We talked today about how to approach a free response question.
I've found that many students don't want to read the problem but will study the picture. So I came up with the scratch-out technique. As you read the text in a question, scratch it out if you can see the information in the picture. If it isn't in the picture but you can add it—phrases like "frictionless" or "starts at rest"—then write it on the picture and scratch it out. And if you don't know what the words mean or if you don't know how to add it to the picture, then circle those words. That way, you won't have to read all those words ever again. This helps give students a purpose in their reading and makes them read the question closely.
Then I tell them to draw pictures, like interaction diagrams or velocity-time graphs, BEFORE they read the questions in the problem. The more pictures they draw, the better they understand the question. I also think at least a few students realized the power of the interaction diagram. Any time you must draw a new interaction diagram means you need to think again about what model you're going to use.