Materials Bags and Lab Roles

Today we did an experiment to determine the relationship between mass and the force exerted by the Earth on an object that has mass. An experiment worth doing, to be sure, but I’ll bet most people who read this post have done this lab themselves… So instead I’ll discuss something that I’ve realized is essential to a successful lab activity with my kids.

First, I put all the materials in a bag. When students begin the class they know not to touch the stuff until we actually begin, but that’s virtually impossible for them to adhere to unless that stuff is sealed away. The plastic bag barrier makes all the difference in the world. Opening the bag is effectively off-limits, whereas futzing with a spring scale just isn’t really.

Second, I go out of my way to define explicit lab roles. This can be something very straightforward, but it’s important to give everyone a chance to feel like they have something essential to do. The “Mass Manager” may have had just ONE big moment to shine in the time allotted for the lab, but they stay on their toes getting ready for that moment.

At the end of the activity you can see my “CHAMP” expectations posted. C for conversation level, H for how to get help, A for a description of the activity, M for movement expectations, and P for what I’ll see you doing if you’re participating. Just making these things explicit makes it MUCH easier for kids who want to do right by the class to be productive. And don’t all kids basically want to do right by the class?

##physicsfirst ##bfpm ##motivation ##explicit

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