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A Level Chemistry Teaching

Discussion in 'Science' started by Friar Tuck, Nov 21, 2011.

  1. I have an interview for a job that will involve a lot of A Level teaching and wanted more experienced Teachers' thoughts on a few things. I have a lot of sporadic experience of A Level teaching on Supply. I was wondering which topics you find are the most difficult to teach or for students to grasp? Also how do you avoid the temptation for "chalk and talk" when teaching things that require a lot of explanation. Many thanks
  2. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    In general the areas that pupils find the most difficult are calculations and areas of chemistry where the work is mainly conceptual e.g. electron shells, bond angles etc.
    It is very hard to avoid chalk and talk for at least part of the teaching but, like any other class, it is important to get a balance between teacher centred work and pupil centred work e.g. working through exam questions, practical work, problem solving, presentations etc. Equally requiring pupils to properly prepare for the lesson and read up on the work to be covered allows more time to work on misconceptions and less time going over the facts repeatedly to ensure knowledge
  3. The main issue when students start chemisty A-level is their lack of any real understanding from GCSE. Their GCSE chemistry is very superficial so you can throw up the question 'what type of bonding is in NaCl?' and they will quite happily answer 'covalent' without really questioning themselves. Modularisation really hasn't helped this at all (bring back terminal assessment!). Anything mathematical is a struggle, rearranging formulae and working with units and powers. None of the AS topics are particularly challenging (except maybe redox), it's the weaknesses from GCSE that hold them back.
    Chalk and talk has a place, although I avoid powerpoint as it's too easy to go too quickly and it is very passive both for teacher and student. Far better to write on the board and throw in examples and questions as you go through.
  4. Roboteer

    Roboteer New commenter

    I second the difficult areas others have picked out.
    Use lots of examples for students to work through - it breaks up the board work and helps check their understanding.
    I sometimes work through big problems on large pieces of paper between us on the floor/desk rather than on the board. Have also been known to write things out on the desks/floor (and get shot by the cleaner!). Mini whiteboards are great.
    Another teacher in my school uses hexagons where the pupils write key facts on them and then haev to link them to each other to show progression of facts etc.
  5. Yep- agree with everything everyone else has said. In the past, my classes have struggled with enthalpy change calculations, trying to grasp the concept of Ka, pKa, equilibria. This list is endless I have to say! Most of them have found organic chemistry mechanisms easy, although , as a teacher, this is my least favourite area to teach!

    Echoing what was said above, the GCSE really does not prepare them well for AS level. They haven't even mentioned moles at GCSE if you are sticking to the syllabus. Savvy teachers will have taught more able students the concept of moles which will make life a lot easier.
    They also dont like the fact the are 'misled' over ideas like electron configuration. 2, 8, 8 no longer applies etc.

    They style in which you teach them depends on the type of students you have. My current Year 12s love posters, mind maps, flow diagrams, where as my year 13 prefer me to stand and talk at them, then try past paper questions. year 12s enjoy drama and acting out mass spectrometry and mechanisms, whereas Year 13 wont even entertain the idea!

    Just make sure they all understand before you move on!

    I hated teaching A level to begin with as I found it so different from KS3 and 4, but I love it now!
  6. Hi.. best of Luck with the Interview....

    So you asked how to avoid chalk and talk... well this is a format i often use and hope it is some use to you.. i'v based it on two relatively abstract concepts so it reads more like a lesson outline but you get the general idea.

    Intro: outline what you want to teach them.

    For IR i set in the context of analysing substance X ( nice picture of chemical bottle labelled X or Electron configuration writing the spdf e.c of chlorine across the top of the board and setting the challenge of working out what element it is by the end of the lesson

    Then do the theory bit.. chalk and talk with a very neatly planned out interactive ppt : where the ideas slowly build up!.

    Then do an interactive exercise.... ( checking understanding with Q and A as you go)

    For IR working in pairs to identify the key bonds from 3 spectra A, B and C printed on to one sheet: a carbonyl, an alcohol and a carb acid, then check on the board using feedback and structured Q and A from the students

    For Electron config, ( the human periodic table) give each student an element and ask them to organise themselves into the periodic table: usingt he benches as energy levels n= 2, n=3 etc... I play the role of hydrogen and helium. then ask them to write gcse e.c ( 2.1 etc.... then i slowly build up electron config into s, p subshells showing electron filing on the board ( with arrows and all the little rules along the way). ... then get them back into periodic table and ask them to write out what they think is their spdf e.c then we check.. going along each period reading out aloud each e.c in turn so they can see the pattern. you can also Q and A trends and patterns at this point, S block elements, P block elements etc....

    Follow up with some consolidation: exam questions so you can focus on exam technique/ practice analysis or writing electronic config.. put in extension/stretch and challenge in here!

    Finally bring it back to your original context....

    IR put a spectra of X onthe board and get them in pairs quickly to work out what it is and write on whiteboards, for the E.C.. what element am I? nice ending and the students feel like they have learnt something and more importantly shows evidence of learning and progression.

    other topics they find hard.. ionisation energies and equilibrium ..
  7. (Depending on your school's photocopying policy, of course). I do use a lot of PowerPoints (printed out) and worksheets, but even with the PowerPoints I only put in the basics - they have to annotate heavily/fill in bits/ do calculations etc. Saves time as they're not just mindlessly copying it all, and is how they will often work at Uni (though at Uni they may usually have to print out their own!). You could take this approach one step further and make up workbooks of the PowerPoints etc (mindful of copyright!) that they actually buy if photocopying is an issue.
    I've found Organic Chemistry needs LOTS of structure to it, or they don't see the links.
    As for the 2,8 structure and similar misinformations, I've always treated every year in Chemistry as "let's see what we lied about last time we did this" and used it as an in-joke that "we chemists" - the students included - find out about as we go along - the students seem to appreciate the tongue in cheek approach and realise that we can't go leaping in at the deep end of a topic as it would be too complex etc.

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