How to Teach Motion Graphs Through Inquiry - Kristi Harjo Top
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How to Teach Motion Graphs Through Inquiry

Discover how I took my students love of sports and used it to teach them how to interpret motion graphs in a guided inquiry investigation.


I used to find it difficult to have students understand how their motion correlates to a line on a graph.  I would have them walk, then stand, then jog and we would graph it.  The problem was that the graph was made after the motion not at the same time they were doing that motion.  That all changed when I discovered two websites.  These two websites gave me the opportunity to first do an inquiry investigation where they were able to see the motion of an object and the graph they were creating at the same time.  We all know that when students can learn through inquiry they own their learning.  This is now how I start my motion unit.


The first activity I do is a guided inquiry activity using the motion of skateboarders from the site: skateboarders- distance time graphs of skateboarders.  My students are given questions like draw what a constant slow speed looks like and draw what a constant fast speed looks like.  They manipulate the speed of the skateboarders to represent the question and then draw the graph the skateboarders create. For my advanced students I have them make the skateboarder to three motion, draw the graph that was created, and then trade with a partner to see if they can figure out the three motions from the graph. To see this in action you can watch my live scope on this at katch.me.

The second activity I do is another guided inquiry but with more information given using the site Football Distance Time Graphs.  The football is not American football but world football also know as soccer. The students get to watch clips from the 2000 FA cup between Manchester United and West Ham United.  Sometimes they have to match the graph to the motion of the highlighted player and sometimes they have to match the player to the graph.  I like doing this one second because after each investigation it explains what they discovered and then it ends with a 10 question quiz that is similar to typical multiple choice questions they would see on a test. 

Doing these two guided inquiry investigations really sets a good foundation of motion graphs and makes it easier for students to describe and interpret the different motions for motion graphs.  If you try this let me know how it goes in the comments below

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