First Week Excitement

I love the first week of school! I perform some of my favorite demonstrations and we jump right into activities that help to jumpstart the year and excite students about where we are headed. I am in the process of uploading many of those activities. I will list them here and you can check them out. Also, check out my September editorial in the Journal that talks about my first week in more depth.

I invite you to share your own first day/week tips and/or activities here also.

I like to use the Dehydration of Sucrose (if this link doesn't work...find the Chemistry Comes Alive software under the LEARN tab and search dehydration) demonstration to remind students what a carbohydrate is and what elements sucrose is made of. The reaction is not instantaneous and we discuss this in terms of safety and expectation. You can find a video and notes on the link.

The Ira Remsen story is always a winner for students. See the video, look at step by step slides and read background discussion including a quote from Ira Remsen. You can also read an article about this demo and others by Richard W. Ramette: Exocharmic Reactions J. Chem. Educ. 1980 57 68-69. You can see another version of this demo at




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Comments 1

Trish Loeblein | Tue, 01/22/2013 - 18:36

Because my students are sophomores and juniors with low reading and/or math scores and we have 95 minute blocks, I decided this year to start with no textbooks and planned a real equipment lab and a PhET simulation lab for each day. (I have started at a new school and am creating a program as I go along for this new group of students who are trying chemistry).  I figured they would not be very focused for demos or lecture or book work. The area is very rural and many students really just want to visit with each other. I have them do the activities in groups of 2 or three, so they get to talk alot. I use clickers to encourage peer discussion and large group participation. 


Day 1 Labs:Carbohydrate chewies and Reactant Products and Leftovers PhET Activity 1 Day 2 Clicker questions RPAL 1 Labs:Beaniuim lab and Isotope PhET lab

Day 3 Clicker Questions Isotope Accuracy Lab and Density Phet lab

To see more - check out my website ( ) and follow the syllabus links to Regular chemistry. The PhET site ( has all my PhET activities posted; you can search by key word or even "Loeblein". All of the lessons are open source, so you can adapt them for your own situation and also see how other teachers use PhET.


This year is really a challenge for me, but I a feel lucky to get younger students involved in chemistry. My principal says we are a "chemistry first" school - I never heard of that , but that is probably becauuse I have been entrenched in physics ed for so long. I always thought physics should come first, I am thinking that chem first is a good idea for a school that plans for many students to take AP Bio, AP environmental, AP chemistry.  I suppose I should have my own blog, but adding to Deanna's ideas seems natural. Hope this is ok.