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

Forward vs. Backward: How Do You Get Students Interested in Retrosynthesis?

In today’s class, I spoke about the value of retrosynthesis, which allows chemists to view mechanisms and organic reactions from their products to their starting material. Typically, students are not keen on retrosynthesis because: 1). the word is scary, and students are introduced to many other difficult-sounding concepts while learning it, and 2). the process … Continue reading Forward vs. Backward: How Do You Get Students Interested in Retrosynthesis?

Everything Is Connected: Teaching Organic Chemistry as a Unified Story through Mechanisms

When teaching mechanisms, I try to impress upon my students that the concepts tied to mechanisms are not confined to the chapters that they appear in within the Karty text, but rather, that they are a continuation of connected topics across the discipline as a whole. Today’s class focused on Sections 13.1-13.3, which elaborate on … Continue reading Everything Is Connected: Teaching Organic Chemistry as a Unified Story through Mechanisms

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

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 Best Tactics for Learning the Elementary Steps of Organic Chemistry

I am a big advocate of the Karty textbook and how it presents mechanisms to the audience. However, mechanisms are not every student’s favorite topic. While some chapters are quite easy to present, others prove to be more challenging for students. I have found that Chapter 7 (“An Overview of the Most Common Elementary Steps”), … Continue reading The Best Tactics for Learning the Elementary Steps of Organic Chemistry

Has It Really Been Six Years?: Part II

Context Is Everything! So, coming back to the gray-hair issue that I mentioned in last week’s post, I have been teaching for long enough that sometimes I need to take a step back and remind myself that most of my students don’t know very much chemistry, especially not the chemistry of their day-to-day lives. This … Continue reading Has It Really Been Six Years?: Part II

Teaching Mechanistically Online

Like many other faculty, I’ve found myself with two days to switch my organic chemistry II course to an online format. Luckily, I have taught online classes before, although not this particular one, so I was familiar with many of the tools. Here are a few thoughts that I’m keeping central to how I teach … Continue reading Teaching Mechanistically Online

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