Teacher Notes for Work and Energy


Lesson Plans || Learning Outcomes and Activities || Teacher Notes || Labs


Unit Overview

We estimate this to be a 13-day unit. The unit will blend concepts of work, energy, and power with the mathematics associated with these concepts. An additional day should be added for an exam. There is one primary goal in this unit. It could be worded in a variety of ways. We have chosen the following wording.
Whatever energy is, it is a quantity that you can keep track of. And by keeping track of energy - how it changes form and how it enters and exits a system - you can predict the answers to questions like How high will the object rise?How fast will the object be moving?How far will the object skid?, etc.

Much of the instruction, the labs, the activities, the problems, etc. of this unit could be attached to this broad implication of the law of energy conservation. Whether the student is constructing a work-energy bar chart, performing a lab investigation, or solving a problem on a CalcPad problem set, they are keeping track of energy to determine how it changes form and/or crosses the boundary of the system. 


Marble Energy Labs

We left two labs out of the Lesson Plans that are low-tech (or even no-tech) and have great value as inquiry experiences. They are Marble Energy 1 and Marble Energy 2. They could easily be combined into a single lab. They work best when used early in the learning cycle on work and energy; inserting them around Day 3 would work well. Our Push the Plow Science Reasoning Activity was based on these labs.



Proposing a collection of labs for teachers without knowing what equipment they have access to is quite difficult. We have proposed six labs that range from no-tech to high tech. One lab uses a stopwatch and a staircase, one lab uses a meter stick and a force scale, two labs use motion detectors, one lab uses a computer-interfaced force probe with the motion detector, and two labs use photogates. You will find more labs with a range of equipment requirements in the Laboratory section of our website. The Teacher's Guide listing can be found here.


NGSS and the Science Reasoning Center

Energy is a big part of the Next Generation Science Standards. For those of us who teach Physics, it is both a Disciplinary Core Idea and a Crosscutting Concept. Our Science Reasoning Center is packed with interactive activities that emphasize science reasoning skills in the context of content. Put another way, you will find numerous activities that lie at the intersection of a disciplinary core idea, a science and engineering practice, and a crosscutting concept. The Energy section of our Science Reasoning Center includes numerous activities that would be of interest to those using an NGSS curriculum as well as those using any Physics curriculum. Here are a few of our favorites:
  1. Push the Plow
    This five-part activity addresses student's ability to understand the design of an experiment, to identify evidence-based claims, to use proportional reasoning skills to determine relationships between variables, and to predict the result of additional trials.
  2. Energy on an Inclined Plane
    This five-part NGSS activity targets a student's ability to make decisions regarding the design of an investigation, perform energy calculations from collected data, use an energy model to interpret the findings and to describe and explain the energy changes that are occurring, and evaluate a collection of claims regarding energy associated with the phenomenon.
  3. Modeling Roller Coasters
    This NGSS-inspired activity challenges students to develop and use energy models to explain how energy is transformed between kinetic and potential energy. Exercises within the task include three Matching Pair exercises, three Paragraph Completion exercises, a Ranking Task exercise, a Table Completion exercise, and a Law Breaker exercise.
  4. Hot Wheels Stopping Distance
    This NGSS-inspired activity challenges students to plan an investigation, to identify the effect (both qualitatively and quantitatively) of one variable upon another variable, to use the pattern in the data to make predictions by interpolation and extrapolation, to apply the speed-stopping distance relationship, and to use an energy model to explain the experimental results.


Other Resources

There are a few resources that we did not list in our Lesson Plans and Learning Outcomes and Activities that you may find to be very helpful. These include:
  1. Concept Builder: Up and Down with Energy
    Students conduct an energy analysis of an up-and-down free fall motion in order to determine values of PE, KE, and v.
  2. Concept Builder: LOL Charts
    Students use an energy bar chart to describe how energy is stored, transferred, and/or conserved for a variety of physical situations.
  3. Physics Interactives: Kinetic Energy
    This simulation provides students a rich, interactive environment for investigating relationships between the force exerted on an object, the distance over which the force acts, and the speed and kinetic energy that the object acquires.
  4. The Calculator Pad: Work and Energy
    There are 20 problem sets in our Calculator Pad section with 150 problems. From these we created seven custom CalcPad problem sets. But there's problems if you need them. And with a Task Tracker subscription and our directions or video walk through, you can create your own problem sets.


Teacher Presentation Pack

Our Teacher Presentation Pack is loaded with a collection of Slide Decks and animations for use in your classroom. Once downloaded, they are fully modifiable and customizable. They would allow you to quickly pull up a Slide for discussion in class or to show a quick animation. It may be a worthwhile investment, particularly if you are an early-career or cross-over Physics teacher.


Also Available ...

Physics teachers may find the following for-sale tools to be useful supplements to our Lesson Plan and Pacing Guide section:


  1. Task Tracker Subscription (annual purchase)
    A subscription allows teachers to set up classes, add students, customize online assignments, view student progress/scores, and export student scores. Task Tracker accounts allow your students to begin assignments in class or at school and to finish them at home. View our Seat and Cost Calculator for pricing details.
  2. The Solutions Guide
    We publish a free curriculum with >200 ready-to-use Think Sheets for developing physics concepts. The Solutions Guide is a download containing the source documents, PDFs of source documents, and answers/solutions in MS Word and PDF format. An expanded license agreement is included with the purchase. (Cost: $25 download)
  3. Teacher Presentation Pack
    This is a large collection of downloadable content packed with nearly 190 Microsoft PowerPoint slide decks, the corresponding Lesson Notes (as PDF and fully-modifiable MS Word format), about 170 animations (in .gif, .png, and .mp4 file formats), a countless number of ready-to-use images (including the original source documents that would allow for easy modification of those images), and a license that allows teachers to modify and use all the content with their classes on password-protected sites (such as course management systems).  (Cost: $40 download)
  4. Question Bank
    We distribute a Question Bank that includes more than 9300 questions neatly organized according to topic. The Question Bank is the perfect tool for busy teachers or new teachers. Even if you don't use the website with your classes, the Question Bank will assist you in quickly putting together quizzes, tests and other documents with high-quality questions that target student's conceptions of physics principles. And if you do use The Physics Classroom website, the Question Bank is the perfect complement to the materials found at the website. (Cost: $25 download)