Snow Day Strategies: How I Made-Up Lost Time

Elon University is located in central North Carolina and we don’t often have severe winter storms. In fact, in my previous 12 years at Elon, not once did we have a cancelled day of classes during our fall or spring semesters. This spring semester, however, four days of classes were lost to winter storms, three of which were on days I teach my Organic 2 class. Based on how I designed my syllabus, I figured I could sacrifice one or two days of class, but certainly not three. I found myself in a position in which I had to make up at least one entire class period worth of material. I decided to accelerate the class somewhat for the next few meetings. To accomplish this, I gave students, ahead of time, several clicker questions that I would normally present for the first time during class. I asked students to solve the problems on their own, after having read assigned sections from the textbook. During class, I didn’t need to use the time they otherwise would use to solve the problem and submit their answers. Furthermore, I cut down on the time spent in class we would typically devote to discussing each of the clicker questions.

I held two such accelerated classes and I was impressed with the outcome. I was half expecting complaints from my students, because the plan increased the demands for them to learn on their own from the book (at least temporarily), but I didn’t hear a peep. Moreover, my students genuinely seemed on board with what we covered, which is quite remarkable considering that the material we covered in just the first day included: conjugate addition of a weak nucleophile, the acid-catalyzed formation and hydrolysis of acetals, the acid-catalyzed formation and hydrolysis of imines, the Wolff-Kishner reduction, the acid- and base-catalyzed hydrolysis of nitriles, and the beginnings of aldol reactions. No doubt, the organization of the course and the students’ comfort with mechanisms helped considerably.

-Joel Karty

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