Time - Spend Time on the Easy/Little Things!
Once upon a time, I believed that some chemistry concepts were easy and as a result I spent little time teaching these topics. I sped through what I believed to be simple/easy topics and often tried to catch-up when we were behind in the curriculum. However, I learned that just because a topic is easy does not mean I get to spend less time teaching. Which for the record – is really sad. I found that whenever I sped through an easy topic, students usually didn’t learn the topic well.
Let me provide an example. When teaching the ion trends on the Periodic Table, I assumed (this is what got me in trouble) that my students could simply memorize the trend. I assumed they could memorize the charges of ions from groups 1,2,13,15-17. Bad idea. I had students (thankfully not too many) who by the end of the school year (keep in mind this was a first semester topic) still had no idea the charges of various ions. AAAHHHHHH!!! The problem? My students needed to memorize this information. Telling students to memorize it was not enough (insert frustration here!). Now, don't get me wrong - I did a small assignment and quiz over memorizing ion charges, and yes, my students knew the information immediately. They knew the information that day, but they did a mental dump of that knowledge at the end of the day/unit. Again...my response here is ...AAAHHHHHH!!!
So what have I learned from this experience? What is the redeeming point here?
I believe part of the answer is TIME.
There are two parts of time that I believe are important here. First, I need to spend time requiring my students to practice, practice, practice (repetition is key) the information immediately once that information is taught. Second, I need to require my students to practice information over the course of time. In other words, as the year progresses topics and information from past units need to be incorporated into other units (which can be easy or difficult depending on the topic). For example, when teaching about ions, I suggest explaining the concept and then requiring students to complete a minimum of 2 assignments. While this might be a relatively simple and easy concept, it is a VERY IMPORTANT concept that my students MUST LEARN! Therefore, repetition must be employed immediately once the ion concept has been taught. My students might not be good at memorizing on their own, but if I require them to use that information quite a bit, they will naturally memorize that info. Then, over the rest of the year (yes- this topic really is that important), ion charges should be incorporated into other assignments and reviews to help students solidify their memory/knowledge of the information.
BUT how exactly does this look outside of teaching ion charges? (Don't you hate that training that seems totally awesome but then you wonder how to apply it on a broader scale? #Life of a Teacher). In the interest of time (lol) and space, I will be posting several more blog posts on this topic. Be sure to check out more in the "Teaching Time" series for more practical applications for your chemistry classroom.
- Founder of Teaching with Confidence