The Words 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 in the early to middle stages of a learning cycle on energy bar charts. There are five independent Matching Pairs activities. Each activity requires that the students make a match between a given verbal description and the corresponding energy bar chart. There are four such matches that must be made in each Matching Pair activity. Once all four matches have been made, the trophy is earned for that activity. While we describe these activities as difficulty levels, the third level may not be any more difficult than the first level. Similarly, the fifth level may not be more difficult than the third level. 

The bar charts are simple bar charts. They display the relative amount of kinetic energy (KE) and gravitational potential energy (PE) as vertical bars. There is no work bar or arrows representing energy transferred across a system boundary. Student attention must be given to phrases like slowing down, speeding up, constant speed, moving uphill, moving downhill, moving horizontally, etc.  Such phrases help students to judge if the KE or the PE is increasing, decreasing, or remaining constant. As such, this exercise serves as an exceptional pre-cursor to the use of more sophisticated bar charts.

This Concept Builder was intended as an in-class activity or as an assigned out-of-class activity for those classrooms subscribed to Task Tracker. After some lab work, some discussion of how to analyze energy values, and some guided practice, allow students to try it for themselves. Teachers using the Concept Builder with their classes should preview the activity (or view the Questions in a separate file) in order to judge which difficulty levels would be most appropriate for their students.


Getting Help:

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 Words and Charts 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. Mission WE6 of the Work and Energy module provide great complements and extensions 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.

  • Physics Interactives:
    The Physics Interactives section of our website include numerous interactive physics simulations that allow a student to visualize and explore various physical concepts. The Work and Energy chapter of the Physics Interactives includes several simulations that will serve as great extensions to this Concept Builder. Most simulations come with one or more Activity pages which are convenient for classroom use and utilize a guided inquiry approach to the use of the simulation. The following Interactives would be of interest to most teachers:

    Roller Coaster Model

    Work-Energy Bar Charts

    Visit Physics Interactives

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


    Energy Concepts

    Work-Energy Relationships

    Energy Bar Charts

    Visit the Curriculum Corner - Work and Energy

Additional resources and ideas for incorporating Words and Charts into an instructional unit on Work and Energy can be found at the Teacher Toolkits section of The Physics Classroom website.  Visit Teacher Toolkits.