WISE: Graphing Stories

I selected “Graphing Stories (with motion probes)” (ID: 741) from the selection of WISE projects. This specific project reviews the important concepts of graphing data and accomplishes this by incorporating aspects of kinematics and motion. Further, the lessons utilize Vernier motion detectors to help facilitate learning. I modified the lessons by including additional examples for students to graph (without providing a template graph and with instructions to manually graph on paper). I also included further use of the motion detectors for replicating several of the graphs provided in the lessons.

I use very a similar approach in the Physics units of Science 10 and would likely utilize the WISE lessons to compliment my own lessons. As the WISE lessons are quite comprehensive in general graphing concepts, they would effectively either introduce or even review those requirements. In terms of the kinematics and motion aspects, I would likely cover those Physics terms and concepts prior to using the WISE lessons. The WISE lessons would then be used to reinforce those concepts. In total, the lessons would take approximately four days.

According to Linn, Clark and Slotta (2002), the WISE projects are based on the following four tenets: making thinking visible, making Science accessible, helping students learn from each other, and promoting lifelong learning.  The first tenet involves making things visible for purposes of assessment, to make teachers’ thinking visible to students, and to represent scientific ideas through models or simulations. The Graphing Stories lesson addresses many of these principles. Throughout the lessons, students are able to submit responses, compare answers with other students, and receive teacher feedback (though this is not explicitly available through the lesson). Some of these aspects also address the third principle in which students learn from each other. Students also perform several of the tasks using the motion detectors, which makes the science actively visible. The second tenet involves making science ideas accessible by providing the ability to “restructure, rethink, compare, critique, and analyze” both established and novel ideas. The examples provided in the WISE lessons are ones that students can relate to (e.g. going to camp, the weather, and getting to class on time), increasing the accessibility of the content. Finally, the WISE lesson helps promote lifelong learning by asking students to tell, write and graph their own story based on what they have learned through the lessons.

This specific lesson seems to address many of the requirements of a WISE lesson and also can be completed by students without much teacher instruction. I am curious as to how this (and other WISE lessons) would be ideally implemented in the classroom – whether they are used to solely teach or introduce a concept or in conjunction with some teacher instruction. The FAQ seems to suggest it is up to the teacher to decide where they best fit student learning.



Kirkpatrick, D. (2015, Nov 15). Graphing Stories (with motion probes). Retrieved from http://wise.berkeley.edu/previewproject.html?projectId=741

Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2003. Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 516-538




  1. HI Darren,

    I like how you also have opportunities for students to “make their thinking visible” potentially with the graphing exercises. WISE projects are used in many ways, but generally in its current iteration, it is used in combination with a lesson. In terms of your question on implentation, I’d be curious to hear what are your thoughts on how Gobert or Williams et al. implemented their WISE project lessons? Thanks for any input, Samia

    1. Hi Samia,

      I had read over the Gobert article and I especially liked that they used the WISE project as a platform or tool to assist with the model-making. I actually do a very similar assignment in Science 10 but ask students to produce an actual model of tectonic plate boundary. After they also evaluate and critique each others model. The problem that I have encountered with the physical model aspect of this assignment is that students largely focus on making the models visually appealing and place less focus on the actual science and how the plate boundaries interact. This is an area where the WISE projects are potentially beneficial as it would alleviate some of these issues. I also like the ability to revise and justify the models using the WISE platform. This allows students to rethink and re-evaluate their understanding (which we can not do with the physical models once constructed). I would be keen to try an alternative approach the next time going through the unit to see the differences in student learning.

  2. Darren,

    You mentioned that you use a similar method currently in your Science 10 lessons but with, I presume, fewer WISE simulations and more hands-on use of the motion detectors? As you mentioned, it would be interesting to see where WISE would be best used in a classroom, not only in terms of where in the unit an inquiry-based online lesson would fit, but also in terms of what percentage of the lesson can be simulated compared to actual practical lab activities.

    I would be curious to hear feedback from the students regarding which method they felt they learned better from, and in what proportion. My personal feeling is that online simulations could never replace actual physical examples, but then again, online simulations are effective at eliminating many of the logistical setup concerns and allow students to focus on the concepts at hand (similar to the video cases earlier in this course).

    1. Hi Lawrence,

      At the moment, I do typically use motion detectors more than online simulations (probably 3:1). I think it gives students a better opportunity to experience and visualize what is occurring in the Physics unit. The simulations, though, do provide an alternative means to learn the material. As they can be done at home or with relatively little hardware, the simulations provide a multi-modal experience for students, which can only benefit their learning.

      1. Hi Darren and Lawrence,
        I am completely with you, Darren– the motion detectors provide an experience that permits the students to move back and forth on level ground, but to see that the graph appears to look like a mountain. So many kids think a position time graph represents altitude changes! I am sad to see the kinematics leaving the BC Science 10 curriculum as it provided teachers a great opportunities for easy, hands on experimentation. My Grade 11s often struggle with this material, as well. (Double whammy for Physics 11 due to having conversions leaving the Math 10 curriculum!) Anyway, if we can provide multiple opportunities for to make the science “accessible”, in as many collaborative ways as we can, I think we are doing fairly well! Cheers, Dana

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