Teaching physics

  • #1
Hi everyone,
I have to take a physics class for eigth graders in a couple of days. I have done this a couple of times before but I always find that they hesitate a lot when it comes to answering questions and thinking on their own. Any suggestions from anybody with/without teaching experience?
P.S. I wasn't sure where to post this...
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
I guess the reasons behind hesitating when answering the questions is either they are feeling shy or not having a good grasp of the idea/theory. U should encourage them to answer more even though the answers most likely are wrong. And from there, guide them to the correct path.

P.S. : Dont worry, you didnt post in a wrong section.
  • #3
One new teaching technique here in the states, is to use group brainstormin among the students.

Assign groups of 3 - 4, pose a question, have each group come up with their best answer and report (with their reasons) after five minutes.

That gives them (1) peer - led learning (a good thing) and (2) confidence that they aren't as dumb as they feel.
  • #4
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
Thinking on their own may take some time when learning a new subject, so you may need to spend more time guiding them through the thought processes required for something before you expect them to learn how to use their knowledge on their own.

As for them not answering questions, when are you asking them and how do you ask them? As darkar mentioned, sometimes they are just shy, and sometimes it's an indicator that they aren't understanding something.

I like to use questions as checkpoints while teaching. Each time a new term or concept is covered during the lecture, stop and ask a question about it. If you don't get any raised hands to answer, or you only get that one student in the front row answering every question, start calling upon students to answer the questions. Don't start off calling on the kid napping in the back, you don't want to use this as a way to embarrass the students, but to find out if those who are paying attention are understanding. If you call upon someone and they don't know, see if you can walk them through a few steps and if they can pick it up from there (never just respond with, "No" and move on to the next student; this only makes them more shy about answering next time; try to find something in their answer upon which you can expand, or a part they are right about, "You are correct when you say,'X.' Can someone else answer what's wrong with the explanation of 'Y'?" If you go through three or four students and they are all misunderstanding things or can't answer the questions, it means you'll need to spend more time on that topic before moving on. You can use the questions to find out how far back you need to go as well. If you ask about the most basic first parts of the lecture and they understand that, but then you ask about the next step and nobody can answer that, that's where you need to back up to.

Patty's suggestion of group exercises are good too, however, for those to work well, you need to first spend some time facilitating the groups and teaching them how to work together in that context. I've found that students can learn extremely well in groups as long as they have a group leader who directs discussion at first. I had great success leading groups of about 10 students at a time (too few, and it's more like one-on-one tutoring, too many and students can't all participate). After a few weeks of leading them through questions, prompting them to ask each other questions, etc, then I could start sitting back and just provide a nudge when they got really stuck or redirect them back to the subject if they got too far off on a tangent while they adopted roles of group leaders themselves. This is hardly a new teaching technique, but one that is rarely used well. It takes a lot of effort on the front end, but when the students catch on, it's wonderfully rewarding to sit back and watch them discuss a subject with real understanding.
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  • #5
Gold Member
The group thing is a great idea. I would further suggest that you begin with examples that directly relate to their everyday lives—acceleration down a playground slide, pendulum effect of a swing, leverage on a see-saw, bouncing balls, displacement of liquid when you drop in an ice cube, etc.. That way even if they don't absorb everything right away, they'll automatically think about it when engaged in one of the activities for fun.
  • #6
Thanks a lot everyone
This class I will be taking is a one-off thing. Its for the Talent Search for Physics being conducted for the World Year of Physics. But I intend to use Moonbear and Pattylou's suggestions. Thank you!