Building Students’ Organic Chemistry Toolbox to Set Them Up for Exam Success

We have now approached Exam 3, which means that students have been exposed to material that includes Chapter 19 content. I am quite excited to see that my students are starting to build their “organic chemistry toolbox,” but I've also noticed that they are starting to confuse how and when reagents are used. While I … Continue reading Building Students’ Organic Chemistry Toolbox to Set Them Up for Exam Success

MO Theory and Its Relation to Molecular Stability

Molecular orbital theory (MO theory) can be a very challenging topic. Students come into the classroom already knowing about the octet rule, Hund’s rule, and the Pauli exclusion principle. However, the lecture component is critical for bridging the gap between their knowledge of general chemistry and organic chemistry. As such, I start my lecture on … Continue reading MO Theory and Its Relation to Molecular Stability

Asking Better Questions: When Students Become the Teacher

As teachers, we are expected to be the experts in our subjects. But the act of learning itself is a constantly evolving process, which is why I find it refreshing when my students ask smart questions and suggest alternative perspectives to keep me on my toes in class. We have recently transitioned from the electrophilic … Continue reading Asking Better Questions: When Students Become the Teacher

The Teeter-Totter Method: Helping Students Visualize Electrophiles and Nucleophiles

Chapter 11 of the Karty text focuses on electrophilic addition along pi bonds. This can be a tough topic to tackle. The terms themselves can scare students, which is why I've found that it is key to break down the words into smaller chunks, especially for elementary steps. In the text, a variety of electrophilic … Continue reading The Teeter-Totter Method: Helping Students Visualize Electrophiles and Nucleophiles

Life is Hard Enough. Why Teach Alkenes By Function?

One thing I was really looking forward to when switching to Karty’s mechanistically organized text was how reactions involving alkenes would be addressed. I expected to see the reactions simply grouped by mechanism; for example, the electrophilic addition reaction mechanisms would be grouped together, as would the pericyclic reaction mechanisms and so on. Instead, I … Continue reading Life is Hard Enough. Why Teach Alkenes By Function?

Spectroscopy: Seeing (and Using) the Big Picture

Like many other instructors, I do the majority of spectroscopy instruction in my laboratory. It seems natural to integrate spectroscopy problems into lab exercises, and to use the molecules we make as the platform for understanding how to analyze them. Most organic texts I have seen introduce spectroscopy towards the end of the first semester … Continue reading Spectroscopy: Seeing (and Using) the Big Picture

When to Introduce Conjugate Addition: Sometimes More is More

There were two places in Joel’s text that surprised me: where 1,2 versus 1,4 addition to a conjugated diene appeared—Chapter 11—and where direct versus conjugate nucleophilic addition to polar pi bonds appeared—Chapter 17. Both of these chapters introduce basic concepts and then expand all the way to complex applications, much further than a functional-group organized … Continue reading When to Introduce Conjugate Addition: Sometimes More is More

How the Ten Elementary Steps Unified My Course

For years I told my students they shouldn’t merely memorize a list of reactions. But what were my actions really telling them? In the last textbook I used, the alkene chapter began with nomenclature, then covered Markovnikov addition of H-X and water, halogenation and halohydrin formation, and ended with hydroboration/oxidation. The next chapter that covered … Continue reading How the Ten Elementary Steps Unified My Course

No More Fearing Alkenes and Alkynes

Since this is the second year I am using Joel’s text, I was sure that I would be comfortable with the syllabus and schedule I set. But I again became nervous as I approached Chapter 11, “Electrophilic Addition to Nonpolar Pi Bonds.” Years of slogging through additions to alkenes and alkynes, working example after example … Continue reading No More Fearing Alkenes and Alkynes

The Right Time for Synthesis?

At Butler, we have four learning goals for our students in organic chemistry: to learn the language, drawing style, and three-dimensional structure of organic molecules; to know and apply organic reactions; to demonstrate understanding of reaction mechanisms; and to integrate this knowledge through synthesis. Of these learning objectives, the most difficult for students to embrace … Continue reading The Right Time for Synthesis?