Dots and Graphs Concept Builder is an adjustable-size file that displays nicely on smart phones, on tablets such as the iPad, on Chromebooks, and on laptops and desktops. The size of the Concept Builder can be scaled to fit the device that it is displayed on. The compatibility with smart phones, iPads, other tablets, and Chromebooks make it a perfect tool for use in a 1:1 classroom.


Teaching Ideas and Suggestions:

This Concept Builder is intended for use near the middle to later stages of a learning cycle on Kinematic Graphing. It provides an exceptional formative assessment and an opportunity for students to wrestle with the concepts and straighten out their understanding of the meaning of the various types of lines on position-time and velocity-time graphs.
This Concept Builder is intended as an in-class activity. After some discussion and development of position-time graphs and/or velocity-time graphs, allow students an opportunity to interact with the questions. The Concept Builder includes three activities. It is not important that students do the activities in order. If you wish to provide students with position-time graph practice, then simply try the first activity titled Position-Time Graphs. Or if you wish students to practice velocity-time graphs exclusively, then do the second activity titled Velocity-Time Graphs. We suggest that teachers using the Concept Builder with their classes should preview the activity (or view the Questions in the separate file) in order to judge which activities would be most appropriate for their students. Each question presents a dot diagram representation of three types of motions and challenges students to match the motion to one of six lines on a position-time or a velocity-time graph. 

Our summary of the three activities is as follows:
  • Position-Time Graphs: Question Groups 1-6; match each of three motions to a position-time graph chosen from among a set of six options.
  • Velocity-Time Graphs: Question Groups 7-12; match each of three motions to a velocity-time graph chosen from among a set of six options.
  • Mixed Graph Types: Question Groups 1-12; includes all Question Groups in the first two activities; questions are randomly selected from the position-time groups and the velocity-time groups in no particular order.

In order to complete an activity, a student must correctly answer one question from each Question Group in that activity. If a student's answer is incorrect, then the student will have to correctly answer the same or very similar question twice in order to successfully complete the activity. This approach provides the student extra practice on questions for which they exhibited difficulty. As a student progresses through an activity, a system of stars and other indicators are used to indicate progress on the activity. A star is an indicator of correctly answering a question from within that Question Group. Once a star is earned, that Question Group is removed from the que of Question Groups to be analyzed. Each Question Group is color-coded with either a yellow or a red box. A red box indicates that the student has incorrectly analyzed the question and will have to correctly answer it twice before earning a star. A yellow box is an indicator that the situation must be correctly answered one time in order to earn a star. Once every Question Group in an activity has been answered, the student earns a medal which is displayed on the Main Menu. This system of stars and medals allows a teacher to easily check-off student progress or offer credit for completing assigned activities.

The most valuable (and most overlooked) aspect of this Concept Builder is the Help Me! feature. Each Question Group is accompanied by a Help page that discusses the specifics of the question. This Help feature transforms the activity from a question-answering activity into a concept-building activity. The student who takes the time to use the Help pages can be transformed from a guesser to a learner and from an unsure student to a confident student. The "meat and potatoes" of the Help pages are in the sections titled "How to Think About This Situation:" Students need to be encouraged by teachers to use the Help Me! button and to read this section of the page. A student that takes time to reflect upon how they are answering the question and how an expert would think about the situation can transform their naivete into expertise. 


Related Resources

There are numerous resources at The Physics Classroom website that serve as very complementary supports for the Dots and Graphs Concept Builder. These include:
  • Minds On Physics Internet Modules:
    The Minds On Physics Internet Modules include a collection of interactive questioning modules that help learners assess their understanding of physics concepts and solidify those understandings by answering questions that require higher-order thinking. Just about any assignment in the Kinematic Graphing module makes for a great complement to this Concept Builder. They are best used in the middle to later stages of the learning cycle. Visit the Minds On Physics Internet Modules.

    Users may find that the App version of Minds On Physics works best on their devices. The App Version can be found at the Minds On Physics the App section of our website. The Kinematic Graphing module can be found on Part 1 of the six-part App series. 

  • Curriculum/Practice: Several Concept Development worksheets at the Curriculum Corner will be very useful in assisting students in cultivating their understanding, most notably ...

    Describing Motion with Diagrams
    Describing Motion Numerically
    Describing Motion with Position-Time Graphs
    Describing Motion with Velocity-Time Graphs
    Describing Motion Graphically
    Interpreting Velocity-Time Graphs
    Graphing Summary
    Describing Motion Numerically

    Visit the Curriculum Corner - Kinematics.

Additional resources and ideas for incorporating Dots and Graphs into an instructional unit on Kinematics can be found at the Teacher Toolkits section of The Physics Classroom website.  Visit Teacher Toolkits.