The RIDE website provides numerous resources for teachers trying to address the GSEs in their classes, so why do we need this site?

Given the new NECAP tests in science, each district in the state is encountering new pressure to make sure that their science curriculum is aligned with the state assessments. Since the NECAP is aligned with the GSEs, it makes sense to use the GSEs to when we plan our courses. This site is designed to serve as a place to convert the "challenge" of aligning our teaching with the GSEs into an "opportunity" to build a statewide resource around each science GSE.

Let's face it: Creating opportunities from challenges is something teachers do well (and often).

The Challenge

One challenge that teachers face with trying to align their courses with the GSEs is that the GSEs often contain several different ideas that must be addressed with students in a thoughtful sequence. Expert teachers know that for students to develop deep understandings beyond just recalling definitions of vocabulary words, they must have opportunities to engage in a thoughtfully planned sequence of learning activities that address these topics at different depths of knowledge. "Unpacking" in this context means to fill in information for each GSE that clarifies how to teach its topics so that students can understand them.

The Opportunity

What do teachers need to know in order to be confident that they are addressing a particular GSE? This is a good question to ask and discuss across the state. Right now, we'll start with the idea that each GSE references concepts that an experienced teacher knows can only be understood in the context of other concepts. Each one of these ideas might require an instructional sequence that also addresses students' prior knowledge that is often problematic. Some of the questions that might be useful to address include:
  • What subtopics do students need to address to understand this GSE?
  • What should should students be able to do to demonstrate their understanding of these subtopics?
  • What do students need to know before they can learn these subtopics?
  • What misconceptions might students have about these topics?
  • What student products or actions serve as evidence that students understand the GSE's main ideas?
  • What activities and representations are useful for teaching this GSE?
  • What lessons or sequence of lessons help students understand this GSE?

RIScienceTeachers provides teachers with a place to "unpack" the GSEs that they address in their courses. By "unpacking," we mean making explicit the subtopics we believe as educators are contained in each GSE, as well as knowledge about why students have trouble understanding these subtopics (which can include prerequisite knowledge and misconceptions) as well as possible instructional experiences/sequences that seem to help students learn. By engaging in this process together on this site, we have the opportunity to build a living collection of resources that we can all use to make planning easier and our teaching more effective.

An example of the "unpacking" process is shown below.

An Example "Unpacking" of a GSE: The Study of Motion and Forces in Grades 9-12

Note that though extensive, this unpacking example is still incomplete. That is the nature of the wiki - as readers see gaps, you are encouraged to edit the page and share your knowledge. You can edit the ideas around this GSE by clicking on this link: PS3 (9-11) - 8.

Students demonstrate an understanding of forces and motion by…

8a predicting and/or graphing the path of an object in different reference planes and explain how and why (forces) it occurs.

8b using modeling, illustrating, graphing explain how distance and velocity change over time for a free falling object.

What subtopics do students need to address to meet these GSEs?

Quick list of subtopics:

position vs time graph
kinematic equations (constant acceleration)
physical significance of slope

velocity vs time graph

acceleration vs time graph


A Concept Map for Motion

external image L.jpg

A detailed list of what students should be able to do as evidence that they understand motion:

To predict or graph the motion of objects, students must be able to apply equations of motion (prediction) and construct motion graphs. In 8b, these skills are applied to explain free fall. Two dimensional motion, including projectile motion is expressed as an extension in the GSEs.

To be able to describe, predict, and graph motion, students should to be able to:
  • Empirically associate a speed with a particular way of travel (e.g. walking, running, or skipping) and use the equation D=s*t to determine an unknown distance trip time and speed.
  • Measure and report values of position and time. This includes measuring small distances using a meter-stick as well as larger distances. Students should be able to determine the precision with which they should report these measurements. Students should be able to measure time with a stopwatch.
  • Define velocity as how an object's position changes in one second. This "operational" definition is more concrete than mathematical definitions (e.g. v=∆x/∆t or rate of change of position).
    • Because velocity indicates both the speed and direction of linear motion, students should be able to relate the sign of an object's velocity to its direction of travel.
    • Because motion is often described with a variety of terms, students should be able to explain and distinguish the terms distance, displacement, location, and distance traveled in terms of position.
    • Likewise, students should also be able to explain how speed and rate are related to velocity for an object traveling at a constant velocity, either positive or negative.
  • Plot position time for an object at rest or traveling at constant velocity to the right or left.
  • Determine the slope of a (linear?) position time graph, and argue that this slope is the object's velocity.
  • Describe a particular trip given its position time graph.
  • Relate the formula for the slope of the position time graph to related equations in math: the y-intercept form of an equation of a line and the elementary form of this idea D = s*t described in the middle school GSEs.
  • Distinguish between constant and accelerated motion in terms of how each type of motion appears in position time graphs as well as how they are sensed by observers.
  • Define acceleration as how an object's velocity changes in one second, and identify the units of acceleration as "meters/sec per sec" or "meters/s^2." (The former pronunciation of the units for acceleration stress the fact that velocity is changing.)
  • Plot position vs. time for an object traveling with constant acceleration.
  • Describe a particular trip given its velocity time graph.
  • Determine the rate of change of a curve at a point by drawing a tangent line on the graph.
  • Predict the appearence of position, velocity, and acceleration graphs for a variety of simple motions in both positive and negative directions.
  • Use kinematic equations derived from the definition of average acceleration to solve a variety of linear motion problems where the acceleration is constant.
  • Describe what mean by a "reference frame." Distinguish between inertial and non-inertial(accelerating) reference frames.
  • Explain how to determine the velocity and acceleration of an object in any inertial reference frame given the velocity and acceleration of the object on a particular reference frame.

Explaining Motion via Forces:

  • Explain / define force.
  • Identify common forces acting on everyday objects. Represent these forces as arrows.
  • Determine the net force acting on an object.
  • Predict the motion of an object given the net force exerted on it.
  • More detail needed.- fogleman fogleman Jan 15, 2009

Applying Knowledge of Motion and Forces to Free Fall:

  • Still needs to be done.- fogleman fogleman Jan 15, 2009

What do students need to know before they can address these GSEs?

Students should already be able to
  • Identify and use both metric and English units of measurement for length using a ruler or measuring tape.
  • Convert between different units of measurement for both position and velocity. Students should be able to convert between metric system units as well as between English and metric system units.
  • relate commonly used metric and English units to quantities in real life, e.g. a yard is almost a meter.
  • Plot an Y vs X (this made me laugh :) only a physics teacher would write it like that) graph both by hand, calculator, and computer. Students should also be able to draw "best fit lines" through linear data.
  • do basic algebra, including isolating a particular variable in a linear equation.

What preconceptions might students have? (love this section, I think this is key)

Students might think:
  • From Children's Ideas in Science:
    • all motion in the same direction as indistinguishable, i.e. not consider the difference between constant velocity and constant acceleration.
    • the motion equation from algebra, D=s*t, sufficient for analyzing all motion.
    • in order for an object to have a positive acceleration, its velocity must be positive.
    • the acceleration of a vertically launched object at the top of its path is zero.
    • if an object's acceleration is zero, its velocity must be zero, and/or vice versa.
  • Hapkiewicz, A. (1992). Finding a List of Science Misconceptions. MSTA Newsletter, 38(Winter’92), pp.11-14:
    • Time can be measured without establishing the beginning of the interval.
    • The location of an object can be described by stating its distance from a given point, ignoring direction.
    • The distance an object travels and its displacement are always the same.
    • An object’s speed is the same as its velocity.
    • If an object is accelerating, then the object is speeding up.
    • An object’s acceleration cannot change direction.
    • Acceleration always occurs in the same direction as an object is moving.
    • If an object has a speed of zero (even instantaneously), it has no acceleration.

What opportunities for understanding scientific inquiry / inquiry practices do these topics offer?

What phenomena and representations help students understand these topics?

What activities or activity sequences can be used to address these GSEs?

What types of NECAP questions have addressed these GSEs? (Nice!)

NECAP Student Practice Booklet Gr 11 2008 #11 edit

NECAP Released Item Gr 11 2008 - #4 edit