Atomic Structure

M&Ms as Isotopes

Use Mega M&Ms, M&Ms minis, and regular M&M’s in this activity to examine the concept of isotopes and average atomic mass. The color of the M&M’s represent that they are the same element and have the same number of protons. The size represents, in a relative sense, the different numbers of neutrons.

How I Fell in Love with PES

Like many AP Chemistry teachers, I was not fond of teaching Photoelectron Spectroscopy (PES). Surprisingly, I fell in love with teaching PES in AP Chemistry this year after I made an old-school change.

March Madness with the Periodic Table

This past March, I ran a multi-day poll on Twitter that was designed to be a fun way to determine the “best” element on the periodic table. I’m sharing about the poll here on ChemEdX in case others might want to try something similar in their classrooms.

Figuring Out Electron Configurations

After spending the start of the year using a modified version of the Modeling Instruction curriculum (density and physical properties, followed by gas laws, followed by energy and phase changes), we don’t actually start talking about what’s inside atoms until December. I love that by this point students are already familiar with some of the habits of mind needed to reason abstractly about atoms -- thinking proportionally, explaining macroscopic observations at the particle level -- and we are ready to layer on both more abstraction and the symbolic level. By January, we are ready to explore electron configurations.

Isotopes, Nuts, Bolts and Eggs

This is the first isotope activity I have tried where the students can look inside the model that resembled the atom and find information that reinforced what an isotope actually is. Furthermore, the quantitative data forced them to examine beliefs about different types of averages and what the numbers really mean.

The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements video series

If your not familiar with the video series "The Mystery of Matter, Search for the Elements" then I highly recommend their use as part of your curriculum. The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements is a PBS series about the amazing human story behind the Periodic Table. The videos, most of them 4-12 minutes long, draw on the interviews, re-enactments, animations and photographs that were shot and collected for the PBS series, with supplementary animations and images as needed. In all, the videos make up about three hours of programming. I shared several of the video clips with my high school students and they really seemed to enjoy them mentioning the reason was because the videos were done using actors to tell the stories and it was similar to watching a movie.