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:

If you've taught Physics for any length of time, you likely have recognized that one difficulty that students have in Physics has to do with language. Words don't always mean the same thing to students that they mean to a Physics teacher.  And the misunderstandings surrounding the use of the language serves as an impediment to students trying to learn Physics concepts. This Concept Builder targets this problem. Each question in the Concept Builder presents two different verbal statements to the students. These statements describe the motion of an object. Students must tap through a set of 5 or 6 graphs in an effort to match the graph to the motion that the verbal statement describes. They must understand both the graph features and the words to be successful. The paired statements in each question were selected because the highlight the often-confused language that impedes student progress. 
This Concept Builder was inspired by a post on Twitter by Brian Frank and has been implemented here with his permission. Brian is a Professor of Physics at Middle Tennessee State University. You can learn more about Brian's pedagogical approaches to Physics teaching at his blog - Teach. Brian. Teach. ( or by following him on Twitter (@brianwfrank). Thanks to Brian for inspiring this idea. 

There are three difficulty levels in this Concept Builder which teachers can assign. Beginning with the Apprentice Difficulty Level, there is a very distinct increase in difficulty as students progress towards and through the Wizard level. Those three difficulty levels are described as follows:
  • Apprentice Difficulty Level: Question Groups 1-4; questions avoid the need to calculate the area in order to determine the distance traveled. The numbers used in the verbal statement are the same for all Question Groups. Each time a new question from the Question Group appears, the order in which answer options are presented is randomized.
  • Master Difficulty Level: Question Groups 1-8; questions avoid the need to calculate the area in order to determine the distance traveled. The numbers used in the verbal statements will be the same in each statement but will vary every time a question from the Question Group is presented. 
  • Wizard Difficulty Level: Question Groups 1-12; will include some questions in which the student will need to relate the area under the line to the distance traveled. The two verbal statements in every question will always include a different set of numbers.

In order to complete a difficulty level, a student must correctly answer one question from each Question Group for 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 level. This approach provides the student extra practice on questions for which they exhibited difficulty. As a student progresses through a difficulty level, a system of stars and other indicators are used to indicate progress on the level. 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 a level has been answered, the student earns a Trophy which is displayed on the Main Menu. This system of stars and Trophies 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 Words 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. Missions KG5 - KG8 of the Kinematic Graphing 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 Graphing module can be found on Part 1 of the six-part App series. 

  • Physics Interactives
    The Physics Interactives section of our website is filled with interactive simulations of physical situations. Many of these simulations would make a great complement to this activity. We particularly recommend the following simulations.

    Graph That Motion

    Graphs and Ramps

    Two Stage Rocket

    Visit the Physics Interactives - Kinematics.

  • 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 Velocity-Time Graphs
    Describing Motion Graphically
    Interpreting Velocity-Time Graphs
    Graphing Summary

    Visit the Curriculum Corner - Kinematics.

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