Stressed & Running Out of Teaching Time? – Move these topics to the end of the year!

Stressed and running out of time to teach it all?

I recommend moving a few select topics to the end of the school year for three very strategic reasons!

#1 – Move topics that include hard math concepts to the end of the year.

All your students should be in a math class! Therefore, as the year progresses, your students’ math skills should (at least in theory) improve! With this in mind, it may be helpful to move a topic such as calculating the speed and energy of light to the end of the school year. If students are stronger in their math skills, it should take less time to teach the topic.

Dimensional analysis is another topic I prefer to move to a later point in the year or in the curriculum. As a first-year teacher, I taught this as well as other chemistry math concepts at the beginning of the year. Six weeks into school my students wondered if they were in a science class or a math class. I have since found it very helpful and time saving to move these math concepts later in the curriculum. This enables me to better engage my students in chemistry at the beginning of the year. We can also cover these topics faster later in the year as students are stronger in their math skills!

#2 – Move fun and time-consuming units to the end of the year.

Every teacher has that one favorite unit that they and/or their students love. It is usually the unit that we can teach in a few days but are tempted to spend several weeks teaching. To avoid spending too much time on these extra fun and engaging units. Move them to the end of the school year. If you have weeks left in your year to teach this fun unit, great – have fun teaching! If you are left with only a few days at the end of the year, teach the unit in that time frame. This will help prevent you from spending too much time on that single unit and then not having enough time to teach other important units later.

I believe nuclear chemistry is a good example of this. I can cover the standards I am required to teach for nuclear chemistry in a week or less. However, it is very easy to engage my students to learn more in-depth knowledge about nuclear chemistry. We could spend several weeks on this topic. Therefore, moving this unit to the end of the year can help me and my students stay on task in moving forward in the curriculum. Plus, it is always good to move a fun and engaging topic to the end of the school year when it is often more difficult to engage students in learning.

#3 – Move less important topics to the end of the curriculum.

You should always teach the most important topics first. That way if you happen to run-out of time to teach everything, you have covered the most vital topics. So…if there is a unit/topic that is great for students to know, but they can survive life and college without that knowledge, move the topic/unit to the end of the year in the curriculum sequence. Then, if you run out of time, it is OK. (not great but OK). Knowing that your last unit or two in the curriculum are not vital for life will relieve some of the stress and pressure if you are running behind in the curriculum.

I believe a good example of this in chemistry is Empirical and Molecular Formulas. It is not a foundational topic for success in college chemistry. Your students can learn this when they enter a higher-level chemistry class. But, what about my students who will not be getting a college science degree? This is not a topic that is vital for living out one’s life. NOW – don’t misunderstand me. I have taught this. I am not saying do not teach the topic. I am simply pointing out that this is not one of the most important topics to teach in chemistry. You can move this topic to the end of the curriculum. Then, if you happen to run out of time to teach it, that will be OK.

(Note: I am not recommending that teachers neglect to teach curriculum. I am simply pointing out some practical steps to help teachers address the stress that occurs when there is not time to teach all the curriculum due to unavoidable circumstances.)

Happy Teaching :)

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