It’s My Favorite Time of the Year! Chapters 6 and 7

It’s my favorite time of the year. Finally, we get to do chemistry in organic chemistry! Not to malign BDE, IMF, chair vs. boat conformations, etc., but I have always thought of the stuff leading up to this point—strains and conformers, the designation of stereochemistry and the terms and rules associated with their nomenclature—a bit … Continue reading It’s My Favorite Time of the Year! Chapters 6 and 7

Teaching Solvent Effects Early Helps Keep Students’ Heads From Spinning

We started Chapter 9 in class a couple weeks ago, where we learn how to predict the outcome of the SN1/SN2/E1/E2 competition. Similar to how it’s done in most books, we do this by first learning about the major factors that influence the rate of each reaction in this competition. But unlike other books, this … Continue reading Teaching Solvent Effects Early Helps Keep Students’ Heads From Spinning

Cooler Temps, Shorter Days, and the Start of Organic I

I have been teaching organic chemistry for a long time (several years ago I had a wonderful student who pointed out that I taught her dad!). The beginning of first semester of organic chemistry is always clunky and sometimes even painful. How does one make it through the first class without going through every detail … Continue reading Cooler Temps, Shorter Days, and the Start of Organic I

When Should Resonance be Taught?

In my textbook, resonance is presented rather extensively in Chapter 1 (“Atomic and Molecular Structure”), ultimately teaching students how to draw all resonance structures of a given species. I like to teach resonance to that depth early in the course because it reinforces topics that are vital to student success throughout the entire year of … Continue reading When Should Resonance be Taught?

Proton Transfer: Well Begun is Half Done

Of all the chapters in Joel’s mechanistically organized textbook, my favorite is Chapter 6: The Proton Transfer Reaction. Acid-base chemistry might seem like an odd topic to pick in an organic chemistry textbook. It seems almost…inorganic, a throwback to general chemistry of sorts. So why do I like it so much? It accomplishes two vitally important … Continue reading Proton Transfer: Well Begun is Half Done

Playing Musical Chairs with Spectroscopy

As a Synthetic Organic Chemist by trade, I use NMR spectroscopy heavily for analysis and structure identification. When designing a course in organic chemistry, it comes as no surprise that I want my students to be comfortable mining information from an NMR spectrum and using it to solve problems. A mechanistically organized course lends itself … Continue reading Playing Musical Chairs with Spectroscopy

No Longer Dreading the Second Exam

Shortly after I began teaching, when I was still using a book organized by functional group, I came to dread the second exam of the first semester. The class would typically perform decently well on the first exam, but scores would plummet on the second one. I recently looked back at my records for a … Continue reading No Longer Dreading the Second Exam

Solving the IR Puzzle

My three year old son recently has shown interest in solving puzzles. He dumps the pieces on the floor and randomly clicks them together until he finds a match. This is often the same approach that students take to problem solving in organic chemistry. To help my students work more systematically, I introduce IR early … Continue reading Solving the IR Puzzle

Getting Students to Connect Acid-Base Chemistry to the Rest of Organic Chemistry

Many professors agree that a strong foundation of acid-base chemistry is vital for students to understand the great majority of organic reactions they will face, and I firmly agree. Certainly, the importance of acid-base chemistry is reflected by the fact that organic textbooks typically discuss acids, bases, and proton transfer reactions early. Despite these early … Continue reading Getting Students to Connect Acid-Base Chemistry to the Rest of Organic Chemistry

Building a Solid Foundation Gives the Student More Confidence

When I was in ninth grade, my family built a house. I remember my dad, who is an engineer, regularly checking on the progress and quality of the foundation. He knew that the foundation was the most important part of the house. Building a proper foundation took a lot of time, but it was important … Continue reading Building a Solid Foundation Gives the Student More Confidence