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JCE ChemEd Xchange provides a place for sharing information and opinions. Currently, articles, blogs and reading lists from ChemEd X contributors are listed below. We plan to include other items that the community wishes to share through their contributions to ChemEd X.

Soap Making

My first year teaching chemistry, I was looking for a soap-making lab or activity that I could run in my chemistry class with 25-30 students working at the same time. I usually do this activity right before spring break, as it provides enough time for the soap to harden and cure (high school students are impatient to use their soaps right away, which you should not do with cold process soap). I have used the activity at different points in the curriculum: during intermolecular forces, during acids and bases, and during stoichiometry. Although I know teachers who use soap making as a project during their stoichiometry unit, I chose to not emphasize the calculations as it would require more time than I have available. Simply making the soap easily fits in a 45-minute period.

Time required: 

45 minutes to just make the soap. Discussion of key concepts may take another class period.

Chemical Thinking Interactives

As part of a two-week Chemistry Modeling Workshop™ in Houston, TX, I had the opportunity to read the Journal of Chemical Education article “When Atoms Want” by Vicente Talanquer of the University of Arizona. I researched Dr. Talanquer and discovered he created a collection of simulations called Chemical Thinking Interactives (CTI). These digital tools illustrate many chemistry topics with a focus on the particulate nature of matter.

Increasing Access to Stoichiometry Through Differentiated In-Class Practice

In a recent post, I shared sample quiz questions as to how I have differentiated assessment within the mole unit. Here, I share a specific multi-day sequence within the stoichiometry unit. I have written extensively about the project that drives this unit (within the following blog posts: Why consider trying project based learning?, Backwards planning your PBL unit -­ An Overview of an Entire Unit and What ARE my students actually learning during this long term project (PBL)?), but very little about specific learning tasks. Below is a two day sequence of stoichiometry practice that I set up in my classroom. Stations are set up around the room and students rotate as necessary.

Time required: 

POGIL: ~1 hour

Lecture: ~30 minutes

Mastery check, differentiated practice, project planning: ~2 hours

Chemical Mystery #10: Out of the Blue!

the demo in action

In this simple trick, colors are made to "magically" appear and disappear on a straw. This science experiment is very easy to do...if you know your chemistry!

Selling and Implementing Roles and Teamwork in the Classroom

roles and teamwork

I saw the process of students thinking like scientists but what I struggled with, and I imagine many others do as well, is how students work together in groups. Yes...I know it is important but is this a big battle that I want to fight? I was fortunate to meet several people who have developed some wonderful “tricks of the trade” to help students work as “teams”.

 

Creating a Classroom Culture - Call for Contributions

student centered learning

This Call for Contributions has closed. As many school districts are moving toward incorporating student-centered curriculum and pedagogy, many teachers have found that it can be difficult to initiate a classroom culture that encourages students to embrace the change which calls for them to engage in discussions and take more responsibility for their own learning. Chemical Education Xchange (ChemEd X) is interested in learning about how teachers are creating a culture of student-centered learning in their classrooms. For this reason, we are initiating our content specific CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS centered on the concept of “Creating a Classroom Culture”.

National Conference for Advanced POGIL Practitioners

I love Chemistry bumper sticker

POGIL stands for "Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning". Over the years I have accidentally and somewhat intentionally been using POGIL activities. Students must work in teams, examine models and answer questions that become more complex based on the models and students hopefully build knowledge. I have had my ups and downs. It has been messy. Bottom line...here is what almost always happens...I eavesdrop on students talking like scientists. It is student centered and the comments would never come from students if I sat back and lectured. Somehow, I wound up at this conference for "advanced" POGIL practitioners. I am trying to keep it a secret that I have never really been advanced at anything and am hoping that by the time anyone figures this out the conference will be over.

A Better Way to Organize Laboratory Equipment

organizing laboratory equipment

I decided to take the time and to do some needed inventory.  I wanted to match equipment to its designated table.  Next, I wanted to make sure that each of my eight lab tables had the proper equipment needed to eliminate no more missing equipment.  Sure enough, as I began the inventory project, I had several tables missing equipment, so once everything was laid out and counted and organized then I had to make sure it was going to stay that way.  I had several rolls of colored tape and it was easy to then begin marking each of the pieces of equipment and glassware with tape. 

Using the ACS Exams in Your Classroom

ACS Division of Chemical Education Examinations Institute Logo

Say the words standardized test to most educators and you will likely notice a minor gag reflex. While I completely sympathize with this reaction given the frequently labeled testing culture that’s been far too often forced upon us within the past 15 years, I think it is appropriate to take a step back and recognize the meaningful role a standardized test can have on our curriculum and instruction. After a recent experience using an exam from the ACS Division of Chemical Education Examinations Institute1, I was able to recognize that meaningful role. So, the purpose of this article is to provide useful information for anyone interested in the exam implementation process.