Ways to teach… The Start of A-Level Physics (16+)


Thomas and Robin return after an extended break, inspired by a Tweet from Ruth Cheesman, who joins us to ask for tips to get started with her A-level class this week (good luck Ruth!).

We also welcome Sarah Dowd to help answer Ruth’s query, Sarah teaches at UNIS in New York and joins to share her practice in the first of two upcoming appearances (she’ll be back in a few weeks to talk ChatPhysics!)

Thanks to all the contributors via Twitter who came up with some great tips which we’ve summarised below (although you really should listen because Sarah and Ruth are great).

Assume they forgot – year 12s are just year 11s who have had 3 months to forget everything. Ask them to pick up a copy of the CGP book, Head Start to AS Physics. Sarah particularly liked its focus on the skills they should have ‘in the bag’ from GCSE.

Practical focus – practical work gives them a chance to think, collaborate and develop ideas. An open-ended measurement task works well (see the links section for “How long’s a piece of string”). It also gives you a chance to re-discover your inner 6 year-old, says Sarah: “Why? Why? Why?…”

Choose questions carefully. Problem-solving and question-answering are central, but be careful to tailor them at first as they develop their skills. Carefully look at past paper questions to ensure suitability, and set them going with Isaac Physics early. We don’t mention him in the podcast, but don’t forget The Science Doctor (aka Friend of the Podcast, Dr Pete Edmunds). See the links section!

Lest we forget, technicians are heroes: Sarah reveals the list of professionals who saved her life through her career.

Whatever subject you teach, there are some good principles to help any new 6th former settle in, so help them by coaching them in or teaching them study skills. For example developing a study plan and / or time management (8 hours for sleep, 8 hours for study, 8 hours for you!)

A lot of discussion on developing note-taking skills: some favoured scaffolding, some favoured question-led notes. Scaffolding of notes varied, so try some strategies and see which work for your group. Sarah was a fan of booklets (try and leverage others’ efforts here – again, see Science Doctor in the links). Sarah recommends using the Visualiser and the Apple Notability App.

Worked examples are important (I believe the young folk call it modelling) but as with questions, think carefully about what skills you are trying to develop.

Try and remember a bit of Showbiz – the “awe and wonder”. Sarah wins here with a rooftop in NYC and a tank of Liqui Nitrogen.

Thomas reminds us that progress is not linear in year 12: expect a hockey stick progress graph, and keep the expectations high. Sarah’s advice on how to deal with stroppy and upset students should be on a plaque in every classroom: you’ll have to listen to find out though…

We’ll be back soon, and as always, we want to hear what you want to discuss… if you fancy guesting, even better.

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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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