The What's Up (and Down) with KE and PE? 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:

In the early stages of a unit on energy and energy conservation, it is typically a goal that the student be able to read a verbal description of a physical situation and identify the changes that are occurring (or not occurring) with respect to kinetic energy and potential energy. Students need to acquire the skill of analyzing a verbal description and employing their understanding of these two forms of energy in order to make a predition as to whehter one form, two forms, or neither form of energy is changing or remaining constant. This Concept Builder focuses on the skill of indentiying the changes (increasing or decreasing) that are or are not occuring with the kinetic and potential energy.
This Concept Builder was intended as an in-class activity to be used early in a unit on energy. The Concept Builder includes three levels of difficulty. 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 levels would be most appropriate for their students. There is some redundancy from one difficulaty level to the next. For example, the Master Difficulty Level includes eight Question Groups; four of these Question Groups were the ones used in the Apprentice Difficulty Level. Similarly, the Wizard Difficulty Level includes the eight Question Groups of the Master Difficulty Level plus four additional Question Groups. Our summary of the three Difficulty Levels is as follows:
  • Apprentice: Question Groups 1-4 Four Question Groups involving possible changes in kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy; the physical situations may be simpler than subsequent levels.
  • Master: QuestionGroups 1-8 Eight Question Groups involving possible changes in kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy; the physical situations include the first four plus four additional situtions that may be slightly more complicated than the first four situations.
  • Wizard: QuestionGroups 1-12 Eight Question Groups involving possible changes in kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy; the physical situations include the first eight plus four additional situtions that may be slightly more complicated than the first four situations.
We can imagine it being profitable to allow students to make judgements as to what level to begin with and to progress from easier to more difficult levels. 

In order to complete a level, a student must correctly analyze each question at that level. If a student's analysis is incorrect, then the student will have to correctly analyze 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 level, a system of stars and other indicators are used to indicate progress on the level. A star is an indicator of correctly analyzing the question. Once a star is earned, that question is removed from the cue of questions 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 question and will have to correctly analyze it twice before earning a star. A yellow box is an indicator that the question must be correctly analyzed one time in order to earn a star. Once every question at a level has been analyzed, the student earns a medal which 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 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 What's Up (and Down) with KE and PE? 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. Assignments WE3 and WE4 of the Work and Energy module provide great complements 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 Work and Energy module can be found on Part 3 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 ...


    Visit the Curriculum Corner - Work and Energy

Additional resources and ideas for incorporating What's Up (and Down) with KE and PE? into an instructional unit on Work and Energy can be found at the Teacher Toolkits section of The Physics Classroom website.  Visit Teacher Toolkits.