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Navigating the AP Crush

We are a few days away from spring break.  When we come back from break, I will have 4 weeks with my AP Physics students before they take AP Exams in Physics 1 and 2.  After the exam, we will have roughly 5 weeks together before the end of the school year.  Now, I will have no problems covering the content before the AP Exam in either class.  I will definitely be able to teach them all the content.  The issue I have is that there will not be enough time for them to actively learn the content before the exam date.

If all of my students were taking the AP Exam, it would be easier to focus the students on a common goal of this exam.  But, only about 50% of my students are taking the exam.  It would be my dream to be able to create multiple paths in the AP classroom, but I’m not there yet.

So really the frustration is coming down to two areas.  The first is the amount of content students need to master in a short amount of time to be ready for the AP Exam.  The second is the fact that all of my students are not trying to reach the same goal.  Half of the students don’t need to master this content before the AP exam since they are not taking it.  So while some students have 18 weeks to master the AP content, others have 13.  This timeline is not dictated by their ability level, challenges, or strengths.  This timeline is dictated by the fact that they did or did not sign up to take the AP exam.

Again, I will have no problem presenting the content to the students in 13 weeks.  But the process of rich, individualized formative process is left behind.

What’s the solution?  I’m really not sure.  But, I know I need to design a better model.  I don’t want to create a track where some students do deep explorations because they have the time while others focus on pacing themselves to cover all the content.

The great activity I did with Kate and Angela this year was due to the fact that I was willing to take 3 days out of the AP Physics 1 schedule to let them share physics with 4th graders.  They were not communicating physics at an AP level to 4th graders.  But everyone involved agreed that it was a wonderful transformative learning experience.

So what’s my plan for this year?  I’m going to put forward a few ideas to my students after break and see how they feel about it.  We will be sure to cover all the content before the AP test and all students will be held accountable for learning this content.  There will be summative assessments in the form of traditional tests.  We will not spend time in class reviewing for them because I’ll consider them in-progress grades and hold them in check.  Once AP exams are finished, we will revisit these objectives more in depth and make the connections we didn’t before.  Students will have the opportunity to demonstrate mastery in ways that they were not able to do on the unit tests from before.

So while the first time around in the sound unit, I will be delivering the content via large group instruction and demonstration.  The second time around, we’ll be able to have students design sound stations for our visit to Brookfield Elementary School.  Our first time around covering optics, we will do some cookbook labs with little inquiry.  The second go around, I hope to have students do some more personal investigation of tools that use lenses or the science behind specific optical phenomenon.

So while the first time they learn it may be for AP, the second go around will be with a personal bent.
Here’s to failing forward.

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