Posted in Online Resources

ChemEdX.org

The last three resources I have found today alone have been from chemedx.org, so I figured I’d go ahead and make a post about it. While I don’t really like all of the labs and activities on it, or am not interested because it looks expensive, there are a lot of really good resources I’ve found on it. Below I am going to share some of the resources I like from this site.

Soap Making

I have written  thing about this already. You can find it here.

Misconceptions in Chemistry

I wrote a several page reflection on this article. You can find it here.

Elements in Augmented Reality

Again, I have already written something about this. It can be found here.

Elemental Haiku

Even though it requires students to understand what a haiku is to begin with, if students have learned this another class creating elemental haikus are a good cross-discipline exercise to help students get familiar with various elements. This could be done as a class activity or project, and can be built to allow kids a lot of creativity.

Silver Ornament

This is another cool activity students can do and keep. It can be used for balancing practice or even predicting products, and doing it around Christmas would be cute. You would have to consider the costs and hazards associated with the chemicals and glass, but it could end up going well. Not much may be gotten out of it, but it’s a great idea for after semester finals.

Types of Reactions Chart

I know that students tend to get the types of reactions mixed up, so I liked the way the graphic on this page presents the differences and types.

Chemistry Crayons

I’ve seen these before, but the page they were on talked about ways to use them. I personally would use them just to have them, but it would be cool to include them in an actual lesson.

 

The website itself also contains articles about classroom environment and safety, and seems to have a lot different articles that are not just based in the chemistry classroom. While it is for chemistry education, this website has a great deal of information for all aspects of the chemistry classroom.

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Posted in Printable Resources

Elements in Augmented Reality

Since I was a small child, I wanted to catch Pokemon myself. With the introduction of augmented reality and its current prevalence, I am able to catch my beloved growlithe and do even more than I could have imagined. This includes potentially bringing dangerous chemicals and reactions into the classroom for students to observe.

I just recently stumbled across Elements 4D and it allows for some of the more dangerous and/or rarer elements to enter and interact within the classroom (side note – I highly recommend checking out chemedx.org for resources). The app and the cube cutouts are completely free, and from what I can tell right now it is for mostly educational purposes. There are 6 cubes, and each cube face is a different element. When shown through the app, the cubes are supposed to transform into a box of the element on the cube face. If two element boxes are brought together, you are supposed to be able to see what their product looks like. The website also contains lesson plans and activity sheets as recommendations for use in the classroom.

At the time of me typing this, I have yet to try the program for myself – I’m unable to print and use my phone student teaching. I will update this post when I try it myself, probably later tonight.

Posted in Online Resources

Misconceptions in Chemistry Education

I found this nifty list of common chemistry misconceptions that students have. As a new teacher, I’m not quite experienced enough to know exactly what students will end up having problems with. This list is definitely a handy guide of things to consider when teaching as I start out. The list also outlines the key difficulties that cause the misconceptions, as well as specific activities that can be used to address and challenge the misconceptions that students have.

List of Misconceptions

Below are some of the misconceptions I would never have considered, and some that I have thought about before:

Space between matter is “empty”

When learning about the different types of matter, you learn that some particles are closer together and some are further apart. According to the list, students have a hard time letting nothingness exist and want to fill in the spaces. Because of wave-particle duality, I know that the “nothingness” is an accurate particulate description and that the wave/energy understanding of particles helps explain why the nothingness is okay. The problem here, though, comes from the fact that students won’t understand this quite yet, and I don’t want to cause them to have an existential crisis like I did in college when I started over thinking this. More than anything, I just need them to understand that empty space is okay, and to not add anything else in where it doesn’t exist.

Particles can change form

The list states that “students ascribe macroscopic properties to particles,” and this misconception can cause a great deal of confusion continuing onward in chemistry. Where macroscopic materials like paper or wood can burn, tear, explode, etc., particles do not, and are rather the cause for the bigger reaction being seen. Rather than seeing the particles/atoms as the cause of reactions that do not change, students tend to see them as behaving the same way.

Condensation

While not the only misconception listed about condensation, I was very surprised to read that one of the most common explanations students give for condensation is that the water is coming through the glass. I would never have even considered this as being something students would believe, and I know that in the moment I would not have been able to address this immediately.

I can understand where this idea would come from though. When people sweat, they know that the liquid is leaving their body and coming to the surface, and that people often call condensation on a glass sweat. With these two ideas, it would make sense that students would believe that the water was coming out of the glass. I never would have considered it, but it does make sense.

Melting

Again, not the only misconception stated, but I was surprised that students think melting occurs because of changes in size of the particles/atoms. Students know that bigger things like roads and other objects expand when they heat, so some students will think that that melting occurs as the particles get bigger and break away from the solid. Some students also thought that the particles shrink in size, which is also incorrect.

This is very much related to the previously discussed misconception of students treating particles as having macroscopic properties, and it affects more than I realized. At this point in the list I’m beginning to realize how important it is to emphasize that particles themselves do not change like macroscopic objects, but are the reason behind these changes.

Chemical Reactions

The misconception that the list discusses is one that I have thought about as well, and have turned over in my head some. Students tend to mistake physical changes (i.e. phase changes) as chemical changes and vice-versa. In the question asked by the researchers behind the list, there were some physical and chemical changes that appeared to occur. In the answers given, students gave answers that showed confusion of the different changes, and these errors are ones that I have seen students struggle with as well. Very often it seems that students think a change of state indicates a chemical reaction has occurred, despite this being incorrect. Students also used terms like “melt” and “dissolve,” further indicating the confusion that persists in discriminating between the types of changes.

“What is a substance?” Understanding chemical terminology

This is another misconception I’ve dealt with in other areas of the course, specifically with density and weight. Even though teachers do their best to differentiate between vocabulary words so as to help the students know what terms are used when, it never seems to fail that students use some words interchangeably despite it being incorrect. This is something that should be fixed as soon as a teacher hears the words being mixed up, and can cause confusion further on.

There are some words though that can have multiple meanings as well. In the list, they use the example of the word “substance.” Personally, I’ve seen the word “create” cause students problems – matter is neither created nor destroyed, and then asking students what product is created. With “create,” I didn’t consider that students would get confused about it, and ended up getting students telling me that “no product was created, because matter is not created or destroyed.”

Precipitation

Even though the misconception students had here was use of incorrect terms, I’ve seen that students initially think the solution exhibited a color change. I’ve had explain that it did not turn colors, but that a new substance formed and that it was a solid. Many students I’ve interacted with also don’t realize right off that a precipitate had formed, and assumed the solution itself got murky (this was mentioned briefly on the list). I had to explain to these students that precipitate solids are very, very fine powders, and that the murky look means that a precipitate had indeed formed.

Dissolving

I didn’t realize that students often think that stuff just disappears when it dissolved. In the study done to create the list, more than half of the students in most age groups (unless I read incorrectly) believed that the sugar dissolved in water disappeared, as did its mass; the students thought the mass of the sugar water would be less once the sugar was dissolved.

I never would have considered this to be a misconception with dissolving. It is so important to stress the Law of Conservation of Mass/Matter, and I will definitely make a point to stress it in talking about dissolving.

The list also discusses students confusing the terms “melting” and “dissolving,” something I also would not have realized may be a problem.

Misconceptions about acids, bases, and neutralization

While not surprising, I would like to share the five main misconceptions that were outlined in the list:

  1. An acid is something which eats material away or which can burn you
  2. Testing for acids can only be done by trying to eat something away
  3. Neutralization is the breakdown of an acid or something changing from an acid
  4. The difference between a strong and a weak acid is that strong acids eat material away faster than a weak acid
  5. A base is something which makes up an acid

I will admit that before I learned about acids and bases, I shared some of this misconceptions myself, namely 1 and 4. And while I did know that acids and bases were different, I assumed that bases were safer and would not burn whereas acids would.

The first three misconceptions can easily be explained as coming from television shows where acid is used to destroy. The last two misconceptions may come from the words used, such as strong, weak, and base. Students, thinking that acid eats stuff, would think that a strong acid would be better at it than a weak acid. They also know that a base is like the starting material, rather than being a new term that describes a different type of substance.

A “dynamic” equilibrium

This is a biggie when it comes to reaction rates, if students cover this in basic chemistry. Up through college I assumed that once a reaction is finished, the product(s) just sit there. In actuality the molecules continue moving around, and bonds are constantly being made and broken. When a reaction “finishes,” it is at equilibrium. Chemical reactions are still occurring because of the energy of the molecules, but the equilibrium stays constant – the amounts of reactants and products in the system are the same at any one time when at equilibrium.

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I really, really liked this list and the information it provided. I did not include all of the material it provided, and I recommend a good read through for any science teachers looking for ways to approach misconceptions in their classroom. This list had a lot of really good information, and I’m actually tempted to print it out and keep a physical copy for myself!
*It should be noted that I got the list on this webpage.

Posted in Online Resources, Printable Resources, Uncategorized

Soap Making in the Classroom

This one may be a little selfish of myself to do, as I really like DIY projects and have been interested in learning to make soap myself. Still though, how could would it be to make soap and then relate it to the classroom?! Everyone uses soap, the only difference is in the type and the ingredients, but it is still a product that every single student can relate to.

This page does a really good job of explaining the process to make the soaps, provides a link to the background information, and provides the lab procedures that students would work. She also says that this lab could be done for stoichiometry, acids and bases, or intermolecular forces. Personally, I may use it with chemical reactions and balancing equations and predicting products. I think it would be cool for the students to see how NaOH (a not so friendly substance) becomes the glycerin we use in regular soap.

As for things that need to be considered, my first concern I thought of was the possibility of a student being allergic to coconut oil. If they are, the soap made will not be able to be used. Shea butter is usually a good replacement (I make lip balm and the two are interchangeable), but I have no idea how it would work in soap making. Students with coconut oil allergies would either be unable to use the soap made, or have to make a different kind, and care would have to be taken in order to ensure cross contamination did not occur.

The other concern I had was the amount of time that soap had to cure. The soaps could be made and the lab reflection/ write ups completed in a day or two, but the soap would have to sit for at least 2 weeks (supposed to sit for 4-6 but the author said it’s safe after 2-3 weeks). Students may get impatient waiting for the soaps, and it may become a distraction for some time. It was smart to do this lab before spring break, but I would rather do it right when it becomes relevant, and I’m not sure how the timing will work where I end up.

Despite these concerns, I will still probably do this lab because it just seems so cool. It’s easy to relate to student experiences and will be an interesting way to engage them and help them connect to content.

Posted in Online Resources, Thoughts and Reflections

The Magic of Chemistry

I admittedly came into the whole Harry Potter fandom much later than my peers. I remember having friends buy and read the books as they came out, with a fellow Girl Scout freaking out over the ending of the last book on our mecca to the Juliet Gordon Low house in Savannah over the Summer of ‘07. I, being the weird person that I am, decided it wasn’t worth my time to read something so mainstream [insert hipster joke here]. 10 years after that, I wanted to know what all the hype was about for a book series to still be so popular among my colleagues, so I picked up the books and decided to give it a go.

The first few books were far under my regular reading level, but I like a good story and my overactive imagination filled in the rest. I continued with the series, and the writing matured between books, almost following the reading levels that my peers would have been at when the books were released. I began to see the surface level intrigue of these books and movies – the quality, storytelling, and characters grew with people. The content and conflict got meatier over time, the characters more relatable and rounded, and the I began literally throwing my book and yelling at J.K. Rowling from my bedroom more (Hedwig and Sirius deserved better).

Before I knew it, I was in the fandom myself and understood the draw that continues to be exist as such a phenomenon internationally (#Ravenclaw). Having just gotten my chemistry degree, I realized that it was the closest I could get to not being a muggle, and that I would obviously end up being a potions instructor in the Wizarding World if such a place existed – potions instructor and chemistry teacher seem pretty close to me at least.

I hadn’t thought about this relationship for a while, but thanks to encouragement to look for engaging classroom instructional materials, I came across this interesting find. The wheels in my head began turning, and I began recalling a few other conversations I’ve had about Chemistry being a magical subject. I love my subject, and I bet other students would as well if I could introduce it to them in a way that made it seem as mystifying and beautiful as I do on a regular basis. What better way to engage students in learning than to help them understand magic themselves?

In his article, Copes (2006) points out multiple descriptions of magic and spells that were described in the Harry Potter books that are relatively easy for a science teacher to replicate in the classroom: The green flame of Floo Powder could be made from a “saturated solution of boric acid in methanol” and many of the colors associated with different spells could be made by burning different chemicals. Students could make their own secret maps, though not as cool or useful as the Marauder’s Map, using invisible ink. You could even go further and turn a copper penny silver and gold (this is a cool demo, I’ve seen it a few times personally).

But how can you relate cute magic tricks to content, and how do you began to have students relate to what they’ve seen? This part of using magic in the classroom actually comes from a discussion I had with a magician at the county fair of all places (shout-out to Extreme Illusions and Escapes and Josh Knotts). A teacher friend of mine had gone with me, and while were able to figure out part of his finale was done using hydrophobic sand, I just had to know what he used to turn the water black and then clear again. After his show, I took a chance and asked him what he used, explaining that my friend and I were both science teachers and that my focus was in chemistry. Breaking the first rule of being a magician, Josh Knotts actually took chemical bottles and showed me everything he used, explaining how much and in what order. He even let me takes pictures of the materials.

Magic Chemicals
Ferric Ammonium Sulfate and Tannic Acid, when dissolved together in water, will turn the water a dark blue/black color. Oxalic Acid is used to turn the water clear again.

I continued talking to Josh Knotts with my friend, and he told us that it was his own chemistry teacher that inspired him to get into magic in the first place (this is where it relates back to the classroom). According to Mr. Knotts, his teacher began and ended every unit with a magic trick. The first time he did the trick was for the kids to see the changes occur and to engage them. The class would then discuss how they thought the trick was done and the teacher wouldn’t tell anyone if they were right or not. He continued on with the unit and taught the material like normal, then came back to the magic trick at the end of the unit. This final time Mr. Knotts’s teacher did the trick, the students were able to explain what he did and why the magic trick worked the way it did, because they learned the explanation within the unit.

In using the magic this way, students were given a question to answer over the course of the unit – an end goal and explanation that they were working towards that gave them motivation to answer the questions “why?” and “how?”. The teacher took something mystifying and amazing with seemingly no explanation, and helped the kids understand the magic in chemistry. To this day, Josh Knotts still contacts his high school teacher if he needs advice on what he could use to pull off a new trick. As a side note, Josh invited my friend and I to contact him at any point when we have jobs if we ever want to ask him for a cool demo idea to use, as he loves science and uses chemistry and such a lot more in his other, longer performances.

I know that a lesson plan example of using magic  would be helpful, but I myself am still working out the finer details for this and would have to build my demo portfolio before I jump into using this heavily in the classroom. I would, however, like to use a small demo of some sort and have the students discuss it at the beginning and end of a unit, as I love making my students think and consider things they normally wouldn’t. At this time, I don’t have a specific lesson plan or set of them, but a general idea for how I could incorporate magic into the classroom. I would use it to engage and interest the students, and I would like to make it a connecting tool within individual units to give the students some personal reason to learn the content. Magic in the classroom could easily be used as a hook for discussions to launch from, giving me some idea of what students already know or think about certain things.

After finding the original article linked above and because of the quickly approaching reality of having my own classroom, I am very excited about working out the use of magic in my classroom. I feel strongly about the positive uses it would have, and I look forward to figuring out how to overlap the muggle world to that of magic and mystery.

Posted in Outside of the Classroom, Thoughts and Reflections

I’m Still Here

It has been a while since I last posted, and that’s because I haven’t done very much during my student teaching since my last few posts. As of today, I only have few weeks before my student teaching ends, and I get my edTPA scores back in a week (Yikes!).

Yesterday, I went to an education job fair at my university, and I think I have my top choices for where I want to work , at least at the moment. It’s so exciting trying to plan for my future, especially at the rate it’s coming up.

Hopefully next semester I’ll be able to get a sub position so that I can save up some money for The Big Move to where ever AJ and I end up finding jobs. In less than a year, I’ll be beginning my career in a new town and building my adult life.

Posted in Student Work

Atomic Timeline

My mentor teacher has student do a project every 9 weeks, and this first project had students creating atomic theory timelines. It’s a cute project and gives the students a chance to boost their grades if needed. I really liked the projects that were submitted, but I don’t think I have enough space on the blog to post all 100-something projects.

Below is a slideshow of a few timelines that students submitted. For all timelines on this post, names have been removed/ blurred and students gave permission to post their projects.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Online Resources, Thoughts and Reflections

Isotope Identity Matching Game

Students get tired of worksheets. Even though isotopes are best learned through practice and worksheets are an easy way to do more practice, students will whine about having more homework and paper to do.

Today, my mentor teacher (the one whose room I am student teaching in) showed me a really fun way to have students practice with isotopes and help teach them to each other: an isotope matching card game! (The one we used was made by Flinn Scientific and can be found here.) Students were given a set of cards and told the basic rules for Memory, and a match was made when the isotope name card (Calcium-40) and the proton/ neutron card (20 p+ / 20 n) matched. Students had to be careful making sure that the number of protons matched the element and that the protons and neutrons matched the mass number, making it a bit more difficult for some students.

It was so cool (and entertaining) listening to the students help each other and play the game. Some of the groups were really competitive with each other, some were more focused on making sure everyone got a few matches, and some were somewhere in between. Most of the students were having fun and genuinely enjoying the game, even though they were learning and practicing isotopes.

Gasp! Learning can be fun for students??

It was clear by the noise level, conversations, and student interactions that learning was occurring and that the students were having fun doing so. It was refreshing for the students to learn in a way other than constant worksheets and notes, and it was fun entertaining listening to the reactions of the students as they played the game.

 

Posted in Printable Resources, Thoughts and Reflections

Atomic Theory Word Cloud

I am really excited about this word cloud because I made it myself using student input. I gave students an index card and told them to write the name of the person, experiment, thing, or concept that they felt was most important in developing what we know about the atom today. After students wrote their response, they were instructed to place the card in a basket.

At the end of the day I made a tally of the students’ responses, and used PowerPoint to create this word cloud. The size of the word represents the amount of student responses per term, with the larger fonts representing the words or phrases written most.

I really liked this closure activity as a way to wrap up the instructional portion of the atomic theory unit. I like how the word cloud turned out, and I may very well do this again with other vocabulary terms. I liked being able to see the student responses, and it gave a little bit of input into how they are thinking. It was clear that some just wrote a term, but it was informational seeing the reasoning that some had in choosing their term.

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Posted in Thoughts and Reflections

Still Learning to Tell Time

As a student teacher, obviously I’m still learning and I have quite a bit left to learn. In this post, I am far from claiming perfection. In this post, I want to simply reflect on one of the more prevalent problems I find myself having and some of the tips I have found or been told that seem to help. This is my problem: I can’t tell time.

No, I’m not saying that I find it difficult to read a clock. What I am saying, however, is that I really seem to struggle in determining how much time students need for assignments and how long lessons will take. I feel like I have some type of time-related depth perception problem when it comes to lesson planning because of how off my planned times are from what actually occurs.

As any teacher would probably know, having planned activities run over can cause issues in the timing of content, especially if there is a common curriculum or “twin” teacher that you must keep up with. I personally have quickly realized this. Very , very quickly. So I clearly needed to determine what I could do to keep from over-planning in the future. Thankfully my wonderful mentor teacher gave me the following advice:

“Plan to give the students 3x the amount of time it takes you to do work yourself.”

It may seem obvious to some, but this was news to me, and a welcomed bit of information that can be used in the future. It may not apply to everything, but it is a good place to start until I am able to determine student behavior and the time they need for myself.