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Low Level Chemistry Classes

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Lauren Eltringham Lauren Eltringham 1130 Points

Hi Everyone I am a pre service teacher currently doing my student teaching, and I need some advice regarding teaching strategies for lower level students. My one class is full of students who are very apathetic and have essentially no background knowledge. What are some effective teaching strategies you have used in order to help these kinds of students? Thanks!

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

Let me first ask you a few questions that will help us narrow down your needs so we can give you more detailed suggestions. What grade are you teaching? What exactly do you mean by "low level chemistry"? How many students do you have? I am sure we will be better able to help you with these details and anymore you can add. There are lots of us out here who like helping future teachers!!!

Lauren Eltringham Lauren Eltringham 1130 Points

Thanks for your reply! I'm sure more details would make it much easier for everyone

What grade are you teaching?
They typically take chemistry their junior year, but I do have a few sophomores that are taking it early.

What exactly do you mean by 'low level chemistry'?
Essentially these are students who probably would not take chemistry if they were not required. Most do not have special needs or things like that, but they are typically below their peers academically.

How many students do you have?
20-24 students in each class

Thanks again!

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

I would recommend getting their attention with discrepant events. These demonstrations get their attention and interest because they are exciting and mysterious. Discrepant events are experiments that amaze students. The point is for them to try to figure out what happened in the experiment. I did an Advanced Search on "discrepant events" and marked "user created collections" and left the rest at default values. This brought up a whole bunch of resources for discrepant events!! I think this approach will help get your students interested in chemistry. You can do the events randomly so that they never know when to expect them and want to come to class everyday to see what might happen. A lot of these events can be done very quickly and some take more time, but it will be worth it.

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Lauren I think it most important to get your students DOING things. Maybe put lab activities first in class and design probing questions that will draw out answers. I also like the ACS text

Rebecca Falin Rebecca Falin 71530 Points

I agree on getting them actively doing some chemistry. Demonstrations can be good for engaging students. I try to have them do something in their science journals in regards to demonstrations so that they are actively involved in the process. For example, with the classic imploding can and egg in a jar demos I have them draw a representation of what they think is happening at the molecular level and then we create a collaborative version on the SmartBoard. I've also had good luck with using collaborative teams (3-4 students) doing POGIL activities and Flinn's POGIL activites for chemistry. I tend to make these more (or less) structured, depending on the class needs, and use a stopwatch (on my SmartBoard) to keep on track and focused.

Brendan Finch Brendan 150 Points

Hey Lauren,

I've been teaching in classrooms with students that have low skills for 6 years now. As some of the above comments suggest, you definitely want to connect the topics to your students daily lives. An awesome hook (2-3 minutes video, short reading, or demonstration) can easily mean the difference between having students tune out and having them fully immerse themselves in the topic. Acids = talk about the HCl in their stomach. Conservation of matter = burn a small piece of paper ask them where the rest of the paper went. Chemistry is so much more relevant than most students judge it to be, once they see all the math, variable and equations that they'll have to use. Chemistry has the benefit of some awesome chemical demonstrations that you can connect back to the material. Definitely not a default, but should always be an option.

You also have to make sure you're meeting them where they're at. If you give them reading/content that's too high (or low) level from where they stand, they're going to be frustrated and tune out. For starters, here are a few resources I'd try out:
Awesome, short, clear animations that can help summarize lessons at the beginning of class or can play a role anytime during a lesson. I've seen this site be super successful from elementary to high school.
Short, leveled science articles for students reading at or below grade level. Their articles are written at multiple reading levels, so all students read the same information, just at their independent reading level. Right now, their material is written from the 3rd-8th grade reading levels, but they're planning to level everything up to high school levels starting this month. If your kids are behind, this would work very well for you.

Let me know if these are helpful!

Jim DuRall Jim DuRall 810 Points

Lauren, I am in the exact same situation. I've found that linking chemistry to their daily lives as best you keeps them interested, and of course giving them hands on activities. I've challenged them more than once to find something at home that relates to our topic, obviously not all of them do, but the ones that do help the others see what I'm trying to show them. If they don't get it from me they might from another student. I've used brainpop with my middle school kids, but never considered it with the high school. I'll have to give that a shot. They will probably think its cheesy, but it might still help

Mariana Lara Mariana Lara 335 Points

Try hands on activities, like experiments, to get them involved!

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

I have been listening to lessons from an EdX class Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science They recently had us convert recipes to moles - very cool

Tori Popoloski Tori Popoloski 1500 Points

reading these comments really helped!! everyone has great ideas

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