The Energy Ranking Tasks 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:

Ranking Tasks is a questioning approach that has been around for some time. Ranking Tasks was popularized as one of several TIPERs (Tasks Inspired by Physics Education Research) by the Two-Year College physics education movement. Such a questioning approach presents students with several variations of a situation that include different variables and require that students rank the variations based on a specific variable or set of variables. In this activity, each situation presented to the student includes three locations along a motion path. Students must rank the three locations according to the relative amount of gravitational potential energy (Activity 1), kinetic energy (Activity 2), and speed (Activity 3). The activity fits well in the early to middle stages of a instructional cycle on mechanical energy conservation or energy transformations. 
The Concept Builder includes three 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:
  • Rank That PE: Question Groups 1-4 Four Question Groups, each using a different physical situation, are presented. Learners must rank the gravitational potential energy (PE) for three different locations.
  • Rank That KE: QuestionGroups 5-8 Four Question Groups, each using a different physical situation, are presented. Learners must rank the kinetic energy (KE) for three different locations.
  • Rank That Speed: QuestionGroups 9-12 Four Question Groups, each using a unidque physical situation but one different from the first two activities. Learners must rank the speed (v) at three different locations.
The situations analyzed in the Rank That PE activity are identical situations as in the Rank That KE activity. The situations analyzed in the Rank That Speed activity are entirely different. 

In order to complete an activity, a student must correctly analyze each Question Group in that activity. 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 activity. This approach provides the student extra practice on questions 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 Question Group. Once a star is earned, that Question Group 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 in an activity 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 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 Energy Ranking Tasks Concept Builder. These include:

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