Car eyes and parting thoughts: Pre-class overheads (November 25 – 29)

(This is the final post of a semester long series. Each week, as a lecture TA in Physics 100, I choose a pre-class overhead for each of the two lectures I help out in. I attempt to choose images that connect to the current material and that are fun and possibly provocative. Here, I keep a record of the images I choose and thoughts I have about the in-class outcomes.)

The lectures in Physics 100 have now wrapped up for the semester. In the final week, the class finished their discussion of radiation with the capstone problem of using energy balance to compute the average temperature of the Earth, before spending the final lecture working on a set of review problems.


For the first lecture of the week, I chose an image of a car sitting in the sun with a windshield shade. I believe that most people have had the experience of getting into a hot a car on a warm day. Indeed, the instructor was able to solicit an explanation for the use of the sun shade from a student in the class and so have a brief discussion that led into the lecture. 

The second lecture was dedicated to review problems and I did not prepare a pre-class image. In retrospect, I think I missed out on an opportunity to either:

  • Refer to and remind students of one of the main ideas of the course. (For example, by having an image that addresses energy conservation.)
  • Thank the students for their participation in the course. (Possibly by using an image of the instructor and I with some text to thank the students.)
  • Have some fun on the last day of class. (By putting up a joke or comic related to physics, exams, or other relevant things.)

Of these three possibilities, I currently like the first one the best. If, through one last discussion around an image, you could emphasize a common thread through the course and encourage some deeper understanding in some students, it would be worthwhile. However, it might be naive to believe that one last discussion will help students put the pieces in place, especially when, on the last day of class and with the exam two long weeks in the future, they are mostly concerned with getting through the lecture and to the weekend. Thinking back to my undergrad days, I wouldn’t be surprised if the effect of a final ‘summary image’ would be lost on most students.

If I were the instructor and I were convinced that a ‘summary image’ would have no effect, I would then choose to thank the students with the final image. Although I enjoy joking and having fun in class, I definitely appreciate the interactions I have with the students during the semester, and I would want the students to know that. In addition, it would be a great opportunity to tell the students how much they have improved during the course. I believe that acknowledging the students’ contribution in this way can do nothing but help their self-efficacy as they go into the final exam and, more importantly, continue in their university careers.

Comment/question starters

Some possible comment starters for you:

  • In my experience, trying to tie things together does not work at all! I believe this because …
  • In my experience, students respond great to an end of semester summary! Here’s why: …
  • I always thank my students at the end of a course, for the following reasons: …
  • My typical last day of lecture routine involves none of those three options! I usually …
  • Thank you for this series! It has given me the following ideas for my own class: …

(Car url:


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