meetings before the AP1 Exams. That is 6380 minutes or 106 hours or 4.4 complete days of instruction.  So, first semester 47 actual class meetings and second semester 43 actual class meetings. 90 days of instruction before the exam. 

Text Eugenia Etkina College Physics 2nd Edition

Note: Observational Experiments derive physics from a series of observations. Testing Experiments test a hypothesis.

Unit 01 –  1d Kinematics

Chapters 1 and 2
Constant Velocity Model, Constant Acceleration Model, 1d Vectors, Graphical Analysis, Measurement and uncertainty.

Paradigm Labs
Observational Experiment: Blinky Buggy (Constant Velocity Model)
Observational Experiment: Fan Cart (Constant Acceleration Model)
2 weeks

6  meetings

13 Aug to 28 Aug
Unit 02 – Interactions I

Chapter 3
Constant Force Model, Newton’s Laws, Reference Frames, Local gravitational force law, vector addition (primarily forces in one dimension)

Paradigm Lab
Testing Experiment: Fan Cart (Constant Force Model – intro to semi-quantitative vector components)
2 weeks 

6 meetings

Aug 31 – Sep 15
Unit 03 – Interactions II

Chapter 4
Force vectors in two dimensions, Systems of Interacting Objects, Frictional force law

Paradigm Labs
Testing Experiment: Balanced Forces Practicum; Testing Experiment: Modified Atwood’s Machine
2 weeks

6 meetings

Sep 15 – Sep 30
Unit 04 Impulse and Momentum Transfer

Chapter 6
Conservation of mass, Conservation of linear momentum in one (quantitative) and two dimensions ( semi-quantitative),  impulse

Paradigm Labs
Observational Experiment: Modeling Collisions of Carts; Observational Experiment: Modeling Impulse and Change in Momentum
~2 weeks

~6 meetings

Oct 1 –
Oct 16
Unit 05 Energy Transfer Model

Chapter 7
Work as energy transfer, models for energy storage, energy dissipation, energy and collisions

Paradigm Labs
Testing Experiment: Hooke’s Law and Elastic Energy
Testing Experiment: Transfers to Kinetic Energy
2 weeks

6 meetings

19 Oct – 3 Nov
Unit 06 Models for 2d Motion

Section 4.5, Chapter 5
Kinematics and dynamics of projectile motion, Uniform Circular Motion, Universal Gravitation and Orbits

Paradigm Lab
Observational Experiment: Projectile motion video analysis
Observational Experiment: Behavior of objects in Circular motion
~3 weeks

11 meetings

4 Nov – 4 Dec
Semester 2
Unit 07 Models for Rotation

Chapters 8 and 9
Torque and Semi-quantitative Rotational Statics; Rotational Kinematics, Newton’s Second Law for Rotation, Rotational Momentum, Rotational Kinetic Energy

Paradigm Labs
Observational Experiment: Balanced Torques
Testing Experiment: Acceleration of a wheel
~3 weeks

10 meetings

6 Jan – 29 Jan
Unit 08 Models for Oscillation

Chapter 10
Kinematics, dynamics, and energy models for mass-spring oscillator and pendulum

Paradigm Lab
Testing Experiment: Period of a Mass-Spring Oscillator
2 weeks

6 meetings

1 Feb to 12 Feb
Unit 09 Mechanical Waves and Sound

Chapter 11
Wave pulses, traveling waves, standing waves, sound
Paradigm LabsObservational Experiment: Wave PulsesTesting Experiment: Speed of Wave Pulses on a String
~3 weeks

11 meetings

16 Feb to 12 Mar
Unit 10 Electric Charge and Force

Sections 17.1-17.4
Conservation of charge, Coulomb’s Law

Paradigm LabObservational Experiment: Sticky tape
1 week

3 meetings
(no test)

15-19 March
Unit 11 DC Circuits

Chapter 19
Resistivity and Resistance, Ohm’s Law, Kirchhoff’s rules

Paradigm Lab
Observational Experiment:Potential difference in circuits
~3 weeks

8 meetings

29 Mar-15 Apr
REVIEWNOTE: This is maybe not enough review, but don’t see how to go faster. 

AP 1 Exam on Tuesday, 5 May 2021
~2 weeks

6 meetings

19-30 April

This sequence doesn’t EXACTLY follow the Unit Guides in the College Board’s AP Physics 1 Course and Exam Description. If next year, as they did this year, the College Board cuts off the last unit or more, I will have to flip Units 10 and 11 with Unit 9.

Even as I post this, I’m two weeks behind!! The Governor of Arkansas has pushed the first day of school back to August 24 due to the community spread of the Covid-19 virus in Arkansas.

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Modeling in AP Physics C Mechanics – Pacing Guide

A/B/C Block Schedule

Marc Reif

The APC Exams are Monday, May 3, 2021.

For 2020-2021 The students in AP Physics C have about half had AP Physics 1, about half have not. Most (I think) are enrolled in AP Calculus AB or BC. 

Instruction begins on Friday, 13 August 2020 Our school is on A/B/C block. Each class meets two 82-minute sessions (A/B) and one 42-minute session (C) every week.

We have about 160 meetings before the AP Exam. There are about 34 A/B meetings  and 13 C meetings in the first semester and 31 A/B meetings in the second semester and 12 C meetings before the APC Exams. That is 6380 minutes or 106 hours or 4.4 complete days of instruction. 

So, first semester 47 actual class meetings and second semester 43 actual class meetings. 90 days of instruction before the exam. 

Text Randall Knight, Physics for Scientists and Engineers, A Strategic Approach, 4ed

Unit 01 – Tools
Text Chapter 3 (vectors)
Vectors (including unit vectors), Graphical Analysis, Measurement and uncertainty, Scientific method, Calculus concepts and elementary methods.<2 weeks

4 meetings

13 August to 25 August
(optional unit)
Unit 02 -1d Kinematics
Chapters 1 and 2
Constant Velocity Model, Constant Acceleration Model, Constant Jerk model, elementary calculus~2 weeks (including test)

6 meetings

August 26 – Sep 11
Unit 03 – 2d Kinematics
Text Chapters 3 and 4
Projectile Motion, Uniform circular motion and Nonuniform rotational kinematics~2 weeks

6 meetings (including test)

Sep 14- Sep 29 
Unit 04 – 1d Force
Text Chapter 5-6
The Force Model>2 weeks

8 meetings (including test)

30 Sept -16 Oct
Unit 05 – 2d Forces, Circular Motion
Text Chapter 7-8
Applications of the force model, systems of objects, vectors (ramps, etc.), circular motion>2 weeks

~6 meetings 

19 Oct – 3 November 
Unit 06 – Momentum
Chapter 9
Momentum Transfer Model and Impulse>2 weeks

8 meetings

4 Nov – 20 Nov

This unit probably won’t require this much time, but this takes us up to Winter Break. Could stretch out earlier unit or could start energy earlier. 
Unit 07 – Energy
Chapter 10-11
Energy Transfer Model, power, potential energy functions2 weeks

~6 meetings 

(some Chap 10 energy concepts on semester exam)

30 Nov to 14 Dec
Unit 07 – Work
Chapter 11
Additional applications in work and energy~2 weeks

6 meetings

6 Jan to 20 Jan
Unit 08 – Rotation
Chapter 12
Rotational Models~3 weeks

~10 meetings

21 Jan to 12 Feb
Unit 09 – Gravitation

Chapter 13 
Gravitational Potential and Energy, elliptical orbits,
> 2 weeks

~8 meetings

16 Feb – 5 March
Unit 10 – Oscillation
Chapter 14
Simple Harmonic Motion, Pendulums (simple and physical)2 weeks

6 meetings

8 March – 19 March
REVIEW – additional depth on Calculus topics>1 month

14 meetings for review

29 March to 30 April
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Modeling in AP Physics C Mechanics – Paradigms

A paradigm is a “model, pattern, example, exemplar, template, standard, prototype, archetype.” In modeling instruction, they are typically a demonstration or lab setup that serves to focus student attention on what is important in the unit. Paradigms are presented as the subject of a student-designed lab that is usually done at the beginning of the unit, and serves to help develop the conceptual model(s) for the unit. 

If in-person school is not possible, I intend to make short videos showing the data collection of each lab. Students will “collect” the data from the video and analyze it at home.  

Next year I will be teaching Mechanics as a full-year course, so there should be enough time to do all (or at least most) of these labs.

Unit 1:Kinematics

Lab 1 – Introductory lab – Three linear paradigms in one lab

Constant Velocity ModelBlinky Buggy toy moves with constant velocity 

Constant Acceleration Model (possibly with vectors) – Physics Fan cart moves with constant acceleration. Fan may be modified by changing angle and speed. 

Vernier Fan Cart

Non-constant Acceleration Model – Sliding Chain (over a pulley) breaking the constant acceleration model. 

Lab 2 – Another paradigm later on:

Circular Motion Model – (The Knight Textbook works a bit of circular motion into 2-d kinematics) – Rotating wheel slowing with constant acceleration. Probably use a Vernier Rotary Motion Sensor with an attachment. Another possibility is a bicycle wheel. 

Unit 2: Newton’s Laws of Motion

Lab 3 – Introductory lab

Constant Net Force Model – Fan Cart (with fan directed at angles for vectors). Develop Newton’s Second Law.

Labs 4 and 5 – Later on

Connected Objects Model – Atwood’s Machine, collect a data set using the materials from which the gravitational field strength of Earth can be derived. 

Atwood Machine
Pasco Atwood’s Machine

Non-uniform Force ModelFalling Coffee Filters (Is the drag force proportional to  v or v2 ?)

Unit 3: Work, Energy, and Power

Lab 6 – Introductory lab

Energy Transfer Models – Work on a spring transfers to kinetic energy (with Pasco Spring Cart Launcher); Work on Earth’s g-field transfers to kinetic energy. Collect data with Dynamics Carts, Dual-Range Force Sensors and Motion Detectors

Pasco Spring Cart Launcher

Lab 7 – Later on

Energy Dissipation Model – Ball Bounce Lab. What does the position vs. time data of a bouncing ball tell us about energy dissipation?

Bouncing Ball Position-time data

image from Frank Noschese’s Blog 

Unit 4: Systems of Particles and Linear Momentum

Lab 8 – Introductory lab

Impulse-Momentum Transfer Model – Force-time during a collision and change in Momentum. Using dynamics carts,  Vernier Bumper-Launcher Kit (and maybe Pasco Spring Cart Launcher) 

Bumper and Launcher Kit - Vernier
Vernier Bumper Launcher Kit

Lab 9 – Later investigation

Modeling Collisions – Dynamics Cart collisions in one dimension

Unit 5: Rotation

Lab 10 – Introductory Lab

Extended Object Model – Rotational Inertia and Angular Acceleration. Vernier Rotary Motion Sensor and accessory kit again.

Vernier Rotary Motion Accessory Kit

Unit 6: Oscillations

Lab 11 – Introductory Lab

Simple Harmonic Oscillator Model – Dependent variables that affect period/frequency of a mass-spring system. I like Pasco Springs for this. Equal Length and Hooke’s Law Set. They look the same, but are different:

Pasco Equal Length Spring Set

Lab 12 – Later on

Physical Pendulum Model – Dependent variables that affect period/frequency of an extended object pendulum. Vernier Rotary Motion Sensor and Accessory kit, again. 

Unit 7: Gravitation 

Lab 13 –  Introductory Lab

Universal Gravitation Model  – Cavendish Balance (classroom demonstration, I don’t have the money to buy a balance that provides quantitative results). Thinking of either setting up my own for demo purposes, or showing the YouTube videos of other’s. 

Questions or comments? Other ideas? Please share!

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Teaching with Modeling in AP Physics

Modeling is a student-centered, inquiry-based, very successful teaching method originally developed at Arizona State University and now maintained by the American Modeling Teachers Association.

The clearest evidence that AP Physics and Modeling are a great fit is seen in the AP Physics Science Practices. These are embedded in each course, outlining the skills that should be developed by the students. Each AP Exam question incorporates one or more Science Practices. This is described in detail in the Course and Exam Description for each course. There is a set of SPs for AP Physics 1 and 2 (see below), and a slightly different set for AP Physics C Mechanics and Electricity and Magnetism.

In this post, I’ll take you through the Science Practices for AP Physics 1 and 2, and I’ll list one example of a connection with Modeling for each practice.

Science Practice 1, Modeling

“The student can use representations and models to communicate scientific phenomena and solve scientific problems”

What could be more clear! Science Practice #1 is “Modeling” and the Modeling Method for teaching physics is about training students to see science as the process of constructing conceptual models to explain nature.

In teaching with modeling, students begin most units by examining paradigms (standard examples) of each model in a student-designed lab. The students represent the behavior of the paradigm with four types of representations, mathematical, graphical, pictorial, and verbal. That means Science Practice 1 is embedded in every Modeling unit right from the start.

Science Practice 2, Mathematical Routines

“The student can use mathematics appropriately.”

In AP Physics 1/2 this Science Practice is often used to indicate an exam question that requires calculations by the student. But it is also used to indicate cases where a student has to explain WHY an equation (or a graph) makes sense, or why a representation models a physical situation. Here is an example from the 2019 AP Physics 1 released exam questions:

link to the 2019 AP Physics 1 questions

In teaching with Modeling, we use classroom discourse to accomplish the same ends. The teacher (and even other students) ask deep questions that cause students to justify the graph that they constructed, or the mathematics that they used to solve a problem. The whole class participates in this discussion, so that everybody understands WHY the techniques that were applied to create the model or solve the problem make sense. I wrote this blog post describing some of the popular whiteboarding techniques.

Science Practice 3, Scientific Questioning

“The student can engage in scientific questioning to extend thinking or to guide investigations within the context of the AP® course.

This science practice has three components:

3.1 The student can pose scientific questions.

3.2 The student can refine scientific questions.

3.3 The student can evaluate scientific questions.

In teaching with modeling, many units begin with a student-designed “paradigm lab.” Teachers demonstrate an interesting system, the “paradigm” (a pendulum, in one unit), and students (with lots of guidance and some limitations) choose what they want to investigate about the physics of the paradigm. Students pose observations and questions about the system in a whole-class brainstorm. They refine the questions in deciding what variables to test and how they can test them. And they evaluate the questions in the model-building discussion that follows the lab, where students decide what their lab results mean.

Typical graphs that students have to explain after the pendulum lab.

Science Practice 4, Experimental Methods

 “The student can plan and implement data collection strategies appropriate to a particular scientific question.

On the AP exam, this is assessed in a question where students must design a lab to answer a question. In the modeling classroom, this is a component of nearly every unit. Modeling-trained teachers give students leeway to create and carry out their own labs. This is excellent practice for AP experimental questions.

Don’t try this at home!

Science Practice 5, Data Analysis

The student can perform data analysis and evaluation of evidence.

In modeling, students must frequently collect data, construct a table, graph the data, produce a mathematical model that represents the data (and the physical system), and then explain in their whiteboard presentation their whole process and findings.

A student group’s whiteboard

And here’s an example of how the AP Exam assesses the skills developed from teaching with inquiry and modeling, also from the 2019 AP Physics 1 Free Response questions:

Science Practice 6, Argumentation

 “The student can work with scientific explanations and theories.

Argumentation involves justifying, constructing explanations, making claims, and evaluating explanations. One place on the AP Physics Exam where this Science Practice is often assessed is the “Paragraph-Length Explanation” question. There is one of these on every AP Physics 1 and 2 exam. In the Paragraph Length Explanation question, students tie together several different ideas in physics to explain the behavior of a physical system. This is quite challenging!

Modeling students should be well-trained in these skills. The skilled modeling teacher is constantly demanding that their students justify and explain physics.

Science Practice 7, Making Connections

The student is able to connect and relate knowledge across various scales, concepts, and representations in and across domains.

Isn’t this the goal of all science teachers, but especially modeling science teachers? A great example of this is the placement of the projectile motion unit in the modeling workshop I attended. Instead of being in the first unit or two, projectile motion was placed in unit 6. This was so that students could use all of the tools they have been taught in the early units: graphical models, mathematical models, pictorial models motion maps (the infamous “dot diagrams” that bedevil so many students), free-body diagrams and the whole force concept. Instead of projectiles being a scary, painful assault of obscure equations, students see it in the context of the course. It becomes both easier to understand and less scary by this simple adjustment.

Here is an example (from the released 2018 AP Physics 1 Free-Response Questions) of how the AP exam assesses both Argumentation and Making Connections. In answering this question, students must put together two areas of physics: momentum and oscillation.

I hope this all makes sense. Please comment or ask questions if you feel the need.

Go to the AMTA website ( and check out all of the resources for modeling, if you’re new to it. A modeling workshop is great background for teaching the Science Practices in AP Physics.

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