Some Resources for New Physics Teachers

In a comment from an earlier post, Matt Wasilawski writes:

Thank you very much for these posts, I am looking forward to using them in physics. I have been teaching Earth Science and AP Environmental Science for the past 10 years. I was assigned to teach Physics this year. I was hoping that you could direct me to more specific modeling suggestions for topics in Physics. I do not have a strong background in Physics but have been working hard to develop my knowledge base.

Here are some of my resource recommendations to help new physics teachers with planning and instruction:

Get yourself a copy of Randy Knight’s Five Easy Lessons: Strategies for Successful Physics Teaching. He discusses the best in physics education research, describes several methods for interactive engagement, and goes through a typical physics course unit-by-unit with lesson plan ideas and places where students have misconceptions and stumbling blocks. Every physics teacher should have this book because we all should be incorporating more teaching strategies based on physics education research.

Walking in front of motion detectors to kinesthetically match graphs of motion -- highly recommended by physics education research

The K-12 Physics standards by Heller and Stewart have lesson plan ideas and activities which are founded on physics education research.

The ASU Modeling Website has their Mechanics curriculum available for download, including teacher notes.

Mark Shober is a modeler who put all his materials on his class website. It’s tied to his class calendar, which makes it great for pacing.

And lastly, there is the Physics Classroom website. While it doesn’t mesh perfectly with modeling, it is much better than the most widely used physics textbook. The website has online readings and animations for you and your students, worksheets with links to the corresponding online readings, problem sets with audio solutions, labs, rubrics, and objectives. There are also Minds-On Physics modules, which are good for formative assessment.

I know there are many more, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind as being most helpful.

To my more experienced readers: Leave your favorite resources for new physics teachers in the comments!

7 responses to “Some Resources for New Physics Teachers

  1. I’d also add Arnold Arons book Teaching Introductory Physics as a great resource. It’s the single best book about physics teaching I’ve read.

    My other two suggestions would be get plugged into the twitter/blog community of science/math teachers (you’ll come away with an amazing number of ideas) and go to an AAPT conference to begin to build your physics network and meet other teachers.

  2. I find Redish’s book “Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite” to be an even better overview of PER than Knight’s book, and it comes with a CD-ROM that has a lot of great resources on it. (e.g. various conceptual diagnostic tests.)

    Some of the PhET simulations ( are great as supplements to hands-on activities/labs. The website has worksheets/lesson plans that teachers have submitted.

    The Minds-on Physics books and teachers guides are a great resource for someone interested in a modeling-type approach to physics instruction.

  3. Yes, both Redish’s book and Arons’s book should be required reading as well. Redish’s book is available for free on the web (without the CD):

    I was given Arons’s book when I was in college — it had just been
    published (the blue book w/ the additional section w/ HW questions).
    It was my first exposure to PER, but I didn’t find it helping too much
    with the day-to-day stuff. I think Knight’s book excels in this area,
    especially for a teacher new to physics.

    Sample Minds-on Physics activities are here:

    I really like #16. It is way easier to solve using graphs rather than equations!

  4. I can’t believe I forgot Dolores Gende’s great site! It says AP B, but it can definitely be used for all levels of HS physics!

  5. Just got the book by Knight. So far just skimmed through some parts, but I’m already loving it. I have just about the same primary goals he has set and reading over these misconceptions is like he stopped by my classroom, scooped out my students’ brains, and shoved ’em in his book. I knew my students had common misconceptions, but it’s still a bit surprising to see how exactly they match his detailed descriptions. I’m tempted to read a page out loud to my students and go “OMG that is sooo you guys!” :oP Thanks for the recommendation! This book will certainly have a prized status in my collection.

    • Frank: See if you can get your hands on a review copy of Knight’s text (for scientists/engineers, 2nd edition), the workbook that goes with it, and the Instructor’s Manual. The IM is an expanded version of Five Easy Lessons that goes chapter by chapter. And see if you can get yourself to a Modeling Workshop next summer!

  6. I agree with Noah. My first recommendation to any physics person (or even chemistry) is the Reddish book.

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