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

How to Conduct a Lab Course amidst a Pandemic?

Teaching labs online this fall has been quite unique. I am one of many instructors who has struggled with how best to instruct my students, particularly because labs require hands-on learning that can be difficult to simulate through a screen. However, my colleagues and I were inspired from our rapid transition to online classes this … Continue reading How to Conduct a Lab Course amidst a Pandemic?

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

If I Could Turn Back Time

As a teacher, I try to remember what organic chemistry was like for me as a student. I know that to be effective instructors, we need to be able to see topics through our students’ eyes. After five years in academia, my list of main organic chemistry takeaways has grown to the following five points: … Continue reading If I Could Turn Back Time

The First Semester: A Slower Pace Wins the Race

In my last post, Results of Four Years of Teaching the Mechanism, I talked about the increasing ACS Organic Exam scores I have observed in my students over the previous four years of using the Karty approach.  As I am preparing for the 5th year and the first time using the second edition this Fall, … Continue reading The First Semester: A Slower Pace Wins the Race

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

Right Where I Want my Students to Be

The other day, while working through Chapter 21, I left class with a great feeling as a result of having given the following clicker question: My students were able to rule out choice (a) on their own, given that there’s no reasonable mechanism to arrive at that product with the methyl groups located there. However, … Continue reading Right Where I Want my Students to Be

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

Memorization Not a Choice: Mechanisms Matter

I have always approached my organic sequence as a mechanism-driven course. Every reaction that we discussed in class started with a mechanism to show how it wasn’t really anything new, but an extension of the types of behaviors we had learned to describe and anticipate. I avoided texts that listed reaction after reaction as completely … Continue reading Memorization Not a Choice: Mechanisms Matter