Even though I have taught life science most of my career and not physical science, I still feel it is important for students to understand polarity and electronegativity. If students don't understand polarity, they won't understand why the cell membrane has a hydrophobic and hydrophilic region. Understanding polarity also helps them understand protein folding and so many other macromolecule concepts. Because of this, I spend time before my cells unit reviewing the periodic table, bonding, and polarity. Here are a list of some resources you may find helpful!
The website Middle School Chemistry has a ton of free chemistry lessons and labs aimed at lower secondary grades, including this one on why water is a polar molecule. You can check out the lab here.
This resource is a cartoon called "The Bare Essentials of Polarity" and uses polar bears and penguins to help students visually understand polarity and electronegativity. I use it every year and get so many "ah-ha" moments by the end. You can download the cartoon here.
Similar to the cartoon listed above, I created this review worksheet that uses a tug of war as an analogy for polarity. It would be a great homework assignment following your polarity lesson. You can check it out here.
If you have access to computers, PHET has a free interactive website where students can play around with and observe the polarity of different molecules. You can access the interactive here.
Want to add a little coloring to your polarity lesson? Check out this polarity color-by-number activity to give your students a bit of a brain break. You can find it here.
My friend at Science with Mrs. Lau created this free electronegativity reference page you can print and have students keep in their binders. You can download it here.
I haven't tried this last lab, but it looks like a blast! Students use food coloring, paper, and shaving cream to make observations about polar molecules. You can check it out here.
I hope one or two of those links are useful to you! If you have any other favorites, drop them in the comments, I'd love to check them out!
When we ask students to review each other's work and give feedback, we often hear...
"Why did you do that?" or
"It's just wrong." or
"It's good" (even when it's not).
Teaching students to give effective feedback is hard and takes a lot of student practice. And then more practice. If you are using project based learning in your classroom, peer feedback is a vital part of the process (you can read more about PBL here). But it's worth it when you get to the point where students give feedback that is meaningful and actionable, and you are receiving higher quality work at the end. It's going to save you a lot of grading time!
So, where do you begin?
1. Always begin by modeling what good feedback looks like.
Pass out a sample lab report, essay, or whatever assignment your class will be completing. Walk the students through the strengths and weaknesses of the assignment, and show them that feedback needs to be specific in order for the person to improve. Show them how it is possible to be honest and be kind at the same time.
2. Don't ask them to give feedback on everything all at once.
It can be overwhelming if a student gets back their lab report or essay and it is covered from top to bottom in red pen. Instead, beak it down into smaller chunks. On the first round of feedback, have students look for and highlight the thesis or hypothesis and write in tips to make it more clear. On the second round have them look for and highlight supporting details or data and write in any clarifying questions. On the third round they can check for grammatical errors.... you get the picture. By breaking it down into smaller, manageable chunks you are making it easier on both the student giving the feedback and the student receiving the feedback.
3. Feedback should be actionable.
Make sure that if students leave comments, they need to be actionable. If they just write "paragraph needs work" in the margin, that isn't helpful. Why does it need work? What specifically needs to be improved? If the feedback isn't clear, the author of the assignment can go back and ask "What did you mean when you wrote this?" and get some clarification.
4. Feedback should be timely.
One mistake is waiting until the very end of the assignment or project to do a round of peer evaluations. If the assignment is due on a Friday and you wait until Wednesday or Thursday to give feedback, it can be too late. Students are busy after school with jobs and sports and need time to make edits. By giving feedback multiple times along the way, it will save them a lot of frustration and time at the end. Also, plan ahead and build in class time for editing instead of having them do it all at home.
5. Feedback can be anonymous.
Sometimes students don't want to offend or hurt feelings when giving feedback, so they only leave nice comments instead of being completely honest. By providing methods of anonymous feedback such as sticky notes, gallery walks, or removing names and numbering the papers instead, you are allowing students to be more honest in their critique. That being said, you are opening the door to negative comments as well. Be sure to go over expectations with students prior to the activity, and if problems do arise, have a way to track down the offender (try different pen colors or group them in small groups to narrow down the possibilities).
I love this video of "Austin's Butterfly" and show it to my high school students even though it is of elementary kiddos. It shows the process of giving feedback where "they were specific but they weren't mean about it."
Sentence frames are also a great way for students to give structured feedback, especially when they don't know where to begin. If you would like to check out some FREE peer feedback forms I have used with my students, you can download them here.
At the end of every school year we end our life science curriculum with geologic time. It's one of my favorite units because I get to bust out my fossil collection (If you know me, that's a big deal).
It's hard to talk about geologic time, mass extinctions, and evolution of species without bringing up climate change. All these topics are fascinating but there aren't a ton of hands on labs you can do with them. I decided to try something different this year and make my own ice cores for students to analyze. Most students had never heard of ice cores, and when I asked them how we learn about shifts in climate I got a lot of blank stares. It was a great opportunity to bring up a new topic.
Some background on ice cores:
Materials you will need:
Some troubleshooting tips:
Overall the students enjoyed looking at their simulated ice cores and I was glad I got to throw in an extra lab during our geologic time unit. If you are interested in checking out the powerpoint and lab worksheet I used for this lesson, click here. If you would like to look at additional ice core information and dig through real data, check out this site. Have fun!
One of the most common projects for invasive species is for students to make a "Most Wanted" poster. Students do research on an invasive species of their choice and create a wanted poster that includes facts about the species and what they would be "wanted" for. It can be fun, but after doing it for a few years I was looking for something different. Below are some articles, videos, activities, and simulations you can add to your invasive species unit!
This video from Ted is a great introduction to what invasive species are:
This is a fun interactive activity where students act as fish and compete for food and see the effect of invasive species on native species. Requires minimal materials!
This "Fearsome Frog" video from National Geographic is not new (it feels very 90's) but since I'm a local Arizonan my students love watching it since it hits home. This video explores how Bullfrogs are an invasive species that were brought to Arizona by the government and what people have done to try and control the population. At the end of the video I ask students to brainstorm ideas on what we could do to eliminate them from our local ecosystem.
Instead of the go-to "Most Wanted" poster, what about having students create an obituary? In this activity students create an obituary for either an invasive species that has finally been exterminated, or for a native species that has gone extinct in an area due to invasive competition.
Do you have any budding artists in your class? Or students that like to read comics? Check out this lesson plan and comic strip from Oregon State University on invasive crayfish.
If you are looking to include some literacy, newsela.com is always a great source of articles. Here is an article about how technology can be used to combat invasive species. Newsela does require you to sign up and login, but is free to use. Bonus: You can also change the lexile of any article! Great for differentiation.
Have you checked the website of your local fish and wildlife department? Arizona Game and Fish created this poster of our 10 most invasive species. Students enjoy looking at the poster and discussing how many of them they have seen or knew about. Head over to your local site and see what you can find!
In this fun "Invasion Game" from Brainpop, students act as fish competing for food. In part 2 of the game students need to manage invasive species by keeping Carp out of the lake for 25 turns. It's free and does not require a subscription to brainpop.com.
The website "Species in Pieces" is more about endangered species opposed to invasive species, but as we know many species are endangered due to invasives. This website has information about 30 animals that are endangered, gives facts about each animal, and includes a link to a youtube video. Worth checking out!
If you have the ability to get your students outside, try a citizen science project! Eddmaps.org is a website from University of Georgia built for early detection and mapping of invasive species. You need to register for an account, but you can collect data and report your findings straight from your phone. It would be fun to have your students contribute data to a meaningful and reputable project.
If you live on the east coast, this 5 module curriculum by Maryland's Department of Natural Resources includes a ton of free lessons for all grade levels. It focuses on aquatic invasive species.
I hope those help spruce up your ecology unit! If you have any other favorite lesson ideas for invasive species, feel free to leave them in the comments!
Do you have students that shut down in your class and don't do any work? Most of the time there is always a reason for this. There could be issues going on in the home, issues with friends, or health problems. But did you ever consider you as the teacher might be contributing to the problem? This is especially something teachers who like to be sarcastic at times (like me!) need to be conscious of. If this is not your personality, this blog post isn't for you. But if you like to goof and be sarcastic with students, then time for a little self reflection. Here are my top 3 tips of things we often do as teachers that we need to stop doing in order to build a better classroom culture:
1. WHAT YOU MIGHT BE DOING: Bringing up things kids did previously.
We are all human. We make mistakes. And guess what- nobody likes to have those mistakes brought up, especially in front of their friends or peers. Here are some examples:
Have you had a kid drop a beaker? Next time she comes to pick up lab supplies, don't say "let's not drop it again!" because I can promise you she didn't do it on purpose the first time, and now she won't want to participate in the lab because she is so worried about breaking something.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Instead, try to not put the student on the spot, but give gentle reminders to the entire class. Using the broken beaker example, when ALL students come to pick up their supplies, keep repeating "Use two hands please" so she gets the reminder without being singled out.
2. WHAT YOU MIGHT BE DOING: Punishing behaviors you want to see.
I know this sounds like something you would never do, but if you think about it, you've probably done it. Do you have a student that comes to class tardy almost every day? I have plenty.... and it is super frustrating. Lets say Jesse has a bad habit of coming to class 5 minutes late. You've talked to Jesse about it and even called home. Finally Jesse comes to class on time and when he enters you look at him and say "FINALLY!" or "Am I seeing things?" Even if you are joking, these comments will likely make Jesse feel uncomfortable when he should instead be getting positive reinforcement.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Instead, reinforce the behavior with a positive comment like "Hi Jesse, I'm so glad to see you!" or "I really appreciate you making an effort to be here early today."
3. WHAT YOU MIGHT BE DOING: Being inconsistent with with consequences.
This is the number one thing students will call you out on if you ever do it. For example, you walk by Vanessa who should be on task but is on her phone and you say "Vanessa, please put the phone away." Then 10 minutes later you see Ricardo on his phone and take it away until the end of the class period. I can promise you, Ricardo isn't going to give up that phone without an argument if you aren't being equitable.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Try and do your best to be consistent with your consequences at all times. While there are sometimes exceptions to this rule (IEP accommodations, doctors notes for extra bathroom breaks, etc) try and be conscious of being fair to all students, even the ones that are repeat offenders. And when you do make a mistake and a student yells "that's not fair!"... own it. They will respect you more when you admit you were in the wrong opposed you answering "life's not fair" (even if that is what is crossing your mind).
Overall, building positive relationships with your students is key to them learning. As Rita Pierson says, "kids can't learn from people they don't like." So even when you are having a bad day and you want to crawl under your desk and cry (I've been there), try your best to take a deep breath and build the kids up, not down.
Every year, we celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd. If you have some flexibility in your curriculum, it is great to take a day or two and do some fun Earth Day activities. If you already teach science, it is really easy to pick a topic that should fit into your curriculum. I've compiled a list of activities, projects, articles, and movies you can use this month. Find one or two that catch your eye and have fun!
LABS and ACTIVITIES
Carbon Footprint Calculator- Have students calculate their carbon footprint at www.footprintcalculator.org. If you would like a worksheet to accompany the activity, click here.
Quadrat Biodiversity Survey- Go outside and have students complete a biodiversity survey. You can mark off quadrats with string, meter sticks, or even borrow hula hoops from the PE teacher. Here is a worksheet you can use for this activity.
Air Quality Lab- How clean is the air you are breathing? Use this simple 2 day lab to look at particulate matter in the air. (Microscopes required).
Learn About Acid Rain- If you are lucky enough to have rain during April, collect some of that rain water! Have your students compare the pH of tap water, bottled water, and rain water. They will be shocked how low the pH of rainwater is (It is generally around 5.6)!
Build A Water Filter- Millions of people around the world don't have access to clean drinking water. Challenge your students to build a water filter with every day resources. Here is a free lesson to get you started from NASA.
Urban heat islands- Here in Phoenix, we have a major urban heat island problem. If you live in a large city, chances are you do too. Teach students about urban heat islands, and have them go outside and record temperatures of different materials on your school campus. Here is a lab worksheet you can use.
Build a Solar Cooker- If it is warm enough where you live, solar cookers are really fun to make! I let students use whatever materials they want. I've had them bring in shoe boxes, pizza boxes, and even pringles cans. Cook up some smores and have a gooey treat.
Simulate an Oil Spill Cleanup- This lesson from National Geographic is really engaging! Students use vegetable oil, water, soap, food coloring, and other inexpensive materials to simulate an oil spill and analyze the best way to clean it up. You can check it out here.
How Much Waste? Have your students see how much trash they produce by having them carry their trash around for a day. Give each students a grocery bag and the next day in class they can weigh their bags and analyze what percent is food waste vs recyclables etc. You may get some groans, but it is a very eye opening experience for them!
Plan a Fundraiser- Have your students plan a school fundraiser for an organization such as Water Is Life or One Tree Planted. Even small donations go a long way!
Neighborhood Clean Up- Have students organize a neighborhood or park clean up near your school. It is also a great way to earn some community service hours they may need for classes or clubs!
Virtual Field Trip- Don't have the funding to take your students on a field trip? Try a virtual one instead! Many sites such as Discovery have cool virtual experiences for students to see things that they wouldn't normally have an opportunity to see. Here is a list of more options.
Plant a Tree on Campus- I know this sounds cliche, but honestly when I've done it in the past students really enjoy it and never forget it. I've had students that graduated come back and check on their tree. Call around to a few local nurseries, and they will often donate a tree for free to a school, or you can do a small fundraiser on campus to raise money for one. You can also check out this freebie that has students measure the worth of one tree.
Make an Infographic- Assign your students an Earth Day related topic (water pollution, renewable resources, recycling, etc) and ask them to do research and make you an infographic. Piktochart is a great and free website you can use to make info graphics. If you would like some worksheets to help guide students through the infographic making process, click here.
A Long Walk to Water- If you run a book club at your school or your library has multiple copies of this book, you might want to give it a try. It is a really quick read about kids in Sudan who struggle with having potable water.
Pacific Garbage Patch- Have your students heard of the Pacific garbage patch? Find an article on it (such as this one on newsela) and have students read about pollution in our oceans. Have them brainstorm ways to fix this problem.
MOVIES & DOCUMENTARIES
Below is a list of documentaries and movies that are related to sustainability, conservation, and climate change on our planet. Preview before showing to make sure they are appropriate for your students.
Story of Stuff- This Youtube channel tracks consumer products from production to landfill. Choose a product you think your students might be interested in.
The Lorax- The original is available on Youtube.
Chasing Coral- available on Netflix.
Before the Flood- available on Netflix.
One Strange Rock- available on Netflix.
The Boy who Harnessed the Wind- available on Netflix
No Impact Man
When I switched from teaching middle school to high school, my new district required all new hires to participate in a new teacher program our first year. Even though I already had 5 years of teaching experience, I took monthly classes with a professional development specialist whose job it was to help navigate teachers through that first year of teaching (which we all know is the toughest year!) The PD specialist who ran the class and came to observe us was phenomenal. I will be forever grateful for some of the nuggets of wisdom she shared with me.
One topic I remember coming up was the issue of students coming to school without paper or pencils. She said she would often walk into a classroom, see a student sitting there not working, and ask them why. Often times they would respond "because I don't have a pencil and my teacher won't give me one." She taught us "If your biggest obstacle in the classroom is a pencil, you are in good shape. JUST GIVE THE KID A PENCIL."
I know you know that kid. The same kid who comes in every.single.day without a pencil. And it's especially frustrating when the day before you said, "just keep the pencil so you have one tomorrow." And they still lose it. As I sat there and listened to her words I self-reflected... had I ever denied a student a pencil? Luckily I don't think I had, but I know I had made comments in the past such as, "Again? You just asked for one yesterday!"
Recently I came across this poem written by Joshua T. Dickerson that really spoke to me:
The reason I'm writing this blog post is because I shared it on my facebook page and it got quite a few shares and comments. A handful of teachers voiced their frustration with the pencil issue. Luckily enough, the author of the poem came across the post and chimed in on why he wrote it. His comments are shared here with permission:
"Around the beginning of each school year, my poem usually goes into heavy circulation and sparks numerous debates. People always ask me, why did I write the poem.
First I will start out by telling you, what this poem is not. This poem is not an attack towards educators. As a former classroom teacher, I know about the long hours, the challenges of teaching students, the frustrations, and difficulties. I have the utmost respect for teachers, administrators, and anyone else who serves in the education arena, who is striving to do their job in the correct way. This poem is not written for the children who do not make an effort to positively impact their own education. While reading the poem, you will see the tremendous amount of effort that the student is making. Educators are some of the most underpaid people in the world!
Now on to why I wrote the poem. I wrote the poem for those children in extreme poverty. Their are children around the world that do not have basic things that we take for granted. Lights, food, running water, heating, and air is not present in all homes.
I wrote this to give a voice to the students whose parents or guardians have not given them school supplies. In presentations the question always comes up, "what about the kids with iPhones and Jordan's"? My response is that younger children don't purchase those items for themselves. In reality we have children who are punished because their parents or guardians made the decision to buy those things. It's not the teacher's fault, but also not the child's fault. It is my wish that we would have a conversation with the child and parent before jumping to a conclusion that neither cares about education.
I wrote this for the child who may simply forget a pencil. As an adult, I've come to a meeting without a pen before. My own children have forgotten supplies. It happens.
When I present in high schools, people say that their children are older and should be held accountable. I agree. They should be held accountable. However, I always stress to not assume that the child has been taught the lesson of valuing school supplies. At least first have a conversation with the student and the parent. As a father, I realize that my teenager still needs parenting and coaching.
Finally, I wrote this to highlight poverty. Poverty exists and it has a tremendous impact. Those who are born and raised in poverty have a higher chance of dying at an early age, not finishing high school, or being incarcerated. Often times it is forgotten or conveniently looked over that years of research has shown that poverty is difficult to climb out of and nearly impossible to climb out of without an education. I pray that it inspires someone to continue the fight of working with students and parents that truly need us most."
I loved having the author's insight on the poem. So many things rang true for me as I read. Just because a student has an i-phone does not mean they can afford school supplies. Maybe the phone was a gift. Maybe they got it an unconventional way. Regardless of how they got the phone, why do we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking "poor kids can't have nice stuff?"
Another common complaint I heard teachers voice was "I give out pencils but they just break them." I think when this happens our immediate thought is "they don't respect people's property." And maybe in some cases this is true. But it could also be because they are trying to get attention from you. Or maybe they have already mastered the material and are simply bored. Next time this happens, ask them why they broke it, and calmly explain to them your perspective and why you feel frustrated.
Reasoning aside of why the student doesn't have a pencil, I wanted to share some tips on how you can handle the situation to make it less of an issue. Try one way that works for you and your class.
1. Try a collateral system.
All students at my school are required to wear school IDs on a lanyard. If a student needs a pencil, they just leave their ID on my desk and grab a pencil. When they return the pencil, they get their ID back. If your students don't have school ID's, they could leave behind headphones or something else from their backpack.
2. Try a sign-out system.
I've seen some teachers buy magnetic clips, put them on the whiteboard, and clip a pencil to each one. When a student needs a pencil they sign their name on the whiteboard and erase their name when the pencil is returned. (Download a free cute sign from the Lone Star Classroom HERE)
3. Try golf pencils.
While these aren't ideal because they don't have erasers they will do the trick. You can buy a box of over 100 golf pencils for a few bucks so you won't break the bank.
4. Try a reward system.
If it's not the majority of the class but instead the same darn kid every day asking for a pencil, try a reward system. Maybe they are forgetful or maybe they truly don't see the value in not losing or breaking the pencil. Regardless, some sort of reward may help. Tell them if they keep the same pencil all week without losing it they get a reward on Friday. It doesn't have to be big- maybe a piece of candy or 5 minutes of free time at the end of class- but if there is an incentive to not lose the pencil they just might keep track of it.
5. Sell them at cost.
During August back to school sales, I stock up on pencils while they are cheap. During those sales I can get a 10 pack of mechanical pencils for $1.99 (and wooden pencils even cheaper). If a student needs a pencil and wants to keep it instead of returning it at the end of class, I charge them a quarter and its all theirs. Note: Yes, there are often school rules about not being able to sell things on campus. However, as long as you aren't making a profit but just selling them at cost, you shouldn't have a problem with administration. If you are worried about this, check with admin first.
6. Get some donations.
If money for pencils is the issue, there are ways to not spend your own. First, I'd ask your administrator or department head if there are pencils you can have (there probably are). You can also reach out to parents or even do a Donors Choose request to get school supplies.
I hope one of these methods works for you! Because truly there are a lot of issues our kiddos are dealing with as teens, and fighting for a pencil should not be one of them. Have another method that works for you? Leave it in the comments!
Card sorts are one of my favorite tried-and-true ways to formatively assess my students. I use them all the time!
1. You can use them at the beginning of a lesson to check for prior knowledge
2. You can use them in the middle of a lesson as a checkpoint for the lesson
3. You can use them as a form of exit ticket
4. You can use them the day before a quiz for students to self-assess
I've found they are great for my ESL students and tactile learners. Once they are sorted, have your kids read them out loud to get your ESL kids talking and practicing vocabulary.
Are you sold yet? It's super easy to make your own! For example, suppose you are learning mitosis. All you have to do is look up a picture of the phases of mitosis on the internet, and print off multiple copies (I have 16 lab tables in my room, so I usually make 16 sets and have students work in pairs). Next, cut them up, paperclip together, and voila! (Bonus: if you have a laminator or your school library can laminate for you, it makes them more durable from year to year).
Since I have so many sets, I needed a way to keep them organized that worked for me. The best (and cheapest) way I've found to organize my card sorts, task cards, and review puzzles is in small manila envelopes. I write the topic on the front and they are placed in order that I use them (quarter 1 through 4) in a filing cabinet.
If you are interested in checking out the ones I have pre-made, CLICK HERE. I'm always posting new sets so check back! If you would like to request a set, leave them in the comments and I'll try my best to get them made. Happy sorting!
It's almost Valentine's Day! When you teach teens, it can be hard to fight the candy and hormones.... so how about embracing the holiday instead of fighting it? I've compiled a list of Valentine themed activities you can do this year.
MIDDLE SCHOOL IDEAS
1. Make borax crystal hearts! Borax and pipe cleaners are super cheap and students love watching the crystals grow. You can find directions on Steve Spangler's site here.
2. What is the most genuine present you can give your Valentine? Your own DNA of course! Do a DNA extraction of cheek cells, put the DNA into a microcentrifuge tube, and allow students to take their DNA home or give it to their Valentine. Need directions? Check here.
3. If you teach about plants, make some red and pink color changing flowers! This experiment takes a few days, but students enjoy coming in each day to watch the petals change color. You can find directions for this lab here. A few tips: Don't spend a lot of money- look for discounted carnations that are a week old. Also, I've found that leaving the flowers out of water overnight so the stems are nice and dry helps, because when you put them in the colored water they will be nice and thirsty and absorb the water faster.
4. This fun "secret message" demo uses a pH indicator to reveal whatever secret message you want your students to see. Have a hidden note revealed from their secret valentine! It's available free from Nitty Gritty Science and can be downloaded here.
HIGH SCHOOL IDEAS
5. If you are teaching genetics, this speed dating activity is a blast! I put up lights around my classroom and moved the desks in long rows so students face each other. Each student gets assigned a different monster and they rotate around the room on different dates, completing punnett squares with each date. At the end of the 3 dates they pick a monster they would like to go on a second date with. Its a valentine's day they won't forget! You can find the lesson here. I also have a symbiosis version here.
6. If you teach biology and classification, have students create a dichotomous key using candy hearts. They can classify traits such as color or number of letters on each heart. They are really inexpensive to buy and students can eat them at the end!
7. Your students are probably a little young to have match.com accounts, but they are still familiar with dating websites. In this activity, have students create a dating profile for a famous scientist. They come up with some creative ideas! You can find the lesson here.
8. Check out this "Vanishing Valentine" activity from Flinn Scientific. It is a great demo if you have covered oxidation-reduction reactions.
9. No matter which grade you teach, these anatomy valentines from Gnature with Gnat are adorable! They have phrases like "I want tibia your valentine" and "urine my heart." Tape a piece of candy on them and your students will definitely feel loved. You can download them for free in her TpT store by clicking here.
I hope you and your students have a fun day!
Be sure to check out other holiday blog posts I have to read about activities you can do throughout the year!
When teaching physical science, motion is by far my favorite unit. You can do so many fun experiments ranging from motion graphing and building rockets to Newton's laws demos. Any time you can incorporate graphing into the curriculum it is great since creating and reading graphs is a skill that will help students throughout both math and science.
One product you can use for motion graphing is PASCO's wireless motion sensor. This sensor works on bluetooth and is completely wireless, so students can move around the room without worrying about tripping over cords. If you have laptops you can even do your lab outside where you have more room to space out! Simply charge the motion sensor with a USB cord and it's ready to go.
To use the motion sensor, you need to download PASCO's free Match Graph software. (This was the only hiccup I had when using the motion sensor- if you are using school computers that require I.T. approval to download any software, you will have to put in a help desk ticket. Once it was installed by my tech department it worked like a breeze).
When you load Match Graph, you will see a main screen where you can switch between position-time graphs and velocity-time graphs. I always start with position-time graphs because they seem easier for the students to grasp. Next, have the students in each group type their name in the top so they can all take turns (more on this in a minute). When students are ready to begin, I have them hold a large whiteboard (any large flat surface works) in front of them- this seems to help the motion sensor detect them easily. The students will need about 4 meters of clearance behind them, so space your groups out around the room.
Once students hit record, a red line will appear on the screen and show their motion. The goal is for them to match the template shown on the screen. Students can change out between 9 different templates for each graph type. I like to let students play around with this lab before I've actually taught what position-time and velocity-time graphs look like. This allows students to use inquiry and figure out the difference between the two types of graphs.
Each time they take a turn Match Graph shows a score in the bottom right corner of the screen. This is GREAT for easy grading. All you have to do is walk around the room, have them pull up the scores under their name, and you can record their highest score. It gets competitive!
The front of the sensor turns 180 degrees, so you can turn the sensor so it faces up, place it on the ground, and measure the motion of objects in free fall. Have students explore gravity, air resistance, and gain a deeper understanding of slope. (I always try and time this unit at the same time students are learning slope in algebra). Match Graph is truly user friendly and you won't have issues with students trying to learn how to use it. Your students that are kinesthetic learners are never going to forget this lab!
Make sure to check out other resources PASCO has to offer on their website. In their digital library they have a TON of free labs you can download. Be sure to bookmark it for later!
(Note: This is a sponsored blog post from PASCO)