Day 57: Starting with Definitions vs. Starting with Questions

College Prep Physics: In previous years, I introduced the concepts of distance and displacement by giving students the definitions first and then looking at a few examples. Here’s a screenshot from last year’s handout with notes:


This year, I started by giving students this question first:


(taken from 2013 Modeling Physics materials)

The dialogue and debate among the students was great.

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Now we had a purpose for the words distance and displacement because sometimes “how far” is just too vague. Plus, the students came up with the definitions on their own first, and later we can attach the formal scientific terms to those definitions.

I am on the lookout for more examples like this!


About Frank Noschese

HS Physics Teacher constantly questioning my teaching.

4 responses to “Day 57: Starting with Definitions vs. Starting with Questions”

  1. Leah Segal says :

    I used a similar example this year, but started by just asking the question “Who traveled farther?” Some of the students then were very intent on justifying their idea about what “farther” meant, rather than thinking about the two different ways of seeing it. I think that next time, I’ll start with two questions similar to yours to focus them on the purpose of the activity, or pose the second question soon after the first (but before the whiteboards/discussion).

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