First Year AP Chemistry Teacher...Enough Said

I’m a first year AP chemistry teacher. My emotions swing from fear of inadequacy to confusion in pacing to acute awareness of the number of years since college chemistry to desperation in grading 55 lab notebooks to exhaustion with inexperience. Honest truth: I'm studying. I'm studying a lot. Despite 14 years of chemistry teaching experience, I feel blindfolded again. I am acutely aware of their lurking presence, but I can't predict the questions. My ability to see into the heads of my students is absent this year. My response is preparation. That’s me; raw and vulnerable.

As I mentioned, I'm studying and preparing for hours on end. My current "go-to" resources include two textbooks, three test prep guides, and four YouTube channels. I'm taking detailed notes, drawing models for myself, and solving example problems. I consult all of the resources on this list for every lesson I teach.


  1. Textbooks:
    • Chemistry: The Central Science (11th edition) by Brown, LeMay, Bursten, Woodward, and Murphy - My school district adopted this textbook for our AP Chemistry students and teachers. The 12th and 13th editions are available. 
    • Chemistry (12th edition) by Chang and Goldsby - The College Board representative teaching my AP Summer Institute course provided each new teacher with a copy of this text. I enjoy it's conversational, easy to read tone. The topics are explained visually, and the examples require application at higher levels. I start my own review and study here.
  2. Test Prep Guides:
    • Barron's AP Chemistry, 7th edition (2014): The guide serves as my quick reminder of the content that I learned in college. The sample problems help me brush up on problem-solving skills. I also get ideas for warm-up or quiz multiple choice questions from the practice exams.
    • The Princeton Review: AP Chemistry Exam (2015): Similar to the Barron's guide, I skim the explanations and look for examples or topics that I may have missed or left out of my plans.
    • Fast Track to a 5: Preparing for the AP Chemistry Examination by Duncan, Pezzi, and Knoespel (2014): This workbook provides varying levels of multiple choice questions. I find this helpful in scaffolding the content from the beginning of the unit to the end of the unit. 
  3. YouTube Channels:
    • Dr. Lori Maffe's channel: Dr. Maffe teaches chemistry and chemistry education at Kennesaw State University. She and her colleagues are flipping Kennesaw State's introductory chemistry classes. She is knowledgeable, clear, concise, and offers excellent student-friendly examples. I get ideas for in-class examples and methods for breaking down difficult content from her videos. 
    • Dr. Mike Christiansen's channel: Dr. Christiansen is a chemistry professor in Utah. His videos follow our textbook closely. I can watch them to get tips on pinpointing significant words or hints for my students. I can also send a student to watch the video example to review a point of confusion.
    • Crash Course Chemistry:  Hank rocks! I often use his videos as a quick in-class introduction to a unit or lesson. His humor, animations, and pace are engaging for my students. He talks very, very fast. If the video includes a data table or example that I really want students to understand, then I provide a short viewing guide with a couple of screenshots from the video.

In addition to the resources above, I mine the Internet for images to use as I build SmartBoard notebooks to use in class. I also search high and low for lab activities and demonstrations.


Join the conversation.

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Comments 8

Michelle Okroy's picture
Michelle Okroy | Mon, 02/22/2016 - 21:51

I know how you feel, as a former AP Chem teacher at my previous school I know how it feels to begin with few resources. In addition you have very few examples of the revised exam to work with so it may still feel as if you do not have a full grasp of the objectives.

 One resource I'd like to add are the Bozeman Science videos, which were used for content review.  Also the POGIL for High School Chemistry text had a few refresher activities that I used for prior knowledge checks as well as components of their summer homework.  

  For me, a priority for the new exam was to provide plenty of opportunities for the students to justify their data or observations. If I come across any additional resources, I'll let you know. 

Kathryn Rosenfield's picture
Kathryn Rosenfield | Mon, 03/19/2018 - 17:48

I completely agree!!! I was going to post these exact same resources.  Chin up, it does get easier with experience.  Make sure you are also part of the CollegeBoard AP Chemistry community. 

Allison Tarvin's picture
Allison Tarvin | Tue, 02/23/2016 - 06:26

Michelle, I really appreciate the tips!  I will definitely access the Bozeman Science site TODAY. I'd love to hear more about what you asked the students to do over the summer. A POGIL sounds perfect for the independent learning environment of the summer months. 

Thank you!


Anna Reuter's picture
Anna Reuter | Sat, 03/17/2018 - 15:01

I'm in my second year of AP chem, third year of teaching chemistry at all and fourth year of teaching. AP chemistry is daunting.  My favorite YouTube channel is Tyler DeWitt. Im going to my second AP summer institute this summer. I really hope it helps with pacing. It doesn't help that the prerequisite isn't being enforced and I end up covering first year chemistry stuff for the first bit of school. 

Nichole Thomaselli | Tue, 03/20/2018 - 13:42

I am right there with ya!  I am in year 3 of teaching AP and I love it and hate it at the same time.  I am finally comfortable with the content, but finding labs that really hit the main learning objectvies and use time efficiently is a challenge for me. I have felt very alone in my AP teaching as I'm the only one at my school who teaches chem.  Like you, I spent many many hours studying my first year - this is completely normal! 

At my school we are moving towards more of a project based/open inquiry learning model.  I'm still looking for a community of like minded teachers in the AP Community who can recommend labs or curriculum I feel align with this style of teaching but allow me to move at the rate we must go to cover all content necessary before the exam.  Resoruces that have helped me out a lot are: Argument Driven Inquiry in Chemistry (great for introduction to some topics), AP Chemistry POGIL activities, and online videos mentioned above.  I have also had fun converting some old FRQ into labs myself and something I hope to do more of because I've been happy with them. 

I am still searching too!!  Each year there is so much trial and error with various labs - sometimes they are awesome and sometimes our results are all over the place or they take a long time.  I've been dissapointed with the College Board Inquiry labs too for taking to long or taking tangents off topic (like cost analysis of a product, etc.) Some Sally Ann Vonderbrink labs are alright, but a little old school (confirmation labs) and the guided inquiry edition is far from inquiry.  So... I'm still searching!  Have you had any success with AP labs or activities so far? 

Kathy Wawers | Thu, 03/22/2018 - 10:13

Check out Kristen Drury's resources. She has great lesson plans and includes lots of POGIL activities.

Subi Majeed | Thu, 03/22/2018 - 10:40


I am a current student teaching intern for High school Chemistry. I have moved from overseas and have an experinece of 10 years teaching science. I have found considerable difference in teaching/learning methodolgies in the U.S. and so I rely a lot on Tyler DeWitt's videos. I love how I can modify/explain concepts to my students using multiple strategies that I learn from the YouTube videos. Also, I find the POGILs are helful for starting a concept. Thank you for all the great tips. I am looking forward to implementing these in my teaching! :)


John Yohe | Sat, 03/24/2018 - 10:43

While grading will get faster as you do the same labs year to year, I do have a couple of strategies I have seen or picked up over the years.  Depending on what you are looking for you may want to consider a few of these.

  • Notebook quizes - If you just want to make sure students are recording information, give them a piece of paper with questions like, "what was the objective on 3/17," "what was step 2 in the iron compound lab," or, "what was your percentage error for your unkown."
  • Pre-printed post-it notes - start with a blank document with tables that have squares the same size as a post-it note, put post-it notes on the template page and put it back through the printer to print off any headers or rubrics, or other words you seem to be writing often (works best if you have helpful students who can put the post-its on the template document for you - consult IT department on how to run these through a printer if you are technologically challenged).
  • Selective grading - choose one area of the lab at "random" to grade, or rather, tell students it is random but make sure you end up grading all sections over the course, and only make comments and grade that one section.  This may make some teachers uncomfortable, because a student may have excellent observation skills and very poor computational skills, but keep in mind that it is not the only assignment and that it will, "all come out in the wash."