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29 August 2012

Every possible geometric optics fact from Hewitt

I'll speak more later about the Phillips Style of teaching ninth grade conceptual physics.  For now, know that we spend part of each class highlighting in the Hewitt text; most days start with fill-in-the-blank quizzes based on the facts we highlighted the previous day.  The key is, students are the first time allowed to use any personally handwritten notes for the quiz (meaning that they had BETTER get a perfect score); then the next day, we give the same quiz, verbatim, with no notes allowed.  My colleague Curtis Phillips developed this approach last year, and it worked wonders.  I'm going to use it myself, starting in two weeks when school begins.

To prepare to teach in the Phillips Style, I've got to decide exactly what's important enough in the text to highlight.  I've typed out the facts that I want my students to know.  Take a look here at the google doc I'm using as a guide.  Most of these facts are word-for-word from the Hewitt text, with the page number listed in parentheses. When I didn't like Hewitt's phraseology, I wrote my own version; anything that's different from Hewitt will be written on the board and copied by students as notes.

Now, don't think I've gone all soft in my old age.  I'm still going to expect my students to use these facts to REASON about physics.  The Phillips Style is so wonderful because it avoids the whole "duh, what's a 'normal,' again?"  When I subbed a couple of times for Curtis I was so impressed at the depth of the physics that I could cover -- and it was because I never had to remind students of the basic, basic facts in the middle of a demonstration.

More soon, hopefully.  Posts might be sporadic for a while, because I'm moving into a new house AND getting ready for the school year.


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