Literacy for Physics

We are delighted to be joined once more by Friend of the Podcast and Physics Teacher Support Polymath Carole Kenrick (@HelpfulScience) to talk about writing in Physics. Carole has put a lot of thought in to writing and breaks down in to three different reasons for writing: writing for learning, writing for remembering and writing for communication (e.g. to answer questions).

Carole is kind enough to talk us through how she teaches writing for learning and reminds us that there are other skills that can’t be ignored, such as oracy (e.g. think pair share); we need other aspects of literacy in place for good writing. Carole uses a lot of different tools with her students such as reflective writing or explaining mistakes.

When writing for remembering Carole likes to use SQ4R (SQRRRR – Survey, Question, Read, Record, Recite, Review). She has worked hard t get across the concept adding diagrams to illustrate key points and she does a lot of modelling of notes taking using a visualiser. In lockdown she has tried showing a video and then pausing it and asking what the key points are.

We then talk about Writing for Communication, We hear from Will Pope (MrPopeDoesPhysics ~ @PopeDoes), who has shared his approach to extended writing on TES. Like Carole he takes time to teach this formally.

Do you teach literacy for physics in such an explicit way? What works for you? Contact us and contribute using all the ways below.

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember), you could even email us an autio file if you are feeling really keen.

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The definitive GCSE core practical guide…

We are so privileged this week to be joined by Christina Astin (@ChristinaAstin). She wears so many hats she would keep a division of milliners employed, but she kindly talks us through some of her most recent and most important work. She makes a passionate case for school partnerships, not just in physics but across all aspects of school life, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We start off chatting through some really helpful work that Christina has done assembling a collection of free resources (or at least currently free in some cases) to support teaching the required practcials online. We’ve all been there, searching through YouTube videos for the perfect demo of F=ma… and then it’s in French. Well fret no more! Christina has done the legwork for you – see the links section for more. There’s also a link to your favourite podcast’s foray into resources. If you are aware of some resources that you feel could be included, don’t hesitate – get in touch.

Christina has been involved in Physics Partners for a long time, and is a champion of their work, building links between local teachers to help teach physics. Due to the concentration of physics teachers in private schools, this has often resulted in state-private partnerships, but PP are adamant that this must be a supportive and equal partnership, and stress the professional collaboration and the genuine desire of all teachers to help their colleagues.

Another of Christina’s accomplishments is some very slick videos she did with friend-of-the-podcast Alom Shaha and we have taken the opportunity to links to these videos and more below.

If you are wondering about enrichment during these difficult times, Christin has also let us know about the Young Scientists Journal. What a great opportunity this is for your students to explore and area of science and build their confidence. It reminded Robin of the IRIS project that he had seen during their exhibition at the Royal Society: another way of involving students in the scientific process.

Christina is a dedicated and seasoned campaigner for physics and for school partnership. If you would like to know more, or to get in touch, pop by her website.

Links

Thomas’ shuttling ball video

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nearpod

Thomas and Robin are joined by the marvellous Will White not only a great guest but also an NQT physics teacher who teachers at the school where Thomas and Robin both used to teach, and indeed where they met (there is no blue plaque – shouldn’t we write a letter or something?)  Will also has the pleasure of teaching Thomas’s daughter and works with the brilliant Wendy who we would like to clone (but who knew how bad our biology was, so wouldn’t let us try).

Will introduces us to Nearpod which is a beautifully designed teaching aid that has lots of excellent features to help you with AFL during lockdown. For example, Will introduced us to the questioning functionality that Nearpod embeds in YouTube.  He points out that maintaining focus is tough for kids and the ability to sharpen focus with a question every now and again is a great feature.

The AFL functions involved in the package are really useful allowing you to interact and see students ideas in real time, sharing answers anonymously – definitely worth checking out.  Quizlet and Plickers are alternative packages that the three of us have tried, and there’s some links below.

Will has had a disrupted (!) start to his career, but it doesn’t stop us from pinning him down about a favourite practical.  Despite becoming momentarily confused about a different science subject that we’d barely heard of, we chat about the beauty of the solar spectrum on a CD experiment (link below).

It was terrific to hear from Will and to hear how he is embracing the challenges of these difficult times.  Thanks to Will for joining us, and to you joining us to develop your physics teaching in spite of the pandemic.

Links

Make your own CD spectrometr – https://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/lab-camera-action/make-your-own-cd-spectrometer

Quizlet – https://quizlet.com/

Plickers – https://plickers.com/

Nearpod – https://nearpod.com/

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember), you could even email us an autio file if you are feeling really keen.

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Another Lockdown Lowdown

Thomas and Robin chew the fat over how they are progressing in the new lockdown. We’ve been thinking about how to backfill gaps in the curriculum, in particular practical work.

We have been making use of YouTube to draw on the generosity of colleagues who have filmed and uploaded videos, for example MissLowePhysics who we’ve linked to below. A huge debt of gratitude to all of you who have uploaded videos. And on that note, don’t forget our friend of the podcast, Lewis Matheson and his physics online channel for GCSE and A-level. You guessed it, see the link below.

Simulations are useful, and we have recently spoken with PhET, but Thomas has also been busy making some useful Excel based practical simulations.

We chat about context too. Robin has set his year 10 students a homework to watch the HBO series Chernobyl as an introduction to why e study radioactivity. He’s also been giving some colour to particle physics with year 13 by showing pictures of how the Stanford Linear Accelerator has evolved over the years and emphasising the narrative of discovery in particle physics over the last 120 years.

Literacy is coming! We will be talking about the importance of written and spoken understanding in physics soon. Until then take care and stay safe.

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember), you could even email us an autio file if you are feeling really keen.

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Good enough is good enough.

A physicist would tell you that it would be illogical to expect a non-sentient life form to change its behaviour based simply on passing a particular point on an arbitrary time scale… which is why they’re not often invited to parties. And so it is that 2021 carries on in much the way that 2020 ended, but that is no reason for the podcast not to celebrate all that’s good about the physics teaching community.

Thomas and Robin return to talk survival as we lock down again. With many teachers now doing hybrid teaching, we discuss strategies for keeping sane.

First up, if you are preparing lessons that colleagues will use, a few minutes invested in a ‘ReadMe’ to help colleagues understand what you were thinking when you planned it.

Oak National Academy is a resource that was put together by teachers to help you, so do use it – it probably won’t be what you would choose to do, but it’s good enough if it saves your sanity.

Thomas makes the point that students respond better to seeing their teacher online, and recommends OBS to those of you with a techie leaning (I’ve heard there may be some of you). This allows you to do lots of clever stuff with video and audio feeds from their PC.

Quizlet, Kahoot and Plickers are all great online tools for assessment and students like them. If you are using Teams you probably have access to MS Forms which are a really effective way of setting work and giving instant assessment and feedback.

Lean on textbooks and online resources – in normal times you may create a lot of resources from scratch because you don’t feel the textbook hits quite the right tome, but for now it’s probably good enough. Thomas mentions potential copyright problems so do check with your school’s policies and whether you are licenced to reproduce limited pages of a textbook.

Check out the resources section of your favourite podcast (see above) for lots of helpful stuff, including Thomas’s latest SIM of the experiment to find Planck’s constant.

Finally, a huge THANK YOU for all you are doing to keep physics alive during these times. One thing we can all agree on is that it’s not ideal, so please just make sure you are keeping safe, healthy and well and that you allow yourself a few quick wins to keep yourself together during this.

Happy New Year to you all

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember), you could even email us an autio file if you are feeling really keen.

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Festive Demos and Practicals

Ah, the end of term beckons! Mince pies, tubs of choccy selection and of course “Sir/Miss, can’t we watch a video?”. Thomas and Robin are both wary of 45 minutes of Shrek as a Christmas treat – Thomas tells the story of his daughter coming home and asking to see “the rest of Ratatouille” having seen the first 50 minutes 8 times!

And so we present a series of fun physics experiments that will give your students a taste of physics fun at Christmas.

Given that it’s been a tough old term and we are close to the end, we have also decided that this will be the last episode of 2020. Holiday fun is a good point to call it a day for what’s been a punishing year.

So it only remains to say an enormous thank you to you for listening, contributing, but most of all for teaching physics. Enjoy your break and here’s to a more… normal 2021.

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Thomas has a go

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Ways to Teach… Magnetism and Magnetic Fields

Excitement and a jam-packed episode this week as we tackle Ways to Teach… magnetism! We start with some feedback from last episode about extended writing in physics. Thanks to William Pope for getting in touch. See the links section below for couple of free lesson resources to help your students become better written communicators in physics… I could do with some myself.

Years of hacking away at computers trying to get ms-2 or 1.6 x 10-19 have taken their toll on Thomas(to type these, I had to open Word, type them, undo the automatic capitalisation of he ‘m’ and then copy-paste into Chrome – sigh). He is therefore happy to have had an early Christmas present of AutoHotkey, a scripting tool for Windows that allows you to map these units and constants to a hotkey, no matter which programme you are typing in. The link is in your fridge… nah, it’s in the Links section below.

Thomas and Robin have a couple of goes at sharing the ideas our dear listener has given us about teaching about magnetic fields and magnetism. We were particularly focused on Key Stage 3 – and magnetism rather than electromagnetism which we will cover later. So if you are one of our heroes – the teachers who wouldn’t naturally identify as a physics teacher – then we hope this episode gives you a few ideas.

Area or region? It’s a minor quibble, but we talk about the relative merits of both descriptions. The classic way of showing magnetic fields – iron filings scattered on a piece of paper held over a magnet – is fine but can lead to an idea that the field is somehow limited to 2 dimensions (hence Robin’s issues with the word ‘area’). We were delighted therefore to hear about the use of acetate or Perspex sheets to show the field. In theory at least you could stack one over another and show the field is in the vertical direction as well as the horizontal. Thomas makes the good point that stacking up the iron filings over the poles of the magnet can show the iron filings building in the vertical dimension.

Mark Whalley joins us to point out that you might have a magnetometer on your phone. Installing PhyPhox opens up the various sensors on your phone which may, depending on your model, include a magnetometer. Mark points out that sitting on a swing with your phone safely in your pocket can pick up the variation in the Earth’s magnetic field strength as the phone’s orientation changes.

And finally… with Christmas just round the corner, what do you get for that special someone in your life. Perfume and socks are so cliché, so scroll up and click on the ‘Shop’ link. Soon Granny will be the envy of the social club in her (TP)2 T-shirt. Why not really make her day and get her a vacuum cannon?

Links

David Cotton’s O-Level experiment for visualising field lines.

The background of the episode image thanks to Geek3, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Ranking Tasks and Resources

Robin and Thomas go for another ramble … and for a walk in the country as well.

Thomas, Albert Einstein and Robin by a pool
Albert Einstein was in charge

They start by chatting about using self made simulations to enhance your teaching (especially now that students are limited in their access to practical work). Thomas had put together a cracking simulation to find resistivity on a wire in Excel.

Thomas has been looking at ranking questions, where students are asked to rank their answers in order of confidence, and he catches up with James de Winter who recommends TIPERs: Sensemaking Tasks for Introductory Physics which is available via Amazon from the link below. James is adamant as to the value of this book, so if you are writing your note to Santa, don’t forget. I’m sure you’re on the ‘nice’ list aren’t you?

The question that arises from this discussion is: where is the support for teaching in terms of resources? We have highlighted lots of excellent examples of resources and sharing, but we wonder where the collation might come from. If anyone fancies a project collating physics resources for teachers, how about popping a bid into the IOP’s challenge fund?

And finally, an appeal for ‘how to teach’ magnetism – tell us how you teach it. Don’t assume we’ve heard your tip before, chances are you have a new spin on a classic.

Finally, yes, Thomas did make a simulation of lead thickness and gamma absorption in another spreadsheet.

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember), you could even email us an autio file if you are feeling really keen.

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Long Answers (free response questions)

How great to reach out across the pond and catch up again with Patrick Kaplo (an early hero of the podcast who teaches in Windham, NH). He has been hunkering down and adapting to new paradigms, and it is refreshing to hear that the problems we are all dealing with are pretty similar, no matter where you are in the world.

Patrick has been adapting to less opportunity for lab work with some useful online tools, like Pivot (see links below!). It’s a commercial product but it allows your students to make measurements of real-life situations and so can help with data collection and analysis skills even if your opportunities for lab work are limited. If you happen to be doing gas laws, there’s a free lab simulation that Thomas has used with some success – see the links section for more!

This week we talk about long-answer of free-response questions – those opportunities we give students to give an extended written answer. We reflect that it is often a skill that is either undervalued, or under-practised with both teachers and students finding them tough going, and generally a bit unrewarding. Robin has an attack of pomposity and argues that communication is a skill that is vital to the scientists of the future, and so written communication is worth practising.

Discussion of the issue revealed that it is a skill we teach, and at some level we all ask our physicists to plan a response, and in building these skills, you might want to spend a bit of time coaching this planning phase (using teamwork, ideas on Post-Its, etc.). As always, if you have a resource or a tip to help people out, just let us know.

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember), you could even email us an autio file if you are feeling really keen.

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PhET

Thomas and Robin meet outside, at an appropriate social distance, to remember Tim Hardingham and introduce an interview with the PhET Head of Development Ariel Paul (@DrArielPaul). Surely all physics teachers have heard of this outstanding free source of simulations and demos provided by the University of Colorado Boulder.

Support PhET!

PhET was the brainchild of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Carl Wieman, and the 158 interactive SIMS are racing towards a billion downloads. Ariel tells us about the herculean efforts that go into developing new sims and keeping them up to date. It’s resource-intensive work and desperately needs your support. If you’ve used PhET sims, please do show them your appreciation.

You can donate directly or pay 89p for their official app for the HTML5 sims (and encourage all your students to buy it too).

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John Travoltage

Brazil Nuts

Thanks to Sophie Constantine for this excellent video that explains why Brazil nuts are not especially radioactive.

https://youtu.be/Pt-SMAVN898

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember), you could even email us an autio file if you are feeling really keen.

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