No Series: Potential Energy: Problem Solving with Technology

Potential Energy: Problem Solving with Technology

Lesson Objective: Understand how height and mass affect potential energy
Grades 9-12 / Science / Physics


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. Why does Mr. Sherred begin by having students read?
  2. How does the four column method help students break down problems?
  3. What can you learn from Mr. Sherred about using technology in the classroom?


  • Private message to Dorette McKenzie

Mr. Sherred had the students read first because there was some important information that they had to have before they could actually solve the equation.  They had to have some background knowledge of gravitational force and the formulas.  Using the four columns notes was very effective as it was breaking the problems in parts and the problems could readily see the progression leading up to the solution, and it was an effective way to organize notes.  Mr. Sherred's lesson was very effective as it has shown me how students are in control of their learning and he is the facilitator.  Hence, he has more time to observe and move around the room to clarify any misconceptions or help students.  Of importance, is the fact that gravitational force is a very abstract topic and so using the technology for students to actually experiment with is bridging the gap where is bringing real-world into the classroom.

Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Anjeleigh Partridge
I like the way that he has a site set up and they are going to log into the site, do the assignment and utilize the knowledge just obtained while recalling previous information. The use of the word exploration, takes the lesson to a new place for the students.
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  • Private message to Anjeleigh Partridge
Good proximity and students are engaged! Good! They are taking notes as well and that is awesome! Used the Gizmo! Great!
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  • Private message to Patty Hughey
Loved the modeling and the questions that were asked during the lesson.
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  • Private message to Jennifer Carr
Thanks for modeling how to ground your science lesson in a piece of text.
Recommended (2)




    Jim Sherred VO/OC Today we're going to be working on casts.



    Jim Sherred VO/OC Today we're going to be working on casts. We're going to start with a scavenger hunt. We're going to try to find all the supports that are embedded in this, in this page.

    Jim Sherred VO/OC My name's Jim Sherred.

    Jim Sherred 9th Grade TechBoston Academy, Dorchester, MA

    I teach physics to the 9th grade at TechBoston Academy which is a Boston public school in Dorchester.

    Jim Sherred OC The first thing that we're going to do is a scavenger hunt. So on this paper, can I have Judy read the top part?

    Judy OC Before we actually do the work on the page, I want you to find as many of these supports as you can.

    Jim Sherred VO/OC Today, my students are going to be going onto the Cast Website. The students are going to do a scavenger hunt. I'm going to have them go to a page where there are all sorts of supports embedded. So they're going to looking for the "hint" buttons. They're going to be looking for the "remind me" buttons. They're going to try to find all the videos. And that are meant to support them through this page which is dealing with calculations about acceleration, what acceleration means.

    Male Student In Gray Shirt VO/OC There's a listen button on the left hand side of the page that will read the text for you. This would help you focus on the reading or help if you didn't know how to read some of the words.

    Jim Sherred VO/OC Okay. So notice I said that there's a listen button so that's this button right here.

    Jim Sherred VO/OC Most of our learning is going to be about energy going forward. And that's going to be brand new content for them. So I want them to understand that the supports will be there. That all that help is embedded for when they do find that. The idea is all the questions that I would answer for them are embedded in the platform so that they're available for students that need them.

    Jim Sherred OC For example, what does this button right here say?

    Male Student #1 VO .

    Jim Sherred OC/VO It says remind me. Okay. So you couldn't have a button like that in a textbook. But on the web if you didn't know which equation to use for this, you could click the remind me and it comes up. It says use the acceleration equation.

    Jim Sherred OC The scavenger hunt is an activity that just makes the students learning visible to me so that I can see that they're learning what I'm expecting them to learn.

    Jim Sherred OC Ovid, what does that video help you with?

    Ovid OC It helps you with how you got to understand the between...

    Common Core: Determine The Meaning Of Symbols & Key Terms Used In A Scientific Context

    ...dividing and multiplying.

    Jim Sherred VO So it helps you decide whether to multiply or divide. It does the algebra for you.

    Jim Sherred VO/OC When the National Science Foundation did this curriculum, they really did base it on the Common Core. So each of the units is around some sort of narrative or some story or some real world applications.

    Jim Sherred OC/VO We have a changing velocity. It goes from zero to 5.5. So how much does the velocity change? How many meters per second?

    Male Wearing Gray Shirt OC 5.5.

    Jim Sherred VO 5.5. The delta V is equal to 5.5.

    Jim Sherred VO/OC What's next is going to be the students actually doing some calculations. I always want to check to find out what the students are putting on their paper. I'm imagining it's going to look something like mine. And oftentimes I'll ask them to write down the next step, and I can walk around and make sure that they're writing down the right things. Because that's a different skill than just copying it off the board. So I want to make sure that the students are able to do it independently as well.

    Male Student in Gray & White Jacket OC A car accelerates from rest at a rate of five minutes per second. What is the car's velocity up to two seconds?

    Jim Sherred OC So the question is, is it in the first sentence or the second one?

    Group VO The second.

    Male Student in Gary & White Jacket OC The second.

    Jim Sherred VO The second sentence. What are we looking for?

    Group VO Velocity.

    Jim Sherred OC We're looking for the car's velocity. There's a word in there that tells us how fast it's going in the beginning.

    Male Student #2 VO Rate.

    Male Student #3 VO Accelerate.

    Male Student #4 VO Accelerate.

    Male Student #5 VO Accelerate.

    Jim Sherred VO No. There's one word that tells us how fast it's going when it starts off.

    Male Student In Gray Shirt VO Rest.

    Jim Sherred VO/OC Rest, right. If you're at rest, how fast are you going? Ovid.

    Ovid VO Zero.

    Jim Sherred VO Zero. So it starts at zero meters per second. And we need to figure out how fast it's going at the end. Right?

    Jim Sherred VO/OC On this particular page in Cast, the standard that is most relevant is being able to use symbols to figure out problems. And the relationship among variables is also, is also what this whole lesson is about.

    Jim Sherred VO What do you measure in seconds?

    Male Student #6 VO Time.

    Jim Sherred OC/VO Time, right? If I look at my, if I look at my watch, it's going to have a second hand. So I know that time is equal to how many seconds?

    Male Student In Red Shirt OC Two seconds.

    Jim Sherred VO Two seconds.

    Jim Sherred VO/OC I measure success in my class in a lot of different ways. I'm lucky to teach physics in a lot of ways because sometimes there's a numerical answer that I can check. For example, with the four column method, I'll ask them to assign a point for each of the columns. So maybe the students don't know how to do the math but they're able to figure out what it is they're suppose to solve for. I believe kids should, students should get credit for that.

    Jim Sherred VO Acceleration is equal to what?

    Male Student In Gray & White Jacket OC Velocity divided by time.

    Jim Sherred OC/VO The change of velocity divided by the change in time. Okay. So the correct answer to that, only three people got that one right. It's the velocity that has to change. All right.

    Jim Sherred OC I've definitely bought into Standards. I, that's where I start. It's where I'm at. It's where I live. I think it's made me more rigorous. I think that it's held me to a standard.

    Jim Sherred OC/VO Is that momentum, acceleration, displacement or speed? What is kilometers per hour? Don't say it. Put down on your paper or click it into the machine.

    Jim Sherred VO/OC I do incorporate a lot of what the Common Core is about. The, you know, story's important to me. Narrative is important to me. I understand my students need to be successful at text even if they are struggling readers. That they need to be successful at figuring out what text means in order for them to be successful and not just physics but classes and going forward in life.

    Tch Teaching Channel

    Special Thanks To Jim Sherred And All The Students And Staff At TechBoston Academy In Dorchester Massachusetts

    Executive Producer/Director: Nancy Saslow
    Editor: Steve Eagleton
    Director Of Photography: Eli Gamson, Jeb Bergh
    Sound: Carlos Pulidos
    Production Assistant Ryan Maslyn
    A MEg TV Production For Teaching Channel
    ©Teaching Channel 2013


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