Coaching Students in the Transition from Chapter 9 to Chapter 10

Chapters 6-10 incrementally ramp up the types of things we hold students accountable for when it comes to reactions. Chapters 6 and 7 introduce students to the 10 most common elementary steps. Chapter 8 deals with constructing multistep mechanisms in reasonable ways. In Chapter 9, students learn how to predict the outcome of SN1/SN2/E1/E2 competition. … Continue reading Coaching Students in the Transition from Chapter 9 to Chapter 10

The Plan for My Organic Course During the COVID-19 Crisis

First and foremost, I hope you and your students are all well, and that you stay well through the coronavirus crisis. Like many colleges and universities around the country, my university has gone exclusively to remote learning. We are currently on spring break, and our classes are scheduled to resume on Monday, March 23. I … Continue reading The Plan for My Organic Course During the COVID-19 Crisis

Mechanism Problems with Numerous Teaching Moments

Each year, as my students complete Chapter 8, I find tremendous value in assigning a handful of written mechanism problems that not only challenge students, but also reinforce important lessons about mechanisms that we learned throughout Chapters 7 and 8. This year, I assigned the following two mechanism problems (not found in Chapter 7 or … Continue reading Mechanism Problems with Numerous Teaching Moments

Squarecap Is a Game Changer in My Flipped Classroom

Years ago, I switched to teaching a flipped classroom and using a classroom response system (aka CRS or clickers). In this format, my students are assigned to read about a dozen pages from the textbook before coming to class. At the start of class, I assign a problem to solve that is based on the … Continue reading Squarecap Is a Game Changer in My Flipped Classroom

Cis-trans isomerism: A valuable litmus test for things to come

Every time I teach Section 3.9, which covers rotations about single and double bonds and cis/trans isomerism, I’m reminded of how valuable an exercise it is to have students determine whether a particular double bond can have cis/trans configurations possible. It may not immediately jump out at you as a valuable exercise, but consider this. … Continue reading Cis-trans isomerism: A valuable litmus test for things to come

What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander: Elementary Steps for Radicals

We have written a handful of blog posts that call attention to the benefits of Chapter 7, which introduces students to the 10 common elementary steps involving closed-shell species. Because of Chapter 7, students are exposed to the complete set of the elementary steps that make up the mechanisms for all reactions encountered through Chapter … Continue reading What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander: Elementary Steps for Radicals

A Great Teaching Moment with Aromatic Substitution Reactions

One of my favorite teaching moments throughout the entire year comes in Chapter 23, when, in the same lecture period, we examine aromatic substitution reactions proceeding through three different intermediates: arenium ion intermediates (first reaction below), Meisenheimer complexes (second reaction below), and benzyne intermediates (third reaction below). I love this as a teaching moment because … Continue reading A Great Teaching Moment with Aromatic Substitution Reactions

A Mechanistic Organization is More than Just Mechanistic Patterns

No doubt one of the greatest benefits of teaching a mechanistic organization is the opportunity afforded to students to see patterns among mechanisms—patterns that we experts know and value, but are challenging for students to see under a traditional functional group organization. For example, as I described in my previous post, Why a Mechanistic Organization?, … Continue reading A Mechanistic Organization is More than Just Mechanistic Patterns

Mechanisms and Synthesis Go Hand-in-Hand

In my recent post, Better at Mechanisms, Better at Synthesis, I highlighted research by Alison Flynn at the University of Ottawa, in which she showed that students have better success solving a synthesis problem when they draw reaction mechanisms. I recently had an opportunity to further probe this connection by analyzing my students’ success on … Continue reading Mechanisms and Synthesis Go Hand-in-Hand

Bulls-eye: Tracking Reaction Usage Keeps Students on Target with Synthesis Problems

There are no two ways about it—solving synthesis problems is one of the more challenging tasks that students face in organic chemistry. One reason for the difficulty is the sheer number of reactions we deal with throughout the year, perhaps a few hundred in total. Invariably my students ask me if they need to know … Continue reading Bulls-eye: Tracking Reaction Usage Keeps Students on Target with Synthesis Problems