Thursday, September 6, 2012

Previewing the year's vocab and formulas

Three posts in one night... can you tell I am putting off doing paperwork that MUST be done tonight??

This year I had students do "scavenger hunt" types of questions based on the state test's formula sheet on Day 3, as soon as we set up binders.  I have never asked kids to look in any depth at the sheet before actually teaching some of the the content.

After asking them to find various variables and formulas, I also asked them to identify what they think the strangest variable in the list is.  It is so interesting to see what they pick and why.  A lot of kids chose p for momentum, or another variable from the list that uses a letter not found in the word, like Q for heat or c for specific heat or I for current.  Others chose lambda for wavelength because the symbol is unfamiliar to them.  Still others chose words like work and said that they never thought that word could be related to science.  And a lot of kids chose displacement because it is shown as delta x, and all the other delta-something variables are labeled "change in something".

While it has been interesting to see how kids think about the vocabulary and variables before teaching them, I wonder if doing this early will also serve any instructional purpose.  Will kids be more aware of the information available on the formula sheet?  Will they be more prepared to recognize the weird letter choices when they come up later in the year?  I guess we'll find out as the year goes on.

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