Physics Teaching

April 23, 2011

AS Physics Revision Guide

Filed under: Uncategorized — ianhardiman @ 11:19 pm

Looking for the best revision guide to help with AS Physics or A-level Physics? Try Revise AS Physics In A Fortnight. It’s different (as far as I know) to any other Physics Revision Guide on the market as it is 100% focussed on doing well in the exam. There is no filler and nothing to distract you from getting the grades you want.

Read more about the guide here or go straight to the download page


January 24, 2011

A couple of interesting things

Filed under: Uncategorized — ianhardiman @ 8:47 pm

Have a look at these if you get the chance. I’ve been branching out and trying to reach more people through squidoo and hubpages.




Physics for Entertainment free pdf download

Filed under: Uncategorized — ianhardiman @ 6:25 pm

This book is brilliant. It’s absolutely fascinating and full of inspirational ideas to use in your lessons. Here’s the back story:

“Published in 1913, a best-seller in the 1930s and long out of print, Physics for Entertainment was translated from Russian into many languages and influenced science students around the world. Among them was Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman, the Russian mathematician (unrelated to the author), who solved the Poincaré conjecture, and who was awarded and rejected the Fields Medal. Grigori’s father, an electrical engineer, gave him Physics for Entertainment to encourage his son’s interest in mathematics. In the foreword, the book’s author describes the contents as “conundrums, brain-teasers, entertaining anecdotes, and unexpected comparisons,” adding, “I have quoted extensively from Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Mark Twain and other writers, because, besides providing entertainment, the fantastic experiments these writers describe may well serve as instructive illustrations at physics classes.” The book’s topics included how to jump from a moving car, and why, “according to the law of buoyancy, we would never drown in the Dead Sea.” Ideas from this book are still used by science teachers today. Yakov Isidorovich Perelman died in the siege of Leningrad in 1942.”

Physics for Entertainment is fantastic – it’s packed full of interesting examples grouped together into topic chapters. Click here to visit for your free pdf download of the whole book

January 23, 2011

Radar Detector Reviews

Filed under: Uncategorized — ianhardiman @ 6:31 pm

Apologies for the totally-unrelated-to-physics-teaching plug but I thought I’d share this in case any readers (in the US mainly) were considering buying a radar detector.

After being caught by a speed trap recently I starting doing some research. I eventually settled for the Escort Passport 9500ix (which I totally recommend)

Anyway, I found the reviews on to be really helpful. I checked back today and it seems like more and more reviews are continuously added. The Passport iQ got a bit of a slating.


Physics teaching resources

Filed under: Uncategorized — ianhardiman @ 6:25 pm

Check out Tons of free resources and interesting articles about Physics teaching.

December 1, 2009

Bloodhound SSC and velocity-time graphs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — ianhardiman @ 3:00 pm

Just been reading last week’s New Scientist which has a fascinating article about the Bloodhound SSC. I think I’ve probably mentioned this in every lesson for the past week! I have one of the big free posters (available here) in the corner of my room and it’s a real talking point.

Anyway, I’m using the data from (a link to the Bloodhound file is in the mechanics section) to produce velocity-time graphs with year 10s. It’s a really fun activity and with a bit of cross-curricular thrown in too it’s a real winner! Plenty of awe and wonder as well. They find it fascinating to imagine travelling that fast.
Hope it’s useful to you.

High Impact Physics Teaching at A-level

Filed under: Uncategorized — ianhardiman @ 2:58 pm

According to OFSTED – 7% of A-level Physics lessons have serious weaknesses. Only 4% of lessons are “outstanding”. How can more lessons be made outstanding?

Lessons broken up into 5 elements:
(teacher advice)
(games and challenges)
Pouring In
(chalk and talk)
(Wow effect, videos)
Pouring out
(Teacher q’s,big q’s)

1. Use of Games to enliven and engage

The idea here is to use these as starters or plenaries or even at suitable points to break up lessons. They can both get students switched on and ready to begin a lesson or consolidate a topic. I have found “Big Questions” to be especially good when used on the VLE as a wiki. If you’re not sure how to set this up, let me know and I can show you – it doesn’t take long.

Stand up, sit down – get students stood up and ask them to think of a property of waves for example. Then work around the room getting in each student in turn to announce their property. Anyone who has the same property sits down, last student standing is the winner.

Graph Splat – In teams. Have 6 (or more) graphs on paper. Each team is stood around a graph sheet (pinned to wall). Read out the title of one of the graphs (e.g. Charge against time for a discharging capacitor). First team to touch (splat!) the correct graph wins a point.

Numbers – take a series of quantities such as diameter of atom, diameter of nucleus etc and teams/pairs race to rank them in size order.

Fantastic 9 – A 3×3 grid with words related to a particular topic. Grids created in groups then used in front of class. Rest of class has to guess the words chosen by group. Eventually group gives clues for the missing words.

Big Questions – Eg “Write down one factor that affects the size of the gravitational force between two masses. Describe how increasing this factor would affect the size of the force” could printed on a piece of paper. Sheet is then passed around with each pair adding their idea to it and taking the answer further. This works really well on the VLE using a wiki.

Home and Away Reading – an excellent way to practise the passage analysis questions in the synoptic paper. The method:

1. Read it
2. Choose one keyword per paragraph
3. Visualise it – turn into pictures
4. Visit and interrogate. One person in pair swaps with next pair and explains pictures to new partner
5. Return home. Visitor tells home person. Home person writes down
6. Home person reads out. Other pair correct and add anything missing.

2. Challenges
The idea of these challenges is to get students active and can really motivate. I have used these to break up topics that otherwise might become a bit dense (e.g making loudspeakers when working through EM Induction and Faraday’s Law).

£5 pick up – Really a party game but is a fun way of introducing moments, centre of gravity and stability. Stand a volunteer with their back against the wall. Place a £5 note about 30cm in front of them and tell them that if they can bend down and pick it up without bending knees then they can keep it.

Making motors – First students to make a motor that works on 1.5V gets a prize.

Making loudspeakers – This is a really fun experiment – students can build their own speakers and play their iPods through them.

Experiments with the wow factor!

Experiments designed to be memorable and enthuse students. For example:

Bipolar spinning grapes
Faraday’s Floating Rings
Melting Nail Transformer
Water Rocket
Exploding capacitors
Mechanics with radio controlled cars

Use of Video in A-level Physics

One of the most exciting parts of this course was the numerous ideas of ways to use video clips to illustrate concepts.

The Italian Job to teach moments – (the part at the end when the bus teeters on the clifftop)
Harry Potter – I have used a clip from the Goblet of Fire where he freefalls. I have also made some worksheets that use extracts from the books to illustrate Physics teaching points. (
Terminator 2 – changes of state.
Speed 2 – velocity time graphs. There are countless films that can be used for this. I also have a Top Gear clip with a race between a fighter jet and a car to use.

Other bits

Limit notetaking. Only one A3 “wheel” per topic area.

Feedback on AS Physics

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — ianhardiman @ 2:57 pm

If you’re doing the new OCR A course at AS and A2, this will be a useful post for you! I attended the feedback meeting the chief examiners meeting and here is a summary of what was said. There was a lot of grumbling, especially about the practical assessments. Have a read of this and see what you think…

For a student to get an “A*” they need both an “A” grade on A-level aggregation and at least 270 UMS on their A2 units.
In G481 (Mechanics) and G482 (Electrons, Waves & Photons) there is a target in terms of number of marks for different question types. Without going into details this means that 6 out of the 60 marks for G481 are for extended writing style questions whereas 20-25 marks are allocated for this in the G482 paper. Potentially ¼ of the paper could involve extended writing. The examiners were keen to stress that continuous prose was not required and bullet points are the preferred method providing they followed a logical sequence. Also, the use of diagrams is encouraged – “a picture’s worth a thousand words”
The way in which QWC marks are awarded in the 2 papers is different. For G481 the QWC marks are awarded for spelling a technical term. “Satellite” and “gradient” were used in the summer exam last year and the Chief Examiner promised that this year’s words would be much easier! In G482, there are no marks for spelling; the QWC marks are awarded for constructing a logical argument.
This year the G482 paper will be later in the year (17th June was the date tentatively put forward) and the summer G481 will definitely be on a different day.
For students who struggle with rearranging equations: 1)Select equation, 2) Substitute values, 3) Now rearrange, 4)Calculate answer. This is probably something you all do anyway but I’m definitely going to follow this order strictly from now on. It guarantees some marks even if manipulating the equation all goes wrong.
Both the examiners were disappointed with the student’s knowledge of the various definitions. Apparently only 10% knew the definition of “intensity” (but the examiner who said this was a glass-half-empty type so I think he was exaggerating!) Word equations were considered the best way of answering “define” questions, writing symbol equations and defining terms = waste of time. Use of “over” is not accepted e.g. “Resistance is equal to the potential difference over the current” but writing this as a word equation would score full marks. One of the examiners (who also taught) used a card game to practise definitions throughout the year.
Both examiners were disappointed with the use of the data booklet-students didn’t seem to know what was there and what wasn’t. For example, lots got the conversion from years to seconds wrong even though it’s given in the booklet. Malus’s law should be in the booklet but isn’t and won’t be since they’ve already printed enough up for the next few years. I will get some copies of the booklet printed up and I think it would be a good idea if we issued these and used them as much as possible.
G482 will be following a general pattern of having three electricity questions, three waves questions and 1 quantum physics question.

Feedback on AS Physics – G483 – The Practicals

The examiners were keen to thank everyone who has been involved in administering the practicals and apologised for some of the markschemes, especially the light bulbs qualitative task.
There were lots of very cross Physics teachers whose student’s had been marked down, in some cases by large numbers of marks. One school in particular had their practical marks knocked down by 11 marks and G483 is only out of 40. Nationally ~25% of schools had been marked down and a much smaller proportion had been marked up. The general feeling was that those who had been marked down had been marked down too much and without clear reason. It turns out that this was a process done by a computer program called Moderation Manager which the examiners admitted they had been having problems with. Last year the moderator said if anything we were marking a little harshly – it seems like this was a good move as the moderating down was pretty severe.
There is a +/- 3 marks tolerance so if the moderator is in agreement with our marks within this tolerance, then our mark stands.
The examiners stressed the need for lots of clear annotations and indications of where marks have been awarded.
The examiners asked that when extra graph paper is used we copy the page out of that particular paper so that the grid is the same size.
Although we are not allowed to show the students their papers (or even old ones that aren’t used any longer) or mark schemes, we are allowed to talk them through the general points. With his students, the Chief examiner would have their paper in front of him and go through “general” things they got wrong first time around. For example, he might tell them that in future they must draw a bigger triangle when working out a gradient or give results to 3 sig figs.
Lots of marks were dropped because of lack of detail. The example given was students writing things like “…should have used a light gate” and not explaining why a light gate should be used or what it should be used to do. A similar thing was said about justifying the number of significant figures in a result.

The Italian Job

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — ianhardiman @ 2:55 pm

Just found a brilliant activity for teaching moments at A-level. You can find it at You then click on “A-level”, then “The Italian Job”. You need to watch the end sequence of the original version of the film. Luckily there is a Youtube clip to this on the site (under “Physics on Film” in the A-level section). The worksheet then poses two questions; a moments question to work out the position of the centre of gravity of the people and then a “discuss” style question to figure out a solution to the problem.

This is a brilliant activity for A-level students as it takes an otherwise dry topic and really makes it fun. Couple this the experiment to find the centre of gravity of a person laying on a plank (think it’s an old Nuffield experiment) and you have a really good (may I say outstanding!?) A-level lesson!