Nerdy Science Shirt Friday

author wearing nerdy shirt

Over the past 30 years, numerous articles have been written about the importance of student teacher relationships. The National Education Association, NEA, offers advice for beginning teachers that includes establishing the classroom climate, conducting class efficiently, and reaching all students. When teachers effectively connect to their students, discipline problems decrease and student engagement increases.

This post was submitted for the 2017 ChemEd X Call for Contributions: Creating a Classroom Culture.

Soap Making

preview graphic of soap samples

My first year teaching chemistry, I was looking for a soap-making lab or activity that I could run in my chemistry class with 25-30 students working at the same time. I usually do this activity right before spring break, as it provides enough time for the soap to harden and cure (high school students are impatient to use their soaps right away, which you should not do with cold process soap). I have used the activity at different points in the curriculum: during intermolecular forces, during acids and bases, and during stoichiometry. Although I know teachers who use soap making as a project during their stoichiometry unit, I chose to not emphasize the calculations as it would require more time than I have available. Simply making the soap easily fits in a 45-minute period.

Time required: 

45 minutes to just make the soap. Discussion of key concepts may take another class period.

Chemical Thinking Interactives

Screenshot of simulation

As part of a two-week Chemistry Modeling Workshop™ in Houston, TX, I had the opportunity to read the Journal of Chemical Education article “When Atoms Want” by Vicente Talanquer of the University of Arizona. I researched Dr. Talanquer and discovered he created a collection of simulations called Chemical Thinking Interactives (CTI). These digital tools illustrate many chemistry topics with a focus on the particulate nature of matter.

Increasing Access to Stoichiometry Through Differentiated In-Class Practice

Stoichiometry resources

In a recent post, I shared sample quiz questions as to how I have differentiated assessment within the mole unit. Here, I share a specific multi-day sequence within the stoichiometry unit. I have written extensively about the project that drives this unit (within the following blog posts: Why consider trying project based learning?, Backwards planning your PBL unit -­ An Overview of an Entire Unit and What ARE my students actually learning during this long term project (PBL)?), but very little about specific learning tasks. Below is a two day sequence of stoichiometry practice that I set up in my classroom. Stations are set up around the room and students rotate as necessary.

Time required: 

POGIL: ~1 hour

Lecture: ~30 minutes

Mastery check, differentiated practice, project planning: ~2 hours

Chemical Mystery #10: Out of the Blue!

the demo in action

In this simple trick, colors are made to "magically" appear and disappear on a straw. This science experiment is very easy to do...if you know your chemistry!

Selling and Implementing Roles and Teamwork in the Classroom

roles and teamwork

I saw the process of students thinking like scientists but what I struggled with, and I imagine many others do as well, is how students work together in groups. Yes...I know it is important but is this a big battle that I want to fight? I was fortunate to meet several people who have developed some wonderful “tricks of the trade” to help students work as “teams”.

 

National Conference for Advanced POGIL Practitioners

I love Chemistry bumper sticker

POGIL stands for "Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning". Over the years I have accidentally and somewhat intentionally been using POGIL activities. Students must work in teams, examine models and answer questions that become more complex based on the models and students hopefully build knowledge. I have had my ups and downs. It has been messy. Bottom line...here is what almost always happens...I eavesdrop on students talking like scientists. It is student centered and the comments would never come from students if I sat back and lectured. Somehow, I wound up at this conference for "advanced" POGIL practitioners. I am trying to keep it a secret that I have never really been advanced at anything and am hoping that by the time anyone figures this out the conference will be over.