Are pKa’s Necessary to Succeed in the Classroom?

While teaching chapters 17-18, I have shown students the versatility of carbonyls and enolate chemistry. The discussion in Karty’s book is arranged well and does a nice job of spotlighting the chemistry unique to carbonyls, especially as it ranges from selective addition (direct or conjugate) to the use of enolates for alkylation and halogenation.  In … Continue reading Are pKa’s Necessary to Succeed in the Classroom?

A, B, C’s of Williamson Ether Synthesis

Williamson ether synthesis at the basic leave is rooted in the conditions of an SN2 reaction. However, students still struggle with the content. I have found myself trying to remind my class of the basics. I am quite fond of the Karty text, and have tried to compliment the book mechanics with some organically-flavored A … Continue reading A, B, C’s of Williamson Ether Synthesis

Nomenclature: Can It Be Taught alongside Mechanisms and Synthesis?

Oftentimes, when I talk with students, I compare the organic chemistry lecture series to a study-abroad experience: the first semester is when students learn the language, and the second semester is when they become immersed in the content. Within this dichotomy, I view nomenclature as a vocabulary-learning process (e.g., ketones, carboxylic acids, alcohols, and so … Continue reading Nomenclature: Can It Be Taught alongside Mechanisms and Synthesis?

How to Help Students See Patterns of Reactivity: My Experience with Karty’s Text

One of my most common refrains in my organic chemistry classes is that students should strive to understand and apply the foundational principles, as opposed to trying to memorize each example reaction that they’ve encountered. I strongly believe that a mechanistic organization discourages the memorization behaviors that students are almost forced to adopt in a … Continue reading How to Help Students See Patterns of Reactivity: My Experience with Karty’s Text

The Features of Resonance and the Teaching Moments They Lead To

We started resonance structures in class today. It wasn’t until after class had ended that I realized how many great teaching moments we had, and I attribute those teaching moments to the way resonance is presented in my textbook. Resonance is introduced in Chapter 1, and students are taught to draw resonance structures by first … Continue reading The Features of Resonance and the Teaching Moments They Lead To

How Do You Keep Content Fresh for Students While Also Maintaining the Integrity of Your Course?

For the professors reading this post, I am writing to gain some insight by asking for your advice. Even though I have been teaching organic chemistry for five years now, I still struggle with how to assess my students’ knowledge.  When I was a student, we had a series of free-response/short-answer questions on our exams. I … Continue reading How Do You Keep Content Fresh for Students While Also Maintaining the Integrity of Your Course?

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