NSTA Activities

Avogadro @ NSTA 2013

At NSTA (in beautiful San Antonio, Texas), this past week, I shared activities designed to explore three levels of representation AND provide formative assessment techniques to reveal student misconceptions. All of the activities shared have been featured in the Journal of Chemical Education or have been linked to research articles in JCE as supporting information.


Formative assessment can be tricky business. It is relatively easy to create formative assessments and collect loads of data, but you will learn pretty quickly that you need to consider how and WHEN to analyze the data.  Time is a precious commodity.  The activities that are linked below have teacher guides that contain strategies that will help to assess and pick out misconceptions “on the fly”, so the analysis piece does not become overwhelming.

The Next Generation Science Standards encourage us to help students to develop a deep conceptual understanding of molecular models, their merits, deficiencies and differences, and be able to use those models to effectively communicate chemical processes.

I encourage you to devote time to help students develop the ability to create and draw models, so that they can communicate their understanding of chemistry. The World In A Box, Change You Can Believe In and The Only Thing Constant Is Change Labs are all intended to do just that. You can find them at theTarget Inquiry Web site  that I have mentioned in previous blogs at ChemEdX. I expect that you will find that less time is required per concept for the remainder of the year AND your students will develop a deep understanding of every concept. You can continue to use modeling throughout any level of chemistry course once you have taught your students these skills. I shared the Trendsetter, Energizer, and My Acid Can Beat Up Your Acid Labs from the Target Inquiry site.  Check out all of the labs provided there. To use modeling as formative assessment, you need to continuously move around, interact with students and listen for conversations and statements that yield misconceptions that need to be corrected. Try not to tell students the correct answer during activities. Instead, try to coach and lead them to correct understanding.

 I encourage you to read Evidence for the Effectiveness of Inquiry-Based, Particulate-Level Instruction on Conceptions of the Particulate Nature of Matter. Bridle and Yesierski discuss research supporting the use of activities that relate the three levels of conceptual understanding, including the symbolic, particulate and macroscopic levels of chemistry.

Bridle, Chad A and Yezierski, Ellen J, Evidence for the Effectiveness of Inquiry-Based, Particulate-Level Instruction on Conceptions of the Particulate Nature of Matter, Journal of Chemical Education, 2012, 89 (2), pp 192-198.

 Check out the Classroom Activities at the Journal of Chemical Education. There are many that allow students to practice modeling. They are available with a subscripton to the Journal of Chemical Education. (Or, if you have an ACS membership, your membership allows for 25 free downloads from ACS journals.) A few activities are available as free samples. I shared just a few of them at NSTA:

Classroom Activity #109 -- My Acid Can Beat Up Your Acid

Putti, Alice, JCE Classroom Activity #109: My Acid Can Beat Up Your Acid!, Journal of Chemical Education, 2011, 88 (9), pp 1278–1280.


Classroom Activity #111 -- Redox Reactions in Three Representations

Ortiz Nieves, Edgardo l, Barreto, Reizelie, and Medina, Zuleika, Classroom Activity #111:  Redox Reactions in Three Representations

Journal of Chemical Education201289 (5), pp 643–645



 AP Chemistry Activities for Conceptual Understanding

Friday, April 12, 2013, 5-6 pm

NSTA- Grand Hyatt San Antonio, Crockett A


Formative Assessment

  •  Assess Early and Often
  •  Assessments FOR learning not OF learning
  •  Supports learning during the learning process
  •  Provides feedback to students on their learning
  •  Helps teachers build a path between what students know and need to learn


          Keeley, P.; Eberle F.; Farrin, L.; Uncovering students ideas on science.  National Science Teachers Association. 2005.

  • Helps students focus on the learning (not on grades)
  • Reality check for students – What do I really know?
  •  Offers teachers immediate feedback on student understanding
Recommended reading for using inquiry - Llewellyn, D. (2005). Teaching high school science through inquiry. Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA.


I hope you will consider attending CHEMED at Waterloo University in Ontario, Canada, July 28 – August 1, 2013. See uwaterloo.ca/chemed2013/ for more information. Look for me at the Ice Cream Social and say “HI”!