How do you support growth in your students’ writing and communication over time? There are so many things: Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) scaffolds, sentence starters, and more. How might all of these tools used in introductory courses come together in an upper-level course? In this post, I will focus upon my AP Chemistry lab notebook set-up.
AP Chemistry Resources
Chemical kinetics is one of the five challenge areas in AP Chemistry. My students and I have been working our way through one of the teaching and learning activities called Concentration vs. Time. The graphical analysis, guided-inquiry questions, and application to past and future content are seriously challenging, and my students report higher levels of understanding than in past semesters.
I taught my students how to use the method of initial rates. I taught my students rate laws. However, they strugged to differentiate when to use what method. Upon further probing, they struggled to articulate why one might use one method over the other. They could parrot back some ideas ("The rate law tells you about the particles involved in the rate determining step of the reaction."), but I wasn't convinced of mastery and connections.
I have a confession: thermodynamics is not my strong suit. The data set I got from the College Board confirmed my lack of confidence in the summer of 2015. With the hope of improvements, I spent some time revamping my thermo unit and I implemented it near the end of last school year. I will share an activity that I feel was quite formative for students and for me in making connections among thermodynamic principles and equilibrium.
College Board offers an excellent online resource for teachers and students. It's not free, but my school district pays the bill. AP Insight provides curriculum outlines, teaching ideas and resources, student handouts, and digitally-graded assessments.
In my last post, I discussed my first year chemistry scope and sequence. Here, I continue with AP chemistry scope and sequence, and a little bit with how I developed it the year before, the summer before, and during the year. Keep in mind, I consider the work I do with students to always be a project in progress. I learn so much from working with them as they engage with the content through a different perspective than I have.
I published an article about an independent study unit I use with my AP Chemistry class two years ago, A guided group inquiry lesson on coordination compounds and complex ions. In the time since it was published, I have expanded the unit quite a bit and written some new assignments to go along with it. I use this unit every year as a post AP activity and am very fond of it. I thought some of my readers might enjoy seeing how it has changed and get access to the new assignments I have developed for it.
Guiding principles in my scope and sequence: Start with a simple representations of the nanoscopic and dig deep. Hopefully, by the time we start with vital, albeit often more challenging symbolic representations (mole, stoichiometry, solutions), students have a decent foundation to build upon.
In the lab, students are given a 1.5 gram samples of copper. The copper is taken through a series of five chemical reactions ending with the precipitation of solid copper. After the five reactions, students are asked to return their 1.5 gram samples of copper to the teacher.
It’s review season for AP courses! I have a love/hate relationship with the date of the AP Chemistry exam. On one hand, it’s SO early. On the other hand, because it’s the first exam, my students actually study for it (compared to later in the AP exam season when students are like, “I’m done. I don’t care anymore.”).