The Acceleration 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 Interactive 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 earlier to middl stages of a learning cycle on Kinematics. It makes for an exceptional formative assessment of student understanding of the acceleration concept and its various representations as dot diagrams and velocity-ime tables. The emphasis is on recognizing whether or not acceleration is occuring or not (To Accelerate or Not To Accelerate), identifying the direction of the acceleration (Getting Direction on Acceleration), and calculating the acceleration value from simple numerical data (Adding Value to Acceleration).

This Concept Builder was intended as an in-class activity. The Concept Builder includes 20 different situations, organized into three different activities. 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. Our summary of the three activities is as follows:
  • To Accelerate or Not To Accelerate: Includes six situations in which students analyze verbal descriptions, dot diagrams, or velocity-time tables and determine if the obejct being described in the representation is accelerating or not.
  • Getting Direction on Acceleration: Includes eight situations in which students must analyze a verbal description, a dot diagram, or a velocity-time table in order to identify the direction that the object is accelerating.
  • Adding Value to Acceleration: Includes six situations in which students must analyze a verbal description, an initial-final diagram, or a velocity-time table in order to determine the magnitude and direction of the acceleration. Complexity of the calculations is minimal.

In order to complete an activity, a student must correctly analyze each situation at that level. 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 situations 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 analyzing the situation. Once a star is earned, that situation is removed from the cue of situations to be analyzed. Each situation is color-coded with either a yellow or a red box. A red box indicates that the student has incorrectly analyzed the situation and will have to correctly analyze it twice before earning a star. A yellow box is an indicator that the situation must be correctly analyzed one time in order to earn a star. Once every situation for an activity has been successfully analyzed, the student earns a medal that 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 levels.

The most valuable (and most overlooked) aspect of this concept-building tool 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 Concept Builder 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 Acceleration Concept Builder. These include:
  • Reading:
    Most of Lesson 1 of the 1-D Kinematics Chapter at the Tutorial is a perfect accompaniment to this Concept Builder. The following pages will be particularly useful in the early stages of the learning cycle on Kinematics:


    Ticker Tape Diagrams (Dot Diagrams)

  • 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. Assignments KC4, KC5, and KC8 from the Kinematic Concepts module make 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 Concepts module can be found on Part 1 of the six-part App series. Visit Minds On Physics the App.

  • 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 With Numerically

    Visit the Curriculum Corner - Kinematics.

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