Do we really need three different ways to “introduce” the same topic? Well, my students can always use reinforcement, and teaching the same thing three different ways seems to work for them. Here are three things I teach the first week of the “Synthetic Materials” unit.
#1 Front Load Vocabulary
As always, I have my students rotate around the perimeter of the room to write down their key terms, which gets them up and moving at their own pace.
The terms I use on this list are:
- Extended Structure
Pretty short list, right? I might add a card for “natural product” next year, but generally I have a less-is-more approach to key terms. Here is a sample of a student’s notebook.
#2 Natural vs Synthetic Introduction…Christmas Style?
This is just a recommendation of this FREE product on TPT.
I have used it two years running now, and I still like it. I don’t use the last slide, which introduces the assessment project.
The first year I had students complete it mostly independently, completing the slides as instructed. I found a few snags with that:
- The included links were dead (at the time)
- Our school wifi literally could not handle all 27 iPads streaming Youtube at the same time
- As always, a few students don’t have their school issued device, or it’s not charged, and they can’t edit the slides on their phone, and technically shouldn’t be allowed to use their phones…you get the point
How I used this product this year:
- Printed the slides 4/page front and back, skipping the one with the project instructions.
- Walked the class through the slides and videos
- Students wrote responses on the paper copy
- Fold and tape in notebooks
Next year, I’ll probably make a custom answer sheet, or just have the answer the questions directly in their notebooks! Have any suggestions? Leave a comment below.
#3 Lab Time!
I always feel like it’s good to do a lab at the beginning of a topic. Gets the students something concrete to hang onto and they want to show up that day!
The lab we do for this is making “gel worms”, from Middle School Chemistry.
Middle School Chemistry 6.12: Natural Resources & Synthetic Materials
It was easy, affordable, the students LOVED it, and set up/cleanup was pretty quick.
I like how they make the molecule connection without adding too much information, and provide plenty of background for the teacher.
This was the first real chemical reaction they saw this year, and it was cool enough that I could warn them enthusiastically about not eating the science…without worrying about what would happen if Little Johnny actually did. One parent asked where she could find a “kit” to give for Christmas…apparently my student went home and was making the little siblings jealous!
https://www.middleschoolchemistry.com/lessonplans/chapter6/lesson12 is the full lesson plan.
It requires calcium carbonate, sodium alginate, and tap water.
Chemicals on FlinnSci:
Smaller Group? Try buying the materials on Amazon or elsewhere.
Food coloring is optional but fun.
For equipment, I used cheap plastic pipettes, portion cups (from Smart and Final), paper towels, and my handy black chemical-carrying trays.
You also need a water bottle to mix up the alginate in – it recommends a half-size one, and I scrounged one off the floor. Full size would also work!
Tips and Tricks
I discovered that making enough for 3 classes will have gummy alginate near the end of the second block day. If you’re doing this over two blocks, I recommend making a fresh batch of the alginate for Day 2.
Cleanup was pretty simple. The worms can go in the regular trash. I had the students dump their “extra” CaCl2 into the alginate, making a second (or third) worm with everything else. This emptied the containers, allowing students to rise everything in water and return to the trays clean for station check. At this point, remind students to wash their hands with soap, especially before using the restroom. None of this is particularly noxious, but you don’t want to accidentally ingest unreacted CaCl2.
For the student pages, I copied it half size to make little booklets. Might do it a little differently next year, we’re always improving!
For the “Explore” and “Extend” sections of MSC 6.12, I’ve tweaked it a bit.
My Natural & Synthetic Products Assessment…post coming soon!
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