Are pKa’s Necessary to Succeed in the Classroom?

While teaching chapters 17-18, I have shown students the versatility of carbonyls and enolate chemistry. The discussion in Karty’s book is arranged well and does a nice job of spotlighting the chemistry unique to carbonyls, especially as it ranges from selective addition (direct or conjugate) to the use of enolates for alkylation and halogenation.  In … Continue reading Are pKa’s Necessary to Succeed in the Classroom?

Smartwork online homework and written problem sets: A perfect marriage

Learning organic chemistry is not a linear process; rather, it’s made up of many small cycles. Each cycle begins when we present students the basic ideas behind a new topic. Then we’ll show students how to apply those ideas toward solving a few initial problems, and we’ll follow that up with an assignment where students … Continue reading Smartwork online homework and written problem sets: A perfect marriage

What is most effective: Cause and Effect or Named Reactions?

At this point in the semester, my class has progressed past their first exam, and I have helped students on all points of content mastery. In those interactions, I have heard a number of things to make me wonder…what is the most effective way to learn the content? Do students prefer the cause-and-effect perspective or … Continue reading What is most effective: Cause and Effect or Named Reactions?

A, B, C’s of Williamson Ether Synthesis

Williamson ether synthesis at the basic leave is rooted in the conditions of an SN2 reaction. However, students still struggle with the content. I have found myself trying to remind my class of the basics. I am quite fond of the Karty text, and have tried to compliment the book mechanics with some organically-flavored A … Continue reading A, B, C’s of Williamson Ether Synthesis

Break-Brain: How Do Instructors Reconnect Students to the Content

I am not sure if other instructors have this issue, but how do you connect students back to the content? Sometimes I wonder if the first week of the spring semester is worse than the first week of the fall semester. My class ended the semester on chapter 9 content, while my colleague left the … Continue reading Break-Brain: How Do Instructors Reconnect Students to the Content

How Do You Foster Real-Life Connections between the Material and Students’ Worlds?

When teaching, I try to foster real-life applications between the material and students’ experiences. I try to channel my inner Ms. Frizzle, a quirky teacher from The Magic School Bus, which is a throwback to my childhood. Today’s students may not be as aware of the television show, but I still like to embody Ms. … Continue reading How Do You Foster Real-Life Connections between the Material and Students’ Worlds?

Nomenclature: Can It Be Taught alongside Mechanisms and Synthesis?

Oftentimes, when I talk with students, I compare the organic chemistry lecture series to a study-abroad experience: the first semester is when students learn the language, and the second semester is when they become immersed in the content. Within this dichotomy, I view nomenclature as a vocabulary-learning process (e.g., ketones, carboxylic acids, alcohols, and so … Continue reading Nomenclature: Can It Be Taught alongside Mechanisms and Synthesis?

An Active Learning Exercise for Conformational Analysis

When students ask me why learning organic chemistry is such hard work, I often begin by telling them that it’s just so different from general chemistry. At the beginning of the course, there’s plenty of overlap since students in organic chemistry must have a strong foundation in the structure, bonding, and properties of molecules. Eventually, … Continue reading An Active Learning Exercise for Conformational Analysis