Atomic Bondage

March 21, 2012 at 7:22 PM 1 comment

Sound bad-ass enough to disguise that this is actually about electron shells, valency electrons, ionic and covalent bonds?

Teaching the electron shells and untangling it from nuclear structure has really bedeviled me the last few years and this year, it felt much clearer so, to save you the trouble, I’ll share the flow, some analogies and ways to clear up confusions, along with more Bohr-ing beans and corn activities.  And ‘dessert’ is …. molecular models with cool little balls and springs.

Insight 1: Teach from the nucleus outward. Nuclear physics first, atomic mass, atomic weight, protons, neutrons, isotopes, radioactivity and applications. Tempting to trample into the periodic table here. Mention, find the heavy and light elements. Leave it at that. For now.

Insight 2: Use red and white beans, popcorn and the way cheaper Bohr Atom ‘game board’ sheets to help kids work TOGETHER to figure out atomic structure of atoms from Hydrogen to Argon. It’s not a waste of time – working with the stuff means they talk to each other about what they are doing. It allows you to help them much more easily and visibly to all at the table. Here’s the Bohr Electron Shells ‘Game Board’. Scroll to second page for the sheet they draw stuff on. And here’s the answer key: 

Don’t get carried away. The scary, p and s orbitals and the way out there, crowded and weird shaped ones: Leave ’em to high school. Good idea for YOU to understand what’s coming of course, but don’t show off (note to self here:-) because too much detail will derail their emerging understanding and ah-ha moments that pepper this whole unit.

Insight 3: Weave in the glamor of all this – understand the electron shells, and you’ll understand all of chemistry, including life. Include application and real-life links BUT GIVE THEM TIME TO WORK THE PROBLEMS i.e. don’t talk all period and don’t give the answers too quickly. Circulate instead. Encourage, find kids who get it and ask them to help out others at their table. It takes overcoming a little struggle to really appreciate getting a new concept.

Insight 4: Teach ionic and covalent bonding as puzzle games. Ions first – ions are made by ‘stealing’ electrons – iron, steel, they go together. A simple mnemonic to help remember it. Do one together. Then let them figure out the next ions. Show the answer at the end of the period for them to see how smart they were. Here’s the sheet and the answer key so you can see what I mean. Ionic and Covalent Bonding student sheets and answer key:

I encouraged kids to keep using the board game to figure out the loss or gain of an electron to ‘tidy up’ the outer electron shell so it’s all full or all empty. One partner do the +ion, the other do the -ive ion, then trade the electron corn kernel.

Covalent bonding – “Co” means sharing or together ex. community, collaborate. Valent or valency means the outer shell of electrons of an atom. Covalent = sharing outer electrons. Here’ the sheet, and here’s the answer key. Again, showed a couple first, then had them figure it out and circulated. Many are really excited to work out this beautiful pattern underlying so much chemistry. And now, so am I.

Insight 5: Link covalent bonding to the oh, so fun molecular modeling kits we just ordered. They make the molecules on the sheet and so much more. The wood holes correspond to the number of electron ‘holes’ in the valence shell, how cool is that? It’s a great lead-in to our chemical reactions unit and to biochemistry.

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Entry filed under: Atoms and Elements, Chemistry topics, Critical Thinking. Tags: , , , , , , .

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