Teaching optical isomers

I've just started to teach this topic to my students. It doesn't take too long but I do find it an enjoyable topic to teach. But how do you teach it? I always warn the students that the topic is jargon heavy - the words / phrases used in the topic such as  chiral, racemic, racemate, optically active are all pretty specific to optical isomers and are not used outside of the topic. In my teaching I have found that students understand the ...

Optical isomerism

Optical isomers are hard to conceptualise. They are molecules with the same molecular formula and structural formula. They look exactly the same both on paper and in the real world. However, they only exist in pairs, it is only possible to get two optical isomers of the same molecule which makes things a bit easier to deal with (it should be notes that a molecule such as C5H12 has three isomers - not optical isomers but structural isomers, namely pentane, 2 methylbutane ...

Putting your course together

This blog post is primarily aimed at teachers new to the course …. But that said, even if you are an experienced teacher it is always worth reviewing how you do things. There are always lots of things to consider when setting up the course. Do you teach by yourself or do you share your group with another teacher? First things first I’m aiming this blog post at teachers who teach a class by themselves as in my experience, this seems to ...

Gas Volumes

I have written this blog post with all you new first year IB students in mind. If you have started the course recently (or about to start the course very soon) it is likely that the first or second topic that you study will be ‘Stoichiometric relationships’, which is just a posh way of saying ‘moles’. That said, if you are an old hand, a second year IB student don’t stop reading! This blog post contains some important revision for ...

Synthesis of Aspirin

Aspirin has been with us for long time - the first documented reports of its use occurred over 2000 years ago. That said, the aspirin may not be in the form that you instantly think of (ie, a tablet) but it has been used all the same. Aspirin is an analgesic, which means it has pain killing effects and it has been well documented that the ancient Egyptians used a special tea made out of willow bark to treat a number ...

Practical application of the ideal gas equation

How many moles of air are in your lab? What mass is this air? These are a couple of great questions you can set your students and ask them to come up with some answers using the ideal gas equation. You will need a barometer (to determine the air pressure), a thermometer (to determine the temperature of the lab) and a rule to calculate the volume of the lab and hopefully some imaginative students. I carried out this work with my class a while ...

Carrying out a good IA project

Have you stated your Internal Assessment(IA) yet? If you are a 'May session' school, this anytime from May of IB1 until December of IB2 seems a likely time that your school will carry this out with you and ask you to write it up. Which means that you need to get some ideas on what types of things you can investigate. However, the aim of this blog post is to give you some ideas for writing and carrying out a good ...

Good Practice – Carrying out a lab

Here is an idea I got from a colleague of mine recently for a novel way of getting your students to plan a lab investigation. It is a model that could be rolled back and used in a variety of labs and it is very straightforward to do. Essentially, you give the students a task (for example, testing for halides) and then give the students a framework in which they can plan their own personal investigation. For example, you give them ...

Hot off the Press

A couple of recent articles in the science section of the BBC have caught my eye lately. The first one I read a few days ago or so ago concerned the atmosphere of Mars. It turns out that over time, most of the Martian atmosphere has been lost into space (how, I’m not too sure) but what caught my eye was the method used to determine the rate of loss of gas in the atmosphere to space. I have written about a ...

It’s that time of year

So here we are, April is with us and in the UK Spring is most definitely here. Which means one thing if you are in the second year of the IB diploma … exams. This year, the exams in chemistry start on the afternoon of Thursday 11th May (paper 1 and 2) followed by the morning of Friday 12th May for paper 3. Which, depending on when you read this, gives you around four weeks until the examination. So, how is your ...