Today, I decided to keep the free body diagram work a little more stripped down. I had students warm up with a simple free body diagram that I gave them.
I had them write down the equations (Really Newton’s 2nd Law) for the various cases of balanced and unbalanced forces (eg. Unbalanced in the x direction, balanced in the y direction).
This has been helpful in getting students to translate free body diagrams into equations, but I anticipate that they will continue to be confused once they start working on problems with words. I see it as an inevitability that their school-conditioned brains will read invent all kinds of distractions based on the language of the problem that has nothing to do with the physics.