There are many different types of school that do the IB diploma from state schools where all the students have basically the same background to international schools that take students from all around the world. If all of your students are the same then you can teach them all the same thing and they will learn it (or not) in the same way but even students with the same background don't learn in the same way, they don't even have the same understanding of topics that have been presented by the same teacher. That's one of the things that makes teaching interesting and enables some of us to do it for 37 years without getting bored. I work in an international school (UWCRCN) which has students from 95 countries with vastly different backgrounds. There is no requirement for HL physics so in one class I might have students who have never done physics before and can't speak any English alongside students who have won national prizes in physics olympiads having covered everything in the syllabus plus more.


When teaching from the board it's difficult to give explanations that cater for everyone but one can use as many approaches as possible hoping that everyone will understand at least one of the variations.

  • Plenty of diagrams for the weak English speaker / visual student.
  • Mathematics for the mathematicians.
  • Simulations for everyone.
  • Demonstrations for the skeptics who want to see it in reality.

Standing in front of the class we are continually looking for feedback, facial expressions tell us a lot about whether what we are saying is going in or not but in an international setting these can be misleading. After time you get to know whose face to watch. By our continual asking of questions we test to see if they are understanding the concept we are trying to put across, if we don't get the expected answer we try another approach or use another example. We can use several lessons to teach one basic concept.

A wave is series of out of phase SHM's

Slinky demo
PhET simulation
Derivation of wave equation
Pendulum wave simulation
Pendulum wave real
GeoGebra simulation build
Wave animation in Excel

As we get older we pick up more tricks, I was visiting the class of a newly qualified teacher once and noticed that he would explain something, ask a question, realise they hadn't got it, explain again in the same way. Others I have observed try again but louder, slower or bigger. As we get more experienced we have many ways of explaining the same thing.

Lab work

Doing practical work in the lab provides naturally differentiated tasks even though the whole class are following the same worksheet. One student might simply follow the instructions but not get as far as answering the questions, another might not like the method suggested, devise their own then ask you lots of questions. The open ended nature of the investigation makes it particularly suited to many different approaches allowing student to play to their strengths.

Building simulations gives the possibility of different levels of engagement in the suvat (GeoGebra) worksheet for example students can do the basic point moving simulation or add a rocket that points in the direction of acceleration plus a vector to represent velocity. It is important that the slower student still gets a meaningful experience and doesn't feel that they never get to finish anything.


I used to give tests that had difficult questions at the end for students who found the rest easy, the problem was that all the students wanted to do them and got very frustrated when they got them wrong each week. I also ended up wasting a lot of time trying to explain how to solve problems that some students were simply not ready for. I now give regular quite easy tests without the extra bit at the end. They are only meant to make sure that students have remembered the key points from the previous lesson. There is no point in spending a lesson talking about SHM if no one remembers what it is.

If students require an extra challenge I have plenty of more difficult problems on my website as well as about 20 years worth of past papers.


Students struggling with English sometimes need some help with the vocabulary used in science, to help them along I have made some quizlets. I'm not sure if they are effective but they are there if needed, they only exist for the first part of the course if I get feedback that they are useful I'll make some more.

I have also made over 700 online multiple choice questions that students can try in their own time. If they get one wrong they get some explanation as to how it should have been done.

A 10 pF capacitor is connected to a 6V battery. The plates of the capacitor are now moved sideways so the area of overlap is 1/2.

The Charge on the capacitor will be

The PD will remain constant as the battery is still connected.
The capacitance will 1/2 so becomes 5 pF
Q = CV = (5 x 6) pC

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