New adventures with Wordle...

Hi followers,

Just spent some time playing with Wordle and wanted to share the Wordle that was made using this blog:

Wordle: Chemistry teaching love Trying to think how I can incorporate this into my classes this year. Anyone have some ideas to share? Thanks! MsRazz ChemClass (Karen)

Guess what?!

It's that time again!  The Teachers Pay Teachers back to school sale is on!  Amazing how it seems July has just flown by, and here we are prepping for the infamous TpT sale.  I am excited, and I know you are too!

This is the perfect time to stock up on all those must-haves to kick off your school year with ease.  I'm offering 20% all of my items!  Over the last year I have added so many more lessons including my newly designed Advanced Placement Chemistry Course resources.  As a matter of fact, I just posted a HUGE bundle of Power Points (19 to be exact!) that include all the content that you need to teach your course according to the College Board guidelines.

Since I've had my TpT store up and running, this has been my most popular item: The First Days of School - Start your year off right!  Which doesn't come as much of a surprise because it's applicable to all areas of science.  It's an amazing bundle of resources that helps you to establish quality routines, procedures, and expectations for your students with ease.  But I can't take all the credit, Harry Wong, was a huge inspiration for this bundle.  In fact, many of the procedures I adopted were taken from his book: The First Days of School.  If there's one book that you read this summer - it has to be that one.  I plan on reading through it in the next few weeks as I prepare to meet me new little chemists.

What things do you do to prepare for a new and exciting school year?  (Besides making hundreds of trips to the copy machine!)

Thanks for reading,
Karen (MsRazz ChemClass)

Fake it until you make it...

... or at least don't let your nerves get the best of you.

Finally, summer vacation has arrived!  And I cannot think of another year of teaching that this time of rest and relaxation is more needed.  As I mentioned in some of my previous posts, I spent most of my free time (everyone in the educational world knows "free time" for a teacher really just means time not spent with their students) slaving away prepping materials for my new Advanced Placement Chemistry course.  I have spent innumerable hours planning, developing, and creating course materials to use over this past year.  I truly do not know how I did it, nor how my students can insist that I did it WELL for that matter.  As I reflect on this past year as a new AP chemistry teacher here are some things I learned:

  1. It's always easier to get easier.  When teaching an advanced placement curriculum, it seems like many teachers go into their classrooms like gangbusters and drive the rigor up to such a high, almost unattainable level.  "I mean it is Advanced Placement after all!"  True, and it should be rigorous - AP courses are elective courses.  Your students are there to learn valuable course material where their understanding will be assessed by the College Board at the end of the course.  So, why not turn up the heat a little bit, then back off as the year progresses?  It takes time to become adjusted to this type of course work, and students need to know your expectations right out of the gate.
  2. It's OK if you don't know the answer.  You may take it pretty hard the first time a student asks you a question that you aren't sure of the answer.  This is not a sign of weakness - it's a sign that you are human.  Often I find myself guessing at the answer, but then telling the students we can "google it" if we have enough time at the end of the lesson, or tell them that I will get back to them tomorrow about it.  Students often associate teachers being the "all knowing."  And this is of course not true.  It is not possible to know everything. In fact chemists in particular, spend years studying one tiny intricate part of their content area.  It is unrealistic to expect perfection.  Plus, I think your students will appreciate your honesty and will often interpret it as being more approachable in the long run.
  3. AP students are self-sufficient.  Don't have enough time to cover all necessary material in a chapter?  Make it known from the beginning of your course that your textbook is meant to be read, studied, and outlined.  That way if you don't have quite enough time to cover the material in class the students can pick up where you left off.  Further, I spend at least two days in class where the students work on problems in the chapter.  This is prime time for students to read over the material you didn't cover, and ask questions about what they don't understand.  Remember, these are AP students, they're in your class for a reason.  It's expected they have good work ethic and will make it known if they need assistance.
Of course there are others, but I'll save that for a future blog post.  I very much wish you a restful and relaxing summer vacation.  You deserve it, teach!

Too Many Snow Days, Too Little Time!

I don't know about you, but I haven't had a full week of school since our winter break in December! Amazing, I know.  But no matter how many days we have off  - the AP Chemistry Exam will still be on May 5, 2014.  What's a AP chemistry teacher to do?

As a first year AP chem teacher, the days off have aided me in getting some much needed work done - after all, I click through approximately 25-30 power point slides in a 40-minute class period.  That's enough work to make even the strongest of the strong break out in hives.  Ahhh, AP chemistry, not only do you scare students and teachers alike, but you can make a teacher break out in a sweat before her class starts and skip lunch on a daily basis.  Good times.  

I look forward to next year when most of my time will be spent learning how to teach the content instead of being one day ahead of my students.

So what topic are you covering now?  Right now we're on Acid-Base Equilibria.  I just finished my power points that I'll be using for this unit.  Amazing what a snow day off from school can help a teacher accomplish!

I hope you are staying warm, slip and slide-free, and keep pushing through the AP content even despite this horrible weather we're having in the north east.

All the best!
Karen (MsRazz ChemClass)

One semester down, 1 more to go....

Hi all.

Thanks so much for reading.  Here I am again, another snow storm has reared its ugly head, and I'm finally able to have some downtime.  I've spent the last semester teaching three sections of honors chemistry, one section of academic chemistry, and one AP chemistry.  Oh, and yeah, during all that, I got married.  So I would think that one could understand why I haven't updated my blog more recently than September.  I've barely had any time to post any of my newest creations on my Teachers Pay Teachers site.  Thankfully though, I'm still posting.  In fact I've posted a bunch of my newest creations for advanced placement chemistry.

PPT: Introduction to Chemistry - AP
PPT: History of Atomic Structure, Naming and Formula Writing - AP
PPT: Review of Stoichiometry - AP
PPT: Solution Stoichiometry and Chemical Reactions - AP
PPT: Atomic Structure and Chemical Periodicity - AP
PPT: Gases - AP
PPT: Themochemistry - AP

It seems right now that I am the Power Point Queen in that class.  I'm still working on branching out of my comfort zone, but it can be tough, since this is the first time I've ever taught as this level and the timing is of concern with me.  I always feel pressed for time, and a strong drive to assess my students often due to this time constraint.  Even though the college board has taken out some topics due to their revised curriculum, I still find the curriculum very overwhelming and I can only imagine how my students must feel.  The other AP chem teacher assures me it's normal to feel like this, but I don't care so much about me - it's more about my students and if they're really able to get the most out the content in the time constraints we are given.  I guess we'll know in May when they take their exam.  Fingers crossed that I did something right this year.

So, how are your classes going?  Any words of encouragement as I set off to teach some of the hardest topics in all of chemistry: acid-base equilibria?  Let me know!

-MsRazz ChemClass (Karen)