When teaching, I try to foster real-life applications between the material and students’ experiences. I try to channel my inner Ms. Frizzle, a quirky teacher from The Magic School Bus, which is a throwback to my childhood. Today’s students may not be as aware of the television show, but I still like to embody Ms. … Continue reading How Do You Foster Real-Life Connections between the Material and Students’ Worlds?
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?
Rarely are real-world applications of chemistry emphasized enough in the mainstream organic chemistry course. This can explain why students tend to view chemistry as structures on the page or as schemes drawn on the white board. A strictly two-dimensional discussion of chemistry can be one of the reasons that students struggle to connect what they … Continue reading Chemistry in the Real World: Applications That Bring Life to the Page
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?
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
The year is 2020. I have spent the majority of the year at home with my two kids managing Zoom meetings and PPE-clad trips to the (wastelands to scavenge for toilet paper) grocery store. An idea forms: what if I gave my organic chemistry students essay assignments? While writing in the sciences is nothing unusual, … Continue reading Essays in 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
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