Reformed Physics Teaching in SPH4U

I have adopted Chris Meyer’s Reformed Physics Teaching method for SPH4U and I have been incredible impressed!

We have finished the intro unit and the first major unit on kinematics, and I  (and some of the students already) have seen great value from the strategies he uses.

The courses he has created are collaborative-, inquiry-, and critical-thinking-based. It involves:

  • students working through tasks as a small (3-4 students) groups that guide them through their learning
  • daily homework so students can practice individually (typically 1-2 problems)
  • collaborative group problem solving challenges
  • quizzes/tests (which have a collaborative component at the beginning)

One very interesting and important aspect is how students are taught to solve physics problems. Instead of focusing on the the mathematical solution only, the students need to show their understanding using sketches, motion/force diagrams/vectors, word explanations, and evaluations of their answers (this is why homework are only 1-2 questions, as it takes much longer to do each one).

As someone with a looooooong education in physics, I see this aspect of the course incredibly valuable. Knowing how to crunch the math and having a true understanding of the physics are two very different things, and this focus on the understanding will help students* immensely as they move forward into their post-secondary education. So, even though the problems take much longer to work through, it forces students to understand physical situations and concepts from different angles, therefore increasing their understanding.

This is certainly a more challenging method for students, but one that will come with a lot of pay off if they put in the effort.

* and I definitely see a difference in my own understanding!

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Flipped Update in 3U/4C

So there goes my goal of doing a reflection each week, but I’ve decided not to give myself a hard time about it! Much more important that I do any reflection, than if I do it on a schedule.

We are now three weeks in, and the first unit tests are coming up already!

My 3U/4C split class has been running as an e-flipped classroom, as I like to call it. Instead of the traditional flipped model where students watch lectures at home then do their homework in class (and therefore get the opportunity for guidance from their teachers during this process), I’m using a model where I am acting as a curator of various types of already created  internet resources, and I add in mastery checks, labs, assignments, and other assessments.

Now before you get all excited that I’m amazing in coming up with this, you must know that I totally stole it from Heather over at BYOD, ASAP – who is an awesome math and science educator.

This model saves me time in that I don’t have to create resources and/or videos, but can use those already made and used by other educators. I can work in all types of assessments into the lessons as the “things students need to hand in”. My time is also saved because Heather has sent me her 3U lessons. So, I just need to edit those a bit and add in the 4C lessons.

This lets the students work at their own pace, and on completely different topics when necessary (for example, unit 3 will be dynamics for the 3Us and simple machines for the 4Cs).

I have good feedback from the students so far because of the freedom it affords them, and they like the variety of resources they are learning from.

Some concerns that have come up are when do the students know they’ve done “enough”?(there are mastery checks for each lesson that have questions in a similar style to what they will see on the test); and the freedom can be a stumbling block for a few who either get easily distracted or overwhelmed.

I am being as supportive as I can by answering any questions, giving mini lectures, and giving feedback on assessments and allowing students to revise their work. I am also being transparent as to what will be tested and what is important for them to learn by giving them the mastery checks and a list of success criteria.

The first unit test will be on Thursday or Friday this coming week and, I’ll be honest, I’m nervous. I know the students are too. It’ll be a test on whether this strategy is effective, especially in their eyes.

Stay tuned for the results, and I’ll also update on what’s going on in my 4U class.

Posted in flipped classroom, Learning, physics, Reflection, teaching | Leave a comment

Week 1 (+ a bit!)

The idea was to do my reflection posts on Sunday evenings, but – as usual – things were a bit busy and hectic. So, here it is!

Well, I made it through my first week of teaching in a public high school, and came out relatively unscathed!

The 4U class started with the intro unit from Reformed Physics Teaching (seriously check this resource out if you teach physics – it’s VERY well done) and learned about how to answer written questions by making their answers more scientific, set goals, learned what good group work looks like, measurements & numbers, and we started solving our first Fermi problems.

The split (3U/4C) class worked all week on a math skills review that included things like manipulating equations, scientific notation, significant figures, converting units, and graphing. They had a quiz on this material yesterday, and most did very well.

There were definitely some things that came up that I did not plan for.

Being my first time starting a high school course, I didn’t know what the first day entailed! The 4Us are with me for homeroom, and that meant handing out lots of papers, getting them to get them signed, collecting fees, giving/getting locker combos and more. That, combined with an assembly the first day, meant we lost the first day completely.

I also was not prepared for the number of students adding/dropping courses, or for students not showing up (or leaving in the middle of class and not coming back).

With my room being newly renovated, there have been some technical issues (no computer, couldn’t connect to the projector, no sound, I can’t get on the attendance system, etc). It also means that all the physics equipment is in another room down the hall and around the corner…and I don’t know what’s there, or where it is.

The learning curve has been high, and I’ve had some not-so-great moments, but I’ve already caught myself thinking “I love this job!” more than once.

Posted in Learning, physics, Reflection, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Things have changed greatly since my last post!

I applied for a couple LTO postings, got an interview for one, and received the job! So, instead of supplying to begin my (public) high school teaching career, I’ll be teaching a grade 12 physics course (SPH4U) and a split physics course (SPH3U/4C)!

In looking at tons of resources, I have settled on a couple different methods to begin each course*:

4U: I’ll be following Chris Meyer’s Reformed Physics Teaching resources.

3U/4C: I’ll be running this as a flipped-classroom in order to meet the need of both classes without the students feeling like they only have half a teacher. I’ll be adapting some great resources I got from Heather of BYOD, ASAP.

Some other things to note:

  • The 3U/4C split will start with a math skills review the first week (thanks, Andrea!)
  • The 3U students all have iPads (as part of a board-wide initiative), so that will be fun to work with
  • The board has moved over to GAFE, so I’ll be using (and learning!) Google Classroom and other GAFE apps.
  • I’ll be doing the spaghetti tower challenge with both classes this week
  • I’ve got some other intro/ice-breaking activities planned

I hope to do a weekly reflection here about how things are going, so stay tuned!

I’ve certainly got the “back to school jitters”!!

*I say “begin”, because we all know things can change quickly and rarely go as planned! I’ll see how the students respond, but I’m a big believe in the methods I’ve chosen.



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Into High School

I will be starting my transition into the high school system in September! I have been hired by the Avon Maitland District School Board for their secondary occasional teacher (OT) list, and I’m so excited!

Over the summer, I’ve been doing some professional reading (more to come), took two AQs (read about those here and here), and have been checking in on my Twitter PLN. One thing that cropped up in the latter is the HackLearning Back to School Hacks series. The first session is about choosing One Thing to be great at this year (#onething).

Since I’m starting out as an occasional teacher, my #onething (though it could be thought as many) is to really hone my classroom management skills. I think with a well-running classroom comes an opportunity for great learning!

To be clear, I don’t mean being a tyrant and having everything running “perfectly” (whatever that means). What I do mean is being able to provide a safe, comfortable, and inclusive classroom where students can focus on their learning.

I plan on blogging about my experiences throughout the year for a couple of reasons: 1) it’s a good self-reflective practice, and 2) there don’t seem to be many OT voices in the education blogosphere (please let me know if you know any others in the comments), and I think it would be a valuable resource for new teachers.

I’m looking forward to the new part of my journey into high school teaching, and I hope you’ll join me!

Posted in goals, teaching | 1 Comment

Physics ABQ

I just finished my Physics ABQ, so now I’ll have three subject qualifications (Math, General Science, and Physics).

As part of the final collaborative inquiry project, we are required to share it somehow. Since I am not teaching right now, I thought I would share it via Twitter and my blog.

Here’s a summary of our project:

Group Topic: Problem-Based Learning
Focus: Getting Started Using Problem-Based Learning in the Classroom
Sub-topics: What is problem-based learning?
How can we implement PBL in the classroom?
What does the research say about PBL?  (pros/cons)

There were 3 of us in the group, and we each researched one of the questions (I did the last one). Here is a link to the Google slides presentation we put together.

One piece of feedback that we received was it would have been nice to show an example lesson plan or how it could have been incorporated into a high school science classroom specifically. I completely agree, and gave similar feedback to other groups. So, something to keep in mind for future collaborative projects!

If you’re in need of a beginner’s guide to PBL and/or know any other teachers who may benefit, check it out and pass it on!

Posted in Learning, PD, Science, teaching | 1 Comment

Spec. Ed. Pt. 1 AQ

I just finished up my first additional qualifications course: Special Education Part 1. Here are some thoughts about the course that I included in my final reflection:

I am very thankful I decided to take this course. If I may be candid, I wasn’t all that eager to take it when considering which AQs to take first, and actually registered mostly because it was recommended to me if I wanted to better my chances of getting onto a supply list. I had also been told a course like this could be a re-hash of course(s) we took in teacher’s college, but this was so much more and now I realize what an important course it is.

I have learned more than I thought I would, and I found the readings, discussions, assignments, and CIP (Collaborative Inquiry Project) to be engaging, informative, and interesting. I feel motivated to continue to learn more about helping students with exceptionalities, and how to create an inclusive learning environment.

One of the big take home ideas I have learned in this course is that differentiated instruction and assessment, universal design, and inclusive classrooms are not only important to create equal opportunity for success and learning for students with exceptionalities, but are also extremely beneficial for ALL students.

As part of our CIP,  it is expected that we share the information somehow with other educators. Since I am not currently in the classroom, I thought it would be a good idea for me to share our project here.

Topic:  Learning Disabilities in Secondary & Post-Secondary

Focus Statement: Learning disabilities are lifelong invisible impairments that interfere with the way that students develop skills, perceive social situations, or engage in social interaction (Learning Disabilities of Ontario, 2001). Our role as educators is to provide support and a framework for students to navigate these challenges with dignity and respect as they move forward on their academic journey into and through post-secondary education.

You can view the presentation here.

Another part of our reflection was to create a list of new goals we have as a result of the course. Mine are:

  • Learning more about differentiating assessments by finding resources and doing more reading on the subject (the text book has great resources that I haven’t been able to delve into much detail yet). I would also like to meet with some teachers who teach math and science to find out what they do in their classrooms for this.
  • Putting a “toolbox” of classroom management skills together: Since I hope to get onto an Occasional Teacher list soon, I really need to make sure I have some key classroom management tools on hand. I will write a list of some I think will work for me, and review them when I need too. I also want to put together a physical tool box to have on hand when going into the classroom! This will include games, activities, and supplies that will help create an inclusive and enjoyable educational experience for the students (and myself!)
  • Resource List: As I have been doing the readings, research for my CIP, reading/responding to forum posts, I have been making notes of good resources and websites and will continue to grow this list.

One other thing I am doing, now that the course is over, is making notes (sketch notes, actually!) of some of the ideas and information that I found to be very useful and/or important.

I’ll be taking the Additional Basic Qualification course in Physics in July too, so stay tuned for that later this summer!

Posted in goals, Learning, PD, Reflection | 1 Comment