Modeling the Concept of Ionic Bonding

When describing abstract concepts like chemical bonding, it always seems to feel far too easy for both teachers and students to resort to the “wants” and “needs” of atoms. After all, we understand what it means to want, need, or like something, so it often feels appropriate (and easier) to use a relatable metaphor or subtly anthropomorphize these atoms to accommodate our students’ current reasoning abilities. While predicting the types of bonds that will form and the general idea behind how atoms bond can be answered correctly using such relatable phrases or ideas, the elephant in the room still in remains—do our students really understand why these atoms bond? 

Modeling and Street Tacos

Show the kids an event. Have them develop a model. Have each kid draw and write about the model and force them to ask themselves if this model can explain the event. As a teacher, first say something nice about it and then look for their misconceptions and use this as a formative assessment. Combine the individual models with others. Slowly build a larger model and constantly ask if this really explains the event.

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.

Gizmos: An Online Simulation Tool

This week I had the opportunity to attend part 2 of a 3 day PD for Gizmos, courtesy of a district grant working with ExploreLearning. In a room full of middle school science colleagues (half of whom I knew), I was able to glean a ton of great information.

Tackling Big Ideas

It was the empty terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach at 9:30 at night that really bothered me as I am wading through the stack of papers that I was grading. I had the students do experiments, worksheets, I lectured and there was homework. Some of the students could “do” what I thought was science. They could calculate the answer. They could balance the equation.

MolView: An App to View Structural Formulas and Models

What is the best way for students to visualize compounds? From the traditional physical ball and stick models to the various online simulations the objective for all of these tools is to provide one with a visual for the different structures and patterns. This summer while facilitating a workshop, the participants and I discussed this question and while reviewing various representations we came across MolView.

Representing Molecules

A quick search on Amazon for a package of 144 ping pong balls and a trip to the arts and crafts store for paint, magnets, and glue and I was ready to start making my own class set of model kits.

Great Introduction for Physical/Chemical Changes and Balancing

I hate to sound like a broken record but I used two activities from Grand Valley State Target Inquiry Program that worked amazingly well and had a great "flow". Chad Bridle wrote two inquiry activities that dovetail together. The first is "Change You Can Believe In". Students are presented first with nine cards that are particulate drawings of changes that occur in matter.