At a Glance


  • STEM
  • Physics

Instructional Level

  • College & CEGEP


  • NYB Electricity and Magnetism

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Group

Type of Tasks

  • Discussing
  • Analyzing

Technical Details

Class size

  • Small (20-49)


  • Single class period (< 90 mins)

Instructional Purpose

  • Application & knowledge building


In this activity, students work in groups to sort cards containing different charge configurations, graphs, words, and other representations. The aim is for students to develop their model-building skills by focusing on abstract concepts, making connections between these concepts, and using multiple representations. The review reinforces students’ ability to 1) represent field, potential, and energy and link them to the motion of charged particles, 2) see connections between quantities (e.g. V and E), 3) reason conceptually without relying on equations, and 4) understand the roles of source and test charges.

The activity is an example of an active-learning, collaborative group-based pedagogy. After groups are formed, the activity begins with the instructor explaining how to set up the charge situations with an example. The instructor then has students set up the other situations using select initial cards, describing the motion of the charges in each case with provided word cards. Once the setups are complete, the instructor distributes the remainder of the cards and the groups determine those that correspond to each setup, sorting them appropriately. (If some groups finish early, then the instructor may vary one of their initial setups and have students determine what changes in their solutions.) Each group then pairs with another to compare their solutions and discuss, after which the instructor briefly wraps up the session.

The only additional materials are the cards required for the activity, which must be printed by the instructor in advance, as well as the detailed teacher guide for the activity (included in “additional materials”).

Instructional Objectives

Students will be able to analyze different situations and group them with their corresponding representations (words, diagrams, and graphs).

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

  • It helps students make and understand the connections between various course concepts.
  • It provides students with means of checking if their problem solutions physically make sense.
  • Students get highly engaged with the activity and in collaborating with each other by virtue of its game-like element.
  • Designing appropriate sets of cards for applying the activity to a new topic may take a significant amount of time.
  • Preparing (cutting out) even pre-existing card-sorting materials for the first time may be time consuming.
  • This activity is ideally done as an end of term review
  • Communicating the instructions of the activity very clearly to students and structuring the activity so as to not overwhelm students (as per the instructor guide) is key.
  • There is no need to spend too much time reviewing at the end of the activity since students will have just worked through things and already have developed a solid understanding as well as be mentally fatigued.


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