Organic Chemistry

Organic chemistry

Electron Auction Analogy

When talking about curly arrows and electrons moving, talk about reactions as a trading port for electrons - electron auction - in terms of trying to understand who has got electrons and who wants them.

Models to Demonstrate Core Mechanism

Use model kits for third year pericyclic reactions: It's visual and it's used every lesson because everything uses the same rule. That's the message to get to them - that you’re not teaching four new things. It's all the same rules. They just move slightly differently. So they see the same models and they can see where the cyclic reactions close. That's very hard to demonstrate in two dimensions. The bigger models are much better as well.

Pop Quizzes

Throw in pop quizzes when you discuss a concept and then give an example and give them a few minutes to work through that example. That's moving towards a partially flipped classroom context. Also use worksheets to give an increased level of formalisation to it.


Use little cartoons to show different representations of functional groups, but point out that they are not the reality.

Hands Analogy

Get students to recognise the importance of functional groups: Start with hydrocarbons, and talk about skeletal structure and say we can ignore the hydrogens, they are kind of like your skin, but the functional groups are the things that do things, so they’re your hands. The functional groups will actually do things with other compounds. Then slowly introduce the concept that most compounds have two or more functional groups, and then you have competition - which one will react first?

Tailor Your Teaching to the Group

First identify students' perceptions using a pre-test, then you know how to tailor your teaching. Don’t assume that every group is the same.


Do a discussion and use GroupMap to get a consensus.

Link to GroupMap

Student Questions

It’s very difficult to get students to ask questions because they feel they’re being picked on. But if they start putting up their hand and other students see that you’re prepared to be receptive to that then more and more will start putting up their hands. Invariably they’re good questions which still cover the topic. So you should have enough content for your lectures but not so much that you’ve got to force it to finish. The question that they ask, which they’re worried is a dumb question, is actually the question that probably nearly everyone else wants to ask but is afraid to ask.

Small Group Work

Use small group student-centred interaction using structured work sheets that logically develop students' conceptual understanding. It’s a learning cycle approach.


Using clickers, put up say four ideas, and say, who thinks A and who thinks B, C, D. Now in the groups they need to defend their answer, and to talk about it. That way you get the feedback but you don’t have to say Bill, Mary, Jim, Jack, what do you think? You can get them to click their answers.

Link to Peer Instruction Blog


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