At a Glance


  • STEM
  • Physics

Instructional Level

  • College & CEGEP


  • Mechanics

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Group

Type of Tasks

  • Discussing
  • Solving problems
  • Analyzing

Technical Details

Useful Technologies

  • Interactive whiteboards using notebook

Class size

  • Small (20-49)


  • Single class period (< 90 mins)

Instructional Purpose

  • Application & knowledge building


In this activity, students work in groups of 3-4 and move to interactive whiteboards at which they will open the notebook file included in the activity package. This file is used to help students create motion diagrams, and includes objects and vectors which can be dragged and dropped to create the diagrams. The instructor should demonstrate the first simple problem either in part or in its entirety, showing a video of the motion in the diagram.

Students then view a video corresponding to the next problem. They drag and drop the object in the notebook file to create a motion diagram corresponding to the object’s position at regular time intervals. The students then add position dots to represent the position in a more abstract way, and draw displacement and velocity vectors for each interval. Students can then remove the original objects, leaving only the abstract dots. Students use these velocity vectors to create acceleration vectors (using the flip function in notebook to find the difference of the velocities in the preceding and following intervals). Students then discuss whether the acceleration they have found is consistent with their knowledge of physics, and make changes to the positions and velocities accordingly. During this time the instructor should monitor discussion.

The instructor reviews the correct solution with the whole class, highlighting the main areas of difficulty identified from the groups’ discussions and progress. The exercise is then repeated for more and more difficult problems.

After all problems have been completed, the instructor can review and discuss the material.

Instructional Objectives

  • Students will learn to create and interpret motion diagrams.
  • Students will gain a deeper understanding of the relationships between an object’s path of motion, displacement, velocity, and acceleration.

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

Chris Whittaker

Chris Whittaker

Dawson College, Montreal


There are two main issues that come up when students are required to draw diagrams. The first is that students are afraid to make mistakes – in this activity the undo/redo buttons of the notebook file help students to not hesitate to make changes to their diagrams. The second is that students are often frustrated that their diagrams do not look as good as those made by the instructor or in the textbook. The “drag and drop” system used here avoids this, allowing students to create diagrams which look nice.


Like any group activity, you must ensure that group discussions are not dominated by a single student doing everything. You must also ensure that the instructions are clear: beginning by modelling the process with a simple but non-trivial example helps students understand their task.


The instructor can model this for 1d motion then have students attempt a more difficult problem involving 2d motion. The modelling is extremely important.

This activity can be combined with the Motion Tracker activity. In this case, students complete this activity but do not correct their results based on the acceleration. Instead, this is left until after completing the Motion Tracker activity.

There is an important bit of scaffolding in this activity, which is to begin with pictures of the moving object, then replace them with dots to indicate position. This helps students visualize the motion of the object. In later examples this can be removed so that students become comfortable with more abstract representations. You can also, in later problems, remove the step of indicating the displacement vector as this is proportional to the velocity vector and is simply used as scaffolding.


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