I Used to Feel Guilty About Lecturing

Atomic Radius ppt

In this age of scientific inquiry, molecular modeling, digital classrooms, and differentiation, I felt downright guilty about any teacher-centered time. My classroom is flipped after all. I’m not supposed to be lecturing, right?

As the mother of twin three-year old boys, a popular Disney character recently inspired me to LET IT GO! I decided to embrace short lectures as opportunities to model the inquiry process, to demonstrate higher level questioning methods, and to assess student understanding. I’ve always loved a challenge, and engagement during lecture is definitely that! Observing peers and working with an intern teacher have helped me establish time limits and transitions during my occasional lecture times. 

Tim Elmore, author of “The iY Generation,” encourages teachers to use the I.C.E approach to presenting new concepts. “I” refers to an introductory image, “C” stands for a facilitated conversation, and “E” represents an experience with the content. His ideas challenged me to be more deliberate in planning my teacher-centered time.

DIRECT INSTRUCTION [ME] – FOCUS:  Visuals, movement, and pace

My new style requires me to stop talking every ten minutes. That’s tough for a talker! I watch the clock like a hawk. Before class, I search online for images to support today’s content, and I develop colorful, image-rich presentations. I learned from observation of another teacher that high school students maintain engagement if the images and conversation change every 3-5 minutes. The slide below would last for an entire 10 minutes, but it is animated to display only the periodic table, then add the “period trend” arrow and box, next add the “group trend” arrow and box, and finally add the “why” bullets one at a time. Therefore, my topic and visual should change every 2 to 3 minutes (see figure 1). 

Figure 1: Example slide 

PROCESSING CONVERSATIONS [WE] – FOCUS: Student voice, sense-making, scripting, and listening

A fast-paced teacher presentation doesn’t allow for much processing time. A brilliant teacher told me several years ago that “the person doing the talking is the person doing the learning.” I believe it. I have learned more during my years of teaching chemistry than I ever learned in a lecture hall. For this reason, my students typically sit with partners. After ten minutes of taking in information, I script a conversation between partner students reviewing the content. I aim to hear students’ voices for at least as long as I hear my own voice (see figure 2).  

Figure 2: Strategy to encourage student discussion

Students are more likely to participate in the discussion if they are given a specific role to fill.  One doesn’t monopolize the conversation as easily. Also, an outstanding teacher taught me to play music during any student discussion time as kids are often self-conscious about others listening. She was right! My students definitely open up more when the room isn’t silent. I’ve also learned to display only one question at a time and keep a steady pace to avoid off-topic conversations.

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT – [WE] FOCUS:  Accountability, quick barometer, and identify misconceptions

A former chemistry teacher loved using individual whiteboards in his classroom to assess student understanding quickly and informally. What a simply perfect idea for lecture time!  After the processing conversations are complete, I display a question that requires partners to apply what they’ve learned. They write their answers on small whiteboards with dry erase markers and hold them up for me to read. Students enjoy the novelty of writing on boards, and everyone participates. I know the mistakes or misconceptions that need to be addressed as we transition to a learning experience (see figure 3).

Figure 3: Prompt for whiteboard

LEARNING EXPERIENCE – [WE] FOCUS:  Sense-making, identify misconceptions, and synthesize ideas

I recently read a book explaining a simple idea: teachers can better shape student learning if we give them ways to demonstrate each step of their thought process while learning new concepts. The authors called it “making thinking visible.” As a result, “Chalk Talk” became a common occurrence in my classes. The students are purposefully grouped into 4s or 5s, circled around a lab bench, given a piece of chalk, and asked to illustrate concepts on the bench in front of them. They are able to compare and contrast their own ideas visually with other students’ ideas. I am able to see into each student’s mind and listen as they question and correct each other. After students have worked together to develop the best answer to the question using everyone’s ideas, they record them to become additions to their class notes.

The displayed question:

Figure 4: Directions for student work

The recording page (see figure 5):

Figure 5: Student recording sheet


You can download the recording sheet as seen in Figure 5: 


Link to the powerpoint used in the screen shots.

Another link to the .mp4 version with my voice over.

I am interested in your thoughts and comments!




Students who demonstrate understanding can use the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.

*More information about all DCI for HS-PS1 can be found at https://www.nextgenscience.org/dci-arrangement/hs-ps1-matter-and-its-interactions and further resources at https://www.nextgenscience.org.


Students who demonstrate understanding can use the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.

Assessment Boundary:

Assessment is limited to main group elements. Assessment does not include quantitative understanding of ionization energy beyond relative trends.


Examples of properties that could be predicted from patterns could include reactivity of metals, types of bonds formed, numbers of bonds formed, and reactions with oxygen.

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Comments 5

Lori Maffe | Tue, 03/03/2015 - 19:15

I love the scripted questions! How do your students do with this? I'd love to hear about some specific experiences with using the scripted questions.


Allison Tarvin's picture
Allison Tarvin | Thu, 03/05/2015 - 12:12

They work so well!  I typically choose my students' partners based upon their assessment performances.  As a result, the students are often NOT paired with a close friend.  The partnerships can be extremely quiet as a result.  The scripted questions somehow make the students feel more obligated to participate.  My classroom is MUCH louder with scripted questions.  Every partnership has at least one person talking.  I use them in nearly every unit.  

Angela Siegel | Sun, 04/19/2015 - 07:38

Thank you for sharing these ideas.  Since I'm a new teacher, I'm always trying to read about ways to tweak what I'm doing for better understanding and engagement.  But so many articles just give overall ideas, and never applicable examples, so you're left thinking, "Uh, sounds great in theory.  How in the world would I implement this?" Not with your examples!  This is great!  I won't be teaching Chemistry again until next year, but I know I will definitely apply these ideas in my Biology class for the rest of the year. 


Allison Tarvin's picture
Allison Tarvin | Sun, 04/19/2015 - 11:49

I really appreciate your reading and commenting on the article.  I will do my best to continue offering concrete examples.  Best wishes in your bio classes, and let us know how the strategies are working for you!

Cindy Reese | Wed, 10/09/2019 - 09:29


I love what you have done here. This seems like it will grab the students attention. Do you do something similar with Electronegativity and Ionization Energy? I would love to see that and or use as well. Thanks