Teaching Methods

# How I Teach… Work & Energy (part 2)

This is part of a series!
Part 1 (Work) Part 3 (problem solving) Part 4 (Lab)

We move into energy conservation pretty quickly. Similar to our introduction to work, I pull on prior student knowledge. How many energy forms can you name? As students list them I copy them on the board, sorting them into mechanical and non-mechanical forms. Once we’ve exhausted this list I give them the category names and also the definitions of potential energy as energy of position and kinetic as energy of motion. We discuss how potential energy requires a position that can be measured within the system.

One of the best ways I’ve learned to support students is to teach them to create bar charts. I’ve seen many iterations of this, in the modeling community these are LOL charts. I, personally, haven’t been convinced to continue to use quite as much time on the systems part as many in the modeling community do (literally for the sake of time) but the key feature here is that we are taking concepts and translating them into a kind of visual, mathematical model.

So this is what we do first. We do a few examples (it’s like a checklist!) and then students are on their own for some samples. Emphasis is placed on the process:

1. Identify your initital and final states
2. Sketch a picture of each state