Activities that make Students Think!

Activities should be an integral part of every chemistry classroom. They are a fun and engaging way for students to actively practice material. Activities can be used to help students drill and practice facts as well as to guide students in their thinking! We want our students to think! We want them to move beyond the basic drill and practice of facts into a deeper understanding of chemistry. While this is very difficult to do, I have found that various activities can be effective or at least more effective than a typical paper pencil assignment (depending of course on the content you are teaching).

One such activity is my "Investigating Isotopes Activity."

I can teach students to complete average atomic mass calculations quite easily. However, my students easily miss the point concept of why they are doing the math problem. To help illustrate the average atomic mass, I have tried both a beanium isotope lab as well as an eggium isotope lab with my students. Both are great, but neither helped my students truly grasp both the concept and the math behind the concept. My solution was to create the "Investigating Isotopes Activity."

In this activity, students are presented with atom cards for various elements such as Gallium.

Students must first determine the protons, neutrons, and atomic mass for each atom. Then students are led through how to calculate the average mass of these atoms.

This is no simple activity. It will likely take an entire class period for students to complete, but throughout that class period, students will review how to determine atomic mass, be exposed to examples of isotopes, and led to calculate the average mass of those isotopes. The element/atom cards present a tangible way for students to work with a concept/calculation that generally is abstract and difficult for students to totally grasp. This activity presents an abstract concept/calculation in a more tangible manner for students. It is a great activity that requires students to think and consider the material in a meaningful chemistry way!

*"Investigating Isotopes Activity" is available for purchase at...

Happy Teaching :)

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