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Teaching AP Physics With Guest Laura Preiser [Episode 124]


Click below to hear about teaching AP Physics:

It’s the beginning of April, and with the spring air around us, it reminds me of something fresh and new, so I decided to start a new series about teaching different AP sciences. Even though in my podcast episodes, I share ideas and strategies that will benefit all classes, I get a lot of questions targeted specifically toward teaching an AP class. So, in my first episode of the series, I have guest Laura Preiser, who shares how she prepares her students for the AP exam and what changes she’s made that have positively impacted them.

For those who don’t know, AP stands for Advanced Placement and is a course through the College Board that offers the opportunity to earn college credit if students pass the exam at the end of the year. Since that’s the ultimate goal of students, Laura really relies on the various College Board resources to teach her students and prepare them for the exam. She made a new change this year with those resources that gave more time for practice and questions during class, extra review time before the exam, and increased test scores. 

Teaching an AP class can be intimidating, but Laura shares great advice for taking it one unit at a time and being honest with your students about where you’re at. Additionally, she shares how, while preparing her students for the AP exam, she also prepares them with life skills and finding strategies that work best for them. I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Laura about all things AP Physics and know you, too, will gain perspective, knowledge, and ideas you can implement in your own classroom.

Topics Discussed:

  • An introduction to AP classes, what they stand for, and their purpose in a high school classroom
  • The number one question on how Laura teaches and gets through all the content before the exam
  • Advice for new AP Physics teachers and why it’s important to be honest and take it one unit at a time
  • Ways Laura is dividing up her review time to prepare for the exam at the end of the year
  • One way Laura is simplifying her life

Resources Mentioned:

Meet Laura:

Laura has been teaching physics for 10 years. She has taught all different levels of physics with a splash of chemistry. This is her fifth year teaching AP Physics 2, and she has also taught AP Physics 1.

Connect with Laura:

Related Episodes and Blog Posts:

Connect with Rebecca:

More about Secondary Science Simplified: 

Secondary Science Simplified is a podcast specifically for high school science teachers that will help you to engage your students AND simplify your life as a secondary science educator. Each week Rebecca, from It’s Not Rocket Science, and her guests will share practical and easy-to-implement strategies for decreasing your workload so that you can stop working overtime and start focusing your energy doing what you love – actually teaching!

Teaching doesn’t have to be rocket science, and you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to simplify your secondary science teaching life so that you can enjoy your life outside of school even more. Head to itsnotrocketscienceclassroom.com/challenge to grab your FREE Classroom Reset Challenge.

Rebecca 0:00
Happy April, I am so excited to kick off a new series with you all this month, all about teaching the AP sciences. If you aren’t familiar, AP stands for Advanced Placement. And these are courses through the College Board that gives students the opportunity to take a college level course in high school with a chance of earning college credit if they’re able to pass the AP exam at the end of the year. Each week in this series, I have a guest interview for you where I interview a current AP science teacher to get all of your questions answered. On Deck. We have AP Biology, AP environmental science and AP Chemistry. But we are starting this series with AP Physics. Now, before you turn this off, because you’ve never taught AP Physics and never plan to please stick with me. There’s so much goodness in this episode for any AP teacher to get from it. I’m really excited because I had the chance to bring back Laura priser for this conversation, who I previously interviewed in Episode 102. Laura has been teaching physics for 10 years, she has taught all different levels of physics with a splash of chemistry too. This is her fifth year teaching AP Physics two. And she has also taught AP Physics one in the past. Like I said, I’ve previously interviewed Laura and in the fall. And we talked about physics topics that she doesn’t enjoy teaching like waves, and that her students don’t enjoy learning like kinematics, and how kind of to combat that when you don’t like teaching something and your students don’t like learning it. After a conversation. I honestly had a million more questions for her. And so I was thrilled for the opportunity just to bring her back on here and get all of my AP specific questions from her answered. I feel like teachers that teach AP physics are kind of like unicorns. It’s something that I hope I never have to do. And so I’m just so thrilled to learn from someone doing something that’s so out of my personal wheelhouse. And you’ll I’m kind of obsessed with our conversation. I left our interview just so energized and so inspired. And so I hope you feel the same way. One, you will hear right off the bat that I literally know nothing about AP Physics that’s going to be very apparent as we start this conversation. But to I just found the whole thing, so helpful just to hear her perspective. And just so much of what she shared it again, like I said, it’s not AP Physics specific, and it would really help any AP teacher. She talks about a new change she has made in her classroom this year, that has now left her with four weeks of review time before the exam, which I know some of you are like absolutely balking at and of course, at this point, there’s no time to do that now. But you can learn from what she’s done and potentially make changes for next year. She also shares how she plans to spend that four weeks of review time that she has right now before the exam, how she utilizes resources provided by the College Board, and honestly so much more. I love hearing how teachers do things differently from how I used to do them. And I think you will get some amazing ideas from how Laura does things in her AP classroom. Are you ready to hear more? Let’s dive in. This is secondary science simplified a podcast for secondary science teachers who want to engage their students and simplify their lives. I’m Rebecca joiner from it’s not rocket science. As a high school science teacher turned curriculum writer, I am passionate about helping other science teachers love their jobs, serve their students, and do it all and only 40 hours a week. Are you ready to rock the time you spend in your classroom and actually have a life outside of it? You are in the right place teacher friend. Let’s get to today’s episode.

Laura, welcome back to the podcast.

Laura Preiser 4:01
Thank you for having me. I’m excited.

Rebecca 4:04
I’m so excited. Like this is a topic that, you know, people in my corner of the internet My teachers have been asking so much about. And of all of the APS I have the least connection to AP physics. So I’m just thrilled that you’re here to show us the way to provide the light for the teachers who are teaching this and are super stressed out. And yeah, I mean, I’m just tickled that you are here and willing to do this again. So to kick us off, like, just give us I mean, the only thing I really know is that you have AP Physics one and AP Physics two, but other than that I don’t really know anything about what the CD tells you or what this course or courses are about. So give us a flyer for anyone listening who teaches and doesn’t know about it either.

Laura Preiser 4:52
So I’m really gonna blow your mind. There’s actually four different AP physics courses. Yeah, I know. She’s crazy. So we have AP Physics one and AP Physics two which are both algebra based courses. And then you have AP Physics C, E and M and AP Physics si mechanics, which are two courses that are calc based physics. Wow. So there’s four separate courses total. Some schools I know will do like AP Physics II and mmm mechanics in one year, I even went to a training and some teachers did AP Physics one and AP Physics two in one year. Wow, that gives me that gives me the who? Yeah. But ultimately, I think they’re each you know, a year course maybe like the C classes can be taught together because I think the teacher in my building, she teaches them together.

Rebecca 5:41
Okay, it’s and your experiences with the first two that are algebra based? Correct. My

Laura Preiser 5:45
experiences with AP Physics one and AP Physics two. I’ve never taught the calc based one.

Rebecca 5:52
Okay, so what kind of creates the divide in terms of the content that’s covered in each of those? I’m assuming you need to take one before two. They’re not completely different. Do they have to go sequence

Laura Preiser 6:01
and they are completely different? Wow. Okay. Yeah.

Rebecca 6:04
Look, I know nothing. I know. Yeah. So it’s, it’s,

Laura Preiser 6:07
it’s it’s interesting, because you can, you know, I teach in my district right now I teach AP Physics two. And kids don’t take AP Physics one before taking my course. Okay? They usually come from maybe a physics honors class, or maybe just they’re feeling ambitious and just go right to AP Physics two. So they have the course split up. So the units are very separate. You’re not learning the same thing in AP Physics one as you are in AP Physics two. I mean, there are concepts you learn in one you’ll use into like conservation of energy, you know, you will apply that to, you know, circuits and thermodynamics and other units. But it’s not necessarily the way you learn it in AP Physics one.

Rebecca 6:54
Okay, so what kind of like, what kind of divides? What makes them different? Is it just like they’re just each half the different topics? Or is it like, is there a theme for AP Physics one versus a theme for AP Physics two.

Laura Preiser 7:07
So there are definitely separate topics in each. So that definitely separates the two. And they each have their own big ideas. But I feel like the skills for each are pretty much the same, you know, using mathematical routines, designing experiments, looking at data, arguments, using data and using evidence, which I really appreciate in the course, models using models to describe different phenomena and cross cutting topics. So you know, connecting different topics within AP Physics one or AP Physics two, or if you’ve, you know, taken the other one, you can connect it back. So those are really the skills for each, I would say, AP Physics, one AP Physics two those both share, but separately, they’re two completely different topics covered.

Rebecca 7:56
So I feel like most AP teachers just feel like, the breadth that we’re required to cover is like, so insane. Do you feel like it’s the same in AP Physics? You know, there’s four AP Physics, they couldn’t divide it up at, like smaller amounts. Yeah.

Laura Preiser 8:12
So I, from when I taught AP Physics one, I think AP Physics one is a little heavier than AP Physics two content wise, especially because that can sometimes be the course that kids take instead of maybe taking physics honors, or they, you know, hop right into AP Physics one. So I think the content is more in that course, just because a lot of the times it’s maybe their first experience with physics. Yeah.

Rebecca 8:42
What do you think about that, like schools that do that? Do you think that’s just like absolutely foolish? Or do you think it is doable? I

Laura Preiser 8:49
definitely think it’s doable. Okay. In my personal experience, I know I’ve talked to other teachers who don’t feel the same way. In one of the districts I was in where I taught AP Physics one, kids went right into AP Physics one, they did not take an honors, they did not do anything. And I feel like when you go into a course like that, it’s a clean slate. So you’re learning things as you go, you’re not trying to remember something from last year or confusing it with something from last year or trying to, you know, just associate things that way. You’re just kind of learning as you go. And everything is new. So you’re just going through it in real time, rather than try to refresh but maybe you didn’t really even get it that time. So I find it can be very doable to just go into the AP, if you’re at that level and have that work ethic,

Rebecca 9:40
right. Do you think it what do you think the most important prerequisite is that work ethic? Do you think it’s a strong math background? Or what do you think like the most important thing to be successful?

Laura Preiser 9:52
I think a good work ethic is really important because like you said, it’s a lot of content. And you can do so much In class, but having a good strong work ethic and understanding time management, I think can really help you in the course, and really putting that effort forward. You know, I’ve seen kids who realize in the beginning of the year, oh, this is what this course is like, Okay, let me pause, gather myself, and figure out what I need to do to be the most successful.

Rebecca 10:28
So thinking of that, like needing these kids to have the strong work ethic, do you feel like you’re having to recruit students to sign up? Or are they willingly wanting to take your course, like, I know, especially in these last few years, so many students are taking like these dual enrollment courses, you know, at the local, you know, tech school or whatever. Maybe you have a local university where you are. And it feels like more of a sure thing than taking an AP course. I don’t know if you have struggled with recruitment. But how do you feel like that has gone to kind of recruit students do try really hard course and work really hard?

Laura Preiser 11:01
Yeah, so that that’s really interesting. So my district right now, we don’t offer too many science classes through a university. So AP is kind of their only route if they want to take a higher level science course. So, you know, it’s just kind of like talking students through it. Some are always like, Well, I’m not sure if I should take it. Is it hard? And you know, I’m not the sugarcoating teacher. So I’m like, yes, it’s hard. But you can do hard things, you know, you later on in life, you will be doing hard things. So I like to set up my course. So I really teach them how to have these independent skills to succeed, whether they go in whether they go to college, or the real world where you have to be accountable for yourself.

Rebecca 11:50
Well, and I love all those skills that you listed at the beginning describing the skills that are exist in both AP Physics one and two, because they’re skills that transfer to any discipline, like you said, the model studying the the argument and being able to defend your argument, you know, analyzing data, that’s all those are all critical life skills. So huge perk there, for sure. Okay, so what do you love about what you are required to teach in this course, and how the exam is written? What are some things that you think are really positive about it?

Laura Preiser 12:21
I love having students explain their answers. I know the sounds and like, explain their answers. And they do paragraph paragraph length responses on my exam. So a lot of the times when kids come to me, they haven’t really written paragraphs in science, you know, maybe like a conclusion paragraph or something, summing up their findings, but having to justify and explain something they’re seeing or a reaction that’s happening. And whatever the problem may be, is always a struggle. But I think that’s a good struggle. I think it’s really great to have that writing piece. In the course, you know, everyone thinks we’re just plugging and chugging the whole way through. But it’s so much more than that, which I do really appreciate about this course, about the courses because you do it in one and two. That

Rebecca 13:17
really reminds me of when I took AP Statistics, I took it because my favorite math teacher in high school, taught AP Stats, I was like, I’ll do AP Stats, like I didn’t really even know anything about stats. And I remember being like, why are we writing so much? But, like, learning how to like use statistics, and like you said, defend something, and like really back it up with numbers and words, it was a really great life skill as the most practical AP course I ever took. Yes.

Laura Preiser 13:43
And I think that’s one of the biggest struggles, because I know I always when I hand out a paragraph length response for you free response question, everyone is just like, oh, man, here we go. Because, you know, they, you have to make sure you’re answering all parts of their question. And, you know, you also have to know what you’re talking about.

Rebecca 14:06
Absolutely. Okay, so what do you not like about the test? Or maybe the CD? And what’s required of you? Sometimes,

Laura Preiser 14:12
it’s not that I don’t like it, I guess sometimes I struggle with and not necessarily the wording of their questions, because I you know, I mean, New York State, so we have to deal with the regents exam as well. So we deal with those sort of questions. But sometimes I feel like their questions. I’m like, how do you expect them to get to this from this? You know, I just feel like, I guess I don’t always understand their train of thought, designing the question. So sometimes I struggle explaining to the kids like where we can go from here are how to get there. And, you know, I want to have all the answers. I want to be as helpful as possible. So that is sometimes a struggle for me. That’s

Rebecca 14:57
I felt that a little bit with APB biology that, like, so much of the success depended on their ability to be a good test taker. And really, like sort through, at least for AP Biology, they give you a lot of extra information to kind of stress you out. That’s like, not necessary. And it’s like you said, it’s really zooming in and be like, what do they actually want you to say here? You know, it’s very tricky. Okay, so how like, I feel like the biggest question when I sent out, I sent out an email to my email list 1000s of teachers, it was so funny, I have a friend who helps me with my email. And I was like, hey, just FYI, like reached out and see people had questions that people send them in just like, let me know what they are. And she was like, I’m so glad you warned me, because I opened the email and was like, so overwhelmed. Like you had so many questions for you and the other AP teachers, which is awesome. But the biggest resounding question, for every subject area was like, how are you teaching at all? Like, how are you covering all the especially I don’t know, in New York, but I’m assuming you probably go back to school later, like after Labor Day, and you still have that test, like early May. So you’re losing a month of time that like the state’s schools, you know, in South Carolina, we start early August. Yeah. Who? How? Like, how are you doing it? And or, like, I feel like a lot of people feel like the solution is, do I just have to assign like an insane amount of homework? Or how do I do it?

Laura Preiser 16:22
So this year, I actually am doing something completely different. And I’m so happy I decided to change it. Ooh, tell. I took a flipped classroom course over the summer. And you know, you people always talk about flipped classroom and like, Oh, you don’t videos at home, this and that. And I’m like, okay, that’s really cool. Great. And yeah. But when I took this class, some of the research behind it was from an AP Calc teacher. And I’m like, what, what is going on here? So what I decided to do this year, College Board, actually came out with videos for each topic. And this came out of the pandemic, which is actually really great. It was one of those things that is like so positive from the pandemic, I can’t even explain how great I think the videos are. Because what better resource than College Board, right? So what I do is I give the students two weeks to watch all the videos in a unit. And it’s usually like before the unit starts. So that way in class, they take notes on it, I checked their notes and stuff. But in class, I’m able to truly just do problems, and practice and labs. And I’ve seen such a difference in my test scores this year. Because I’m able to really take time during class to do free response questions, multiple choice questions, lab activities, designing experiments, which are all things they’re going to see on their exam. So I will definitely continue to use this method with my AP class, because it really has given me so much more class time.

Rebecca 18:03
Okay, I love this. So two follow up questions. How long are the videos? Because I think one of the fears is like, I feel like most kids who take AP science are taking a bunch of APS, like AP science feels like, to me the hardest of all the disciplines. And so they’re having all this AP homework, I love that you said you just kind of give them two weeks to a whole unit, but like how long are these videos? And how do you ensure they’re not just like all one person is taking the notes for the team? And they’re all copying? Or do you even care? Like, does does that show up in your class dynamic? Or how? Because I like obsessed with the strategy. Like to have more practice problem time and lab time is amazing. But how do you ensure it’s legit?

Laura Preiser 18:44
No, ultimately, because I give the two weeks I try to be conscious about what else I’m posting for homework during that time, right. And usually a unit is probably maybe three to four hours of videos, but over two weeks, it’s very manageable. And I always tell them, you know, how you manage it is how you manage it. Because some keep some kids got upset, like, Oh, why don’t you assign a certain number of videos, you know, each night? And I’m like, well, because people’s lives are different each night, right? You know, you guys are 11 to 12 graders. So like maybe you’re working, maybe you have a sport, maybe Wednesday, you can watch five videos for Thursday, you can only watch one you know how you manage your time and that’s just a skill. It’s a life skill they’re learning as well. So how they manage their time is up to them. I give them a Cornell style template to use their notes on cool. And what’s cool about the College Board website is you can see if they watched the videos perfect, so you can track that as well. So I Do peruse that but again, if they’re taking an AP class I do try and set it up like these are your notes what you do with them and how you Take them is up to you. Right? Which

Rebecca 20:03
is so college like, I’m like college I’m like 70 fibers and the time I’m teaching this to myself back then was in a textbook by my brother from a video.

Laura Preiser 20:13
Yes. And you know, sometimes physics videos that are not dry are really hard to find, right? Because sometimes I’m like, if I’m bored, they’re already bored totally. Like, we’re not assigning this video, and the College Board ones, the teachers are engaging, and they’re really great videos. And again, like what better resource to use than the College Board website, if they’re open to you.

Rebecca 20:37
100%. That’s my like, number one advice for anyone teaching AP is like, make all your test questions come directly from the questions that are provided from College Board, even if they’re released on the Internet, like, it’s better to use their wording, like you said, and hear directly from them. Because then they’re so familiar with it when they get to the test.

Laura Preiser 20:56
Exactly. And, and you can tell some kids take really detailed notes, some kids do like an abridged version. But it’s really to that point, if you register if you’re taking this class, it’s up to you what you want to get from this class. And then what I also do is I have note packets for each unit, which are used to do guided notes. So that was before I flipped my classroom. So I used to do guided notes. So now instead of kind of not wasting my time, but wasting time, just like filling in the blanks, they fill in the entire note packet before. And we do all the problems together. So I give them a copy of the note packet with no problems filled out, we do a quick review of what’s filled out before and we do the practice problems together. And then, at the end of the unit, I post, like the completed unit packet with the practice problems and everything filled in for them. So they have that resource as well. But again, I’m not using that class time to just fill in my guided notes.

Rebecca 21:59
That’s so good. That’s such a time suck, especially when you’re covering so much content.

Laura Preiser 22:04
Yeah. And I found that I’m able to do you know where last year maybe I was doing two fr Q’s per unit, I’m able to do like four or five. That’s awesome. So they have a lot of exposure to the different fr Q’s per unit.

Rebecca 22:19
That’s amazing. Yeah, what’s

Laura Preiser 22:21
nice is I haven’t even really touched some of the practice problems and AP classroom. So I can use that for review, which I will have maybe about three to four weeks of review.

Rebecca 22:33
That’s awesome. That’s so much good time.

Laura Preiser 22:36
It’s really great. I really recommend trying it. And I usually check in with my students via like a Google form. And they really are liking it as

Rebecca 22:46
well. Okay, love that. So do you use a textbook at all,

Laura Preiser 22:50
I give them a textbook, two textbook options, because there is one that I do really like. And I just have it there as a source. In my note packet, sometimes I did copy some images I liked and I said this is from the textbook, you can find this on this page. If they do want to go and look through it. It’s a digital copy. So it’s not a I’m not handing them a textbook or anything. And then there is a completely digital textbook I like so they can use that as a reference as well. Okay,

Rebecca 23:19
um, well, people are always asking about textbooks, and I hated using them. But I did for AP Bio, because I felt like in college, there were some classes like I desperately had to learn from a textbook and I never had before, so I kind of had to figure it out. So I’m always kind of intrigued to hear what people think about that. Okay, I feel like you really shared how you are reclaiming your class time. What do labs kind of look like for AP physics? And how much of your do they are they giving you? Like, do you have an AP physics lab manual, like we did for biology that are like the required, but I’m using quotations because they’re just like, encouraged.

Laura Preiser 23:53
There, we don’t have anything like that nothing like required or like that we have to do, they give you some experiments that you can do different activities for you to do. So they try and give you some ideas, which is nice. But I tend to just kind of do my own thing based on like, what topic I think would benefit having a lab with what

Rebecca 24:18
do you think are some of your favorite labs or topics you’d like love to dive into labs with?

Laura Preiser 24:22
Okay, so it’s interesting. Optics is probably one of my least favorite to teach, but has the best

Unknown Speaker 24:29
labs. Interesting.

Laura Preiser 24:32
I think one of those old reliable Labs is the optical bench lab, where you set up the lens on the meter stick and you have the candle and you’re trying to find the image of the candle using the lens I think that’s always a crowd pleaser. You know, they’re like oh my gosh, I got it. I see the flame I see the flame and you’re like this is awesome. For I always do index of refraction lab so figuring out how much light bends in a material. I always do. jello.

Rebecca 25:00
I think you just were prepping that on Instagram the other day. Yes. Yeah. Love that.

Laura Preiser 25:04
Let me tell you, it’s a completely different vibe when it’s jello versus like, oil. You know, like, there’s so much more intuitive than otherwise, it’s so fun. It is. And then we do with a human hair. So that’s very cool. So they shine the laser on the hair. So looking at diffraction grating and stuff, looking at that pattern, and interference. That’s a really cool one. I actually saw that one in the training for AP Physics two. It came up, I believe, and I was like, Oh, I gotta try that one. So that one I really enjoy.

Rebecca 25:42
Did you go to an AP Summer Institute?

Laura Preiser 25:44
I did. I went for both. So I went for AP Physics one, when I taught that and I went for AP Physics two. And both of them I very much enjoyed. The instructor was really great. The people in the class either had taught before. So they had really great information. So you’re learning from them. And I really enjoyed it. I really recommend I know, AP Physics is going through a big change UI at the end of this year. A lot of shifts. So if I ended up, you know, teaching the course again, next year, I would like to go to that training again, because I really did find it beneficial. Yeah,

Rebecca 26:22
I always love to hear what people think I had, I went to one before AP Biology, they threw it on me, semi last minute, like right for the end of the school year, and knowing I was going to teach it like three months. And I was like, you have to pay for me to get some training. Like I’m so overwhelmed. And it was a year or two after biology rewrote their CD. So I was like, I can’t use like the old AP Bio teacher stuff, because he never went to the new training. I gotta have it. Yeah. And I cried every day that training because I felt so inadequate budget that I understand. But I learned like I would have been foolish if I hadn’t gone. And what was so funny is I was the only one asking questions the whole time. And so I tell everyone, like you gotta go and just be humble and willing to be like, I don’t understand. And it was so funny because I felt like I was the stupidest person in the class, is the only person asking questions. And then the last day at lunch, like four of the other people in my class came up to me, my cohort and they’re like, we just want to say thank you so much for asking a question, because we didn’t know what was going on. But we were too scared to ask. And I was like, Guys, we’re adults. I know. I’m like, I’ve been crying every night thing. Yeah, I’m the dumbest person in this room. And we’re all struggling, but no one was willing to say it. Yeah. But for me, I learned so so much like you said, so I love to hear like if it’s similar, similarly helpful. For other people.

Laura Preiser 27:40
Yes, I really thought so. And again, you kind of make that connection with the people in the room as well. Yeah. When people are never taught it like me. And I was like, I don’t remember the last time I even looked at something thermodynamics related. Okay, I thermo, what can I spell it? I don’t know. I’m like, we need we need to refresh.

Rebecca 28:00
It’s so true. Like you’re thinking about stuff that especially like, I mean, I had taught like, you know, honors biology in general biology, but then some of the stuff we were talking about the AP training, I’m like this, I took this, like sophomore year of college, like biochem. I don’t remember the, you know, 75 enzymes for every single step of cellular respiration, like, I don’t know. And so yeah, it’s a it’s a doozy. So any tips for that of like, for the teacher who’s walking in? And like, I don’t know, feel like I have a grasp on this content?

Laura Preiser 28:33
Yeah, breathe. Number one. Number two, I feel like always be honest with your class. Because they can smell, you know, fear. I’ve always been really honest. And it’s always been very received, you know, with like, even with my physics classes, like, I’ve never done this lab. So let’s see how goes, let’s try it. Let’s do this. And they’re like, Okay, and then some kids will even give suggestions. Like, what if we did something like this? Instead? I’m like, Oh, great idea. You know, so I really think be honest with the kids, and use all the resources that College Board has available. So when I first started, you know, they didn’t have that stuff. But I feel like even just using it now as a quick refresher for myself, because I always try and refresh myself every year. You know, no matter how long you’ve been doing it, like when does it get easier? I know, just keep finding resources that work for you. Because there are a good amount out there for definitely a people’s one. Yeah,

Rebecca 29:34
I love that. That just idea being honest. Like I remember doing practice fr Q’s and pulling it up on my whiteboard and projecting it in like us. Like as a class. I had a nice small section my first time but like, being able to verbally process it with them and and walk through it with them and be like, Okay, here’s what I’m thinking. I don’t know. Let’s see for right, like, let’s see if we interpreted this correctly. I think the honesty is huge and being like, hey, I’m going to be in the trenches with you. Like, I want you to pass just as much as you and so I’m going to be working really hard. Like, I told them when I assigned my homework, like I’m studying every night just like you to get ready for this. It’s hard.

Laura Preiser 30:11
Yes, it’s so true. And I always like to be prepared. So I feel like, if I’m assigning an FR Q, or multiple choice problems, I always do them first. Oh, yeah, I go through, I show my work. I do it all. And you know, it’s for them, but also, for me, totally don’t feel like if they come and ask you a question about a problem, and you’re like, Hey, I just need a couple minutes to solve it on my own first, and then we’ll chat about it. I’d rather you know, I but the kids would rather you maybe take a minute and do it right? And then explain it to them, rather than maybe you stumble on yourself or you’re not confident in that moment, then like, just just take a minute and do it out yourself. Right there yourself. There’s nothing wrong with

Rebecca 30:56
that. Okay, so I love this kind of culture you’ve created in your AP class. So how many sections of AP physics are you teaching? And about? How many students do you have at a time? Because I think I was able to kind of have that rapport with my students. But I had such a small class. So I’m wondering, you know what it’s like for you.

Laura Preiser 31:12
I have one section, I usually have one section, and it’s about average, maybe 15. Okay, that’s a nice, maybe like 10 to 15? Yeah,

Rebecca 31:23
that’s very manageable. Honestly, that’s so nice. Okay, so do you feel like grading is overwhelming at all? Or, like, especially since you’re saying so much of it, like explanations and like reading all the stuff they wrote? Like, how do you keep up with a grading? Because I think you have four prep? So you are three?

Laura Preiser 31:40
I have three, right now? Yeah, I have three, I was like, how many do I have three. So it depends on the type of problem. So if it is like a paragraph length response, I’ll just grade that paragraph part, not the other parts that lead up to it. Or that’s really what I’ve been trying to do is kind of just grade parts rather than the whole. And a lot of the time what I’ve been doing this year, another thing is, because we have time, I’ll give them the FR Q, they’ll work on it. And then I give them the scoring guides. So they can see what the scoring guide looks like and kind of gauge where they would be. And you know, some kids are asking me for clarification, like, Do you think I’d get the point here? Do you think I wouldn’t get the point here? How could I’ve gotten the point. So really, again, another way I’m holding them accountable for themselves, is really using that scoring guide grading their work, and then reaching out to me if they have any questions or problems. So and then on Google Classroom, because that’s what we use. I always post the question blank, the scoring guide, and then my solutions. So how I would answer it, and they can see kind of where they are with respect to what I put, and the scoring guide, and their own work. So they can kind of work through that. And if they need me to go over anything, they’re pretty good about asking, right?

Rebecca 33:07
So obviously, like all I mean, at least all biology ones are on the internet, like all the FR Q’s. So do you feel like I mean, I feel like some students are just gonna cheat, you just kind of like let them do it. Like if they just find the answers themselves that are not actually trying to say, you know, you’re just going to be screwed later? Or do you feel like you have any tips for preventing that? So

Laura Preiser 33:30
for something like that, it’s almost, because my district, everyone has a Chromebook. So if it was a situation like that, then it’s put your Chromebooks away, you can use your notes, you can use your reference table. But I really like when they work and talk collaboratively, because I think they really do help each other in those ways, then it’s just like you said, kind of a, what do you want to get out of this? Right? You want to just copy it offline? Or do you want to work through it and maybe leave that spot blank, because you need to go over it. There’s nothing wrong with that. Because someone else probably left it blank as well. So that’s kind of where I sit there.

Rebecca 34:11
I think that’s great. I think like, we can almost be driven crazy trying to prevent all these cheaters. And like, at the end of the day, like they will cheat. If they want to cheat, they will find a way. And so it’s like, stop. I’m like, kind of like, my newest mindset is like stop wasting all your energy trying to I mean, don’t be silly, but you know, don’t waste your energy trying to prevent something and just focus on the students who are really trying because those kids are not going to pass the AP exam, you know,

Laura Preiser 34:37
and that’s exactly it. And it’s it’s interesting, because I I do take home tests. So Oh, interesting. Home test.

Rebecca 34:46
Laura, tell us more about this.

Laura Preiser 34:49
Yes. So I’ve been doing this. I think it’s helpful. I think there are really a lot of benefits to take on tests and maybe some people like don’t agree with me and that’s, that’s okay. No, yeah,

Rebecca 34:59
it’s just a First thing you learn from other people what works? Yeah.

Laura Preiser 35:02
So I’ve been doing take home tests since I started AP Physics two, mostly because I know it sounds silly, but like, I didn’t want to waste a double period or three class periods on an exam. And, you know, at first the kids are like, Oh, my gosh, a take home test, this going to be great, I’m gonna get 100. But then they take it home. And they’re like, whoa, lady, this was hard. You know, and there’s a bunch of rules that I set out for the take home test. So they have guidelines that they read and signed off on that they would follow for the test. And I think it forces them to look up the material, look back in their notes, use the reference table. And you know, if they are looking it up online, they have to tell me, they have to give me the website, because I’m not. I know, I know how the internet works. So they have to just let me know, and kids are pretty good about saying like, I found it here. And if I go to that link, I don’t want to see it copied. So you need to show me, you understood what was going on this problem now in your old words. So kids are pretty good about that. So I’ve seen really good, you know, the first take home test is always the worst. Because I think they’re like, well, these questions are hard. I can’t google everything. Right. So that it just it really does get better from there. So I really liked the take home tests.

Rebecca 36:30
my follow up question would be, I used to be like, not understanding why people did that, or why they did open note. And then, you know, as time has gone on, I’ve really loved the idea of it, especially just the open note and almost putting everyone on the same playing field from like kids that would cheat being like, hey, you can all use your stuff. My question is, though, how do you prepare them? Do your students struggle with the time constraints of the AP exam when they get there? Having had, you know, unedited time because I, one of the things I distinctly remember about my students was coming off of the AP Bio exam. And on the AP, bio teacher, Facebook group. All of these people being like, none of my kids finish, they all said it like, it took too long and every kid in my class, so they had plenty of time, because I like drilled them in the time constraints. Is that a problem? Or do you feel like they kind of figure it out?

Laura Preiser 37:21
I’ve never really had too many kids complain about time after the exam. But during review, that’s when I really, that’s when we really have that kind of time to take in class. And plus, at review time, it’s the entire course. Right? So you know, they’re really practicing, going through multiple choice that are all in objects or an all in fluids, you know, they’re really going through all the topics and really seeing how they do on the multiple choice. So when we have that review time, that’s when I take the class time to say, you have this amount of time to complete these multiple choice.

Rebecca 38:03
Go, and then we talk right, right, and then we’ll go

Laura Preiser 38:06
through them sort of thing, but at least it gives them a feel for the time.

Rebecca 38:10
Okay, so when you have this three to four weeks coming up, it’s so exciting. I’m so excited for you. How are you going to be dividing at that time, like, review is so important, but I personally hate review because I feel like he can get so boring. So what are you going to What are you doing with all that time to make it useful for your students to really help them pass?

Laura Preiser 38:29
So I’m going to do a few things. So first, I’ll focus like a period or two on each unit, and just kind of focus in just kind of refresh them on that. So for midterm I did use your project for the teach the class will, yes, so we have those to reference back to as well. So I can do a period reference their midterm reviews, and just take time for each content. And then I do plan on taking a couple of days to annotate the reference table. Because some kids just think it takes up space on their desk. I’m like, why are you memorizing Bernoulli equation? Okay, it is literally written here for you. I’m not impressed. Okay, I’m 0% impressed that you memorize this equation when it’s given to you. So the goal with the annotating the reference table, I saw this from an AP Chem teacher on Instagram, and I was like, Oh girl, I need to do that. She like printed them really big. And then in groups, they just kind of wrote all over it. And I wish I had more time to do it last year. So I’m definitely going to do it this year. And it’s just kind of like writing all over their reference tables. So maybe when they’re taking the exam, they can kind of picture what they had written or picture what they had did, because there are some equations that are not on that reference table. You know, even little notes on how to use the equation. So I do plan on taking a couple days to do that. Again, because it’s not meant to take up space on your desk. It’s meant to be USD, right? And then we’re just going to work on some exams, print out exams, we’re going to work in class, they can’t leave the classroom, you know, College Board rules. So we will just be doing those in class. As much as possible. I do sometimes, like give them, you know, a couple breaks, you know, we have a double, and we’re working through, let’s take 10 minutes, you know, let’s just like, have a snack, right, you know, so I do, you know, give them time to breathe, but it’s really the time to just kind of get it done. This is kind of the last push. And that’s what I tell them. Okay, so do you use any

Rebecca 40:39
of the AP, like prep books out there, like Barron’s, or anything? Or do you have any other like prep resources that you found really helpful to us other than of course, the like provided exams from College Board.

Laura Preiser 40:49
I actually never really found a great review book I like I know, some AP Physics, teachers have talked about the five steps to a five I think the one that comes up the most people really liked that I just never have really gravitated towards one or the other. I wish I had I probably that should be something I should look into to be honest. But otherwise, I really just use the resources there for help. I also really liked the website, five bubble. I think it’s called Five bubble. And they have kind of a brief overview of each topic as a whole. And then the sub topics like little study guides, it’s really a cool website. It’s for like all AP classes. They

Rebecca 41:42
all right, well look up that will look up the links, we can put it in the show notes. That’s really awesome. Is there like there’s an amazing AP Bio like Facebook group, it had prize like 1000s of teachers. Is there something like that for AP Physics? Yep.

Laura Preiser 41:54
Yep. It’s called I think like the National AP physics teachers, and they all talk about AP Physics, one, AP Physics, two AP Physics, see, all the APs are covered. And there’s so many generous teachers and parents incredible. Okay,

Rebecca 42:08
that’s awesome. We’ll find that and we’ll link that in the show notes to you. My one warning I always say for any Facebook group, though, is I feel like Facebook tends to attract a lot of like negative people. And people are going to vent. So if you find yourself in a Facebook group and you feel depressed, leave or mute it. Like I like to use the 80 by one just to search stuff. Like if I had a specific thing, like how am I supposed to teach, you know, this topic, I would search it and see what people had said. And also some people in those groups go so far beyond the depth required and then you’re like, am I not teaching enough? And why supposed to do that? Right? And then I’m like, Okay, wait, you’ve been teaching this for 45 years, and you’re just like, super passionate about, you know, glycolysis I’m gonna let you do your thing, you know? So true. Yeah, yeah. Okay. But that’s good to know that that exists. Okay. Two more real questions for you. We’ve kind of touched on this, but I just think the apathy post pandemic is so high in students, and I feel like teachers are really having a hard time motivating those students that just aren’t motivated. So do you have any other tips just to help with those people?

Laura Preiser 43:19
Hey, wish, like help those students? Yeah. You know, I feel like, we’re just seeing that a lot. And it’s really a struggle, just trying to get certain kids to motivate themselves. And, you know, I had a few that were questioning whether to take the exam or not. And I’m like, You sat in this class, you’re doing what you can do? I think you should, you know, I want to see kids succeed. So just trying to make them see that they are good enough. It’s, it’s really

Rebecca 44:00
hard. It is so hard. And I think it’s going to take so much time to like, reverse this. This mentality. Yeah, I wish I had a better answer to.

Laura Preiser 44:10
No, I really agree. And I think, you know, building a good relationship with the students as much as you can, I think can really help

Rebecca 44:21
with that. Yeah, absolutely. How many of your students are choosing not to take the exam? And how do you motivate them? If like, at what point can they decide I’m not going to sign up for this? And then how much of the school here do you have with them?

Laura Preiser 44:33
I feel like I had a few kids come to me recently, you know, asking me Do you think I should take the exam? I don’t think I should take the exam. And you know, paying for the exam aside, I said, like I said to like I said before, you know you took the time to sit through this entire course. You’ve been handing in your assignments, you’ve been taking the quizzes, you’ve been doing the take home tests, you’re doing the labs, you’re Submitting all your work, why not? Because you’re afraid of the exam, you’re afraid of it, don’t be afraid of it. It’s just another thing you’re going to check off your list. Ultimately, in the end, you know, the score does not define you think about, you know, the fact that you made it through survived, if you will, yeah, this course, which may have been the most difficult course you took in high school?

Rebecca 45:24
Well, and no one has to know your score, like you don’t have, we’re not going to be on your transcript. So it’s like, it’s fine.

Laura Preiser 45:30
And it’s no one’s business. If someone asks, you be like, Nunya, okay, then your business because like, it’s not, that’s something I always tell them. And I’m like, when I get back your quizzes, your grade is your grade. Don’t you dare make someone feel bad because they won’t tell you their grade. Don’t ask 100 times someone else’s grade.

Rebecca 45:49
I know, it’s alone. They’re so annoying. When they do that. It’s Oh, I know, I had one student who I really wanted to pass the exam because she tried so hard. And she got it too. And it like hurt when I saw her score, because I just was like, I know how much effort you put in. And so I can, you know, it’s like July, when the scores can I reached out to her like, personally, and I was just like, I just want you to like, not feel any shame about this. Like, especially for AP Bio, like, unless you get like a five, or maybe some schools afford, you’re not going to get out of that taking the class again, anyway. Yep. Like you learned so much valuable stuff from this. So like, you’re gonna take it and then when you take bio 101, in college, it’s gonna be such a joke for you, because you’ve already like, done all this other stuff.

Laura Preiser 46:33
Exactly. It’s exactly. It’s like you don’t realize how much work you’re an effort you’re putting in until you’re, you know, in a different setting where maybe it’s not as difficult and you’re like, Whoa, I’ve done harder than this.

Rebecca 46:46
Totally. Okay, so, big question is like the people who said this will be coming out like April 1. So some people are starting to get contracts are starting to find out, they might be teaching AP Physics one or two for the first time next school year, what would be your advice for that, like new to the AP physics world teacher, who

Laura Preiser 47:07
what would be my advice, again, breathe, you’re gonna be it’s, it’s exciting, because you’re gonna get the type of kids that want to be there. They want to learn, they want to be challenged, and do what you can over the summer to prep yourself for at least maybe the first unit. You know, don’t overwhelm yourself with like, I need to know the whole course by the end of the summer, don’t overwhelm yourself, get your first unit under your belt, get it solid. And that way you can really have fun with it. And like I said before, be honest with your students, it makes a difference and ask for their feedback. Because they will give it to you. And they’re honest about it, which is really the you know, who you’re trying to get through to. So whatever you can do to help them better. You want to do, yeah,

Rebecca 47:59
and I used to take feedback, like so personally. It’s hard, but yeah, don’t take it personally, right. But I had to be like, Okay, I am a teacher. That is my job. It is not defined who I am as a person. Yep. And also, understanding like, these are teenagers, some of them are just going to be rude out of spite. Like it isn’t. You know, they’re just, they’re trying to hurt me, like, I need to really laser in. And I would tell them that too. And I’d ask for feedback. Like, if you think I was the worst at this, like, that’s fine, but like, give me really specific thing. Yes.

Laura Preiser 48:36

Rebecca 48:37
Like, what was it that was like, super not helpful, or, you know, or way too much? Or don’t just be like, you’re my least favorite person on the planet. I never want to see your face again. You know, like, that doesn’t help me.

Laura Preiser 48:53
Oh, goodness, Tina. And I feel like when you teach an AP class, and I don’t know, if you felt this way as well, but like, you have a different relationship with those kids. It’s a different vibe in the room. While you are doing hard things in the room. It’s almost a little bit more relaxed. Yes. If that makes sense. You you have a different relationship there. So that is really cool.

Rebecca 49:19
I was like, obsessed with that because every student I had in that course, I had taught either general or honors biology their freshman year. So then I had him again as a junior senior. And I like run such a tight ship with freshmen. Like I don’t want I don’t play at all. And it was so funny because especially the boys were like you are like so much more enjoyable in this class. I’m like, boy, I can be because we’re at a totally different caliber. Yep, you will. You all are two to three years more mature than you were, you know, I was training you for high school now. Like I’m hopefully training you for college, but to me, the stakes are still so much lower. Like I love AP because I just feel like it’s An opportunity to prepare for college. But so few of us are actually going to skip courses in college. Like, I know that feel like that was the original goal, like get your credits, but I’m like now it’s more like about let’s just have like, a great learning experience, and be really prepared as a student. I don’t know.

Laura Preiser 50:16
I totally agree. And that’s kind of how I set up. You know, my class, obviously, we have to take an exam in May, right. But I really tell them, I’m like, This is your opportunity to take care of you to learn what you need, how you need to organize yourself, how you need to schedule your things, how you need to do things to get things done, what works for you.

Rebecca 50:36
I love that and how you create that space too. With your flipped classroom. Like you figure out how to time inch and how you like to write notes. And you do what’s best for you.

Laura Preiser 50:46
Yeah, and like I said, I really have been enjoying that this year. Yeah, this

Rebecca 50:50
is a safe space. Like to do it before you are like, you know, thrown to the wolves wherever you go to college. Yep,

Laura Preiser 50:56
exactly. Okay, well, I

Rebecca 50:58
asked you this last time you’re on the podcast, but it’s tradition. So I would love to know, because of the secondary science on the five podcast, what is one way that you have been simplifying your life recently?

Laura Preiser 51:10
I would have to say with grading you Yes, I definitely have stopped the grade every single thing all the time, every single word. And has anyone died? No, no one has shockingly has, okay, if anything, I’m happier. I think. You know, I’ve been grading some things on completion, you know, low points. But then if it is a bigger assignment, I grade kind of like the part that’s most important, if you will, like the conclusion paragraph, or the analysis, the graph, you know, I grade certain things, not the whole. I love that my life is way better.

Rebecca 51:51
That’s I that was like my favorite thing to do with labs. And they always want to know, like, what are you going to grade this time? And I’m like, you’ll see like, it’s a surprise. And then we did pure grade for the rest of it. But I was like, that’s the only way I can keep up with all this. It’s insane amount too great. Too much. Yeah, it’s too much. Well, seriously, this is a delight for me. I’m herb, it’s a delight for my listeners. How can they stay connected with you? You know, moving forward?

Laura Preiser 52:18
Yeah. So I’m on Instagram, Mises dot priser. I also have an AP physics to review Instagram. Oh. So I got this idea from an AP Bio teacher, I cannot take credit for it. She is like a superstar in the AP Bio world. So I was like, I need to do that, too. So I created the review Instagram. So I post questions daily. And some review videos, some you know, funny reels, obviously gonna add a little humor in there. So I’ve started that last year. And I’ve been doing it this year. Again, it’s just another way to see a review, you know, with my students, I tell them to follow me and some of them do. So now they just see me in their story. I just statics question. I

Rebecca 52:59
love that. And yeah, you can make it like a quiz on there and everything. Yeah, I bet you’ll make I always felt like the means after the exam to that come out that kid like students crater so funny. That’s like a perfect account to share this with you, we will definitely link all these things, because I know all the AP physics teachers, listen, you’re gonna want that. And I just think I just think these are helpful conversations, even if you don’t teach AP Physics, because there’s so much that you know, can transfer among the discipline. So Oh, yeah, definitely. Definitely. Thank you for taking the time to be here.

Laura Preiser 53:28
Yes, thank you so much for having me.

Rebecca 53:30
Thank you so much for listening to today’s episode and my interview with Laura, you can find all the links mentioned in the show notes at it’s not rocket science classroom.com/episode 124. And you will definitely want to go there. So you can find a link to her AP physics to review Instagram, that will be such a great resource for you and for your students. And if you’re listening and you teach AP Physics, it is your turn to leave a rating and a review. Let me know you’re here and that you’re listening and that you’re enjoying the podcast, wherever it is that you listen to podcasts. I would love to hear from you. Because like I said at the beginning, you AP physics teachers are unicorn teachers to me, so I want to know that you’re out there and that you exist. Okay. And tune in next week to hear from a current AP biology teacher with all of her wisdom and experience. All right, teacher friends. That wraps up today’s episode. If you’re looking for an easy way to start simplifying your life as a secondary science teacher, head to It’s not rocket science classroom.com/challenge to grab your classroom reset challenge. And guess what? It’s totally free. Thanks so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you here next week. Until then, I’ll be reading free teacher grand


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