Tag Archives: Differentiating Instruction


Have some idle time over the summer and wish to be productive for the upcoming academic year? Consider making some buttons! My wife bought a button making machine and all of the necessary accessories a few years ago for her small business, and I’ve co-opted those materials for my own purposes.

I construct a few hundred 1.5″ buttons each year during the summer, and I hand them out at various times during the school year. For example, early in the year, I hand out buttons to parents on Back To School Night. This especially comes in handy when asking for donations. I also hand them out to well performing students throughout the year as incentive.

Buttons are also a fun way to help recruit students into your classes, and I do a round of promotion when counselors are programming students for the next academic year. This usually occurs in mid-spring.

Admittedly, the initial investment of a few hundred dollars for the machine and the paper cutter is daunting, especially in an age of ever tightening budgets. Afterwards, though, if you buy the button materials in bulk, each button costs you about 10 cents to make, plus your time.

But, when I see the faces of students, parents, administrators, and the school’s boosters light up at the finished product, I consider the effort to be a worthwhile investment!

Featured Product: Mini Lab Dropper Poppers

Dropper Poppers are educational toys sold by Arbor Scientific (and a few other vendors). A few years ago, I had a few dollars left in my annual budget, and I bought a few. Initially, I used the Dropper Poppers as a means of demonstrating multiple forms of potential energy, but I soon realized the potential for a short and simple laboratory exercise.

The result is my free product at Teachers Pay Teachers called Mini Lab: Dropper Poppers. In the exercise, students fold the Dropper Popper, thereby giving it some elastic, or spring, potential energy. The Dropper Popper is held at a height above the floor and dropped, thereby enabling it to “pop” when it hits the floor. Subsequently, the Dropper Popper rises to a greater height.

I turned this simple demonstration into a short laboratory exercise that allows students to measure the Dropper Popper’s spring constant. I’ve incorporated this exercise into my algebra based Physics AB curriculum. The exercise fills a space in my Physics AB curriculum while my Calculus based Honors Physics AB classes are exploring the more advanced concept of gravitational potential energy in its Newtonian form. In short, this exercise is an excellent means of differentiating instruction between the two classes.

Also, I have a new email newsletter in the works! By signing up, you’ll receive a free copy of Mini Lab: Dropper Poppers!