In this lesson students will begin work on a bonding report. They recently finished reviewing the differences between ionic and molecular compounds in this lesson. To show what they know about compounds, students are each assigned a molecular and an ionic compound. Their task is to use these compounds to explain how these compounds are named and structured.
This lesson transpires over four days. The first day focuses on the introductory paragraph, and subsequent days focus on the ionic compound, the molecular compound, and the conclusion. Each day we start class by reviewing the directions for the paragraph being worked on for that day. Then students work on their paragraphs, ask questions, and get help as needed. Class ends by a student putting their work up so the whole class can see it, and I think out loud as I make and record comments about the writing.
This lesson aligns to the NGSS Disciplinary Core Idea of HS-PS1-1. 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 because students are using the nanoscale properties of the atoms in the compounds to explain how they bond.
This lesson aligns to the NGSS Practice of the Scientist of Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information because it requires that students conduct research and synthesize what they have learned about ionic and molecular compounds in order to write a research paper that compares and contrasts the naming and bonding of the two compound types.
This is an end-of-unit lesson. In terms of prior knowledge or skills, students should have a solid understanding of ionic and molecular bonding.
The materials needed for this lesson include the following:
Do Now: Students begin this lesson by reading the Chemical Bonding Report directions to themselves about the paper they will write. I ask them to put a star next to anything that sounds confusing to them.
I reason that this is a good way to start class because if students have read the directions in advance then when I discuss them they have some context.
Mini-lesson: I have a number of goals for the mini-lesson:
First, I answer questions students have. Mainly, students want to know what their compounds are, and I share them using this molecular and ionic assignments list.
Second, I want students to understand that the format for the paper is nonnegotiable. I explain that the organization is structured this way so I can most easily support students in their work, and I note that many scientific publications require a standard format so that their readers can quickly access what they are looking for in their journals.
Third, I ask the class to explain the importance of transitions. They explain that transitions are important because they link ideas together and help to create flow. They note that phrases such as “on the other hand” or “similarly” help to accomplish this. I note that making the predicate from one sentence the subject of the next is another strategy for making flow happen. For example, “The electrons are the subatomic particle involved with bonding. A specific kind of electron is the valence electron. Valence electrons are the electrons found in the outermost unfilled shell.”
Finally, I discuss writing conventions in science. I show how to subscript numbers and remind students that elements have only one capital letter. I note that when figures are in a report they must be referenced, and figures are numbered.
This instructional choice reflects my desire to be not only a science teacher but also a writing teacher. Many students in a high needs district are challenged by writing, and part of my teaching commitment is to make students better writers.
Student Activity: During this time students work on their papers. They first look up their compounds using Wikipedia, which has good descriptions of how compounds are used in our world. This is the only research students have to do. Otherwise, they have to synthesize what they have learned in this unit to answer the various bullet points.
While they are working I walk around and critique their work and answer their questions. I am careful, however, not to do the thinking for them. In this discussion with one student, I see that he has not achieved any traction on his paper, and so I help him to think through his beginning.
In this second video, which depicts a discussion with another student, which was shot a few days later, I wished I had asked the student to go back and read her second and third paragraph. A true conclusion paragraph would reference what was already written, but for she acts like she is trying to solve this problem for the first time.
Catch and Release Opportunities: If I see students looking up things on the Internet that they already have in their notes or in their minds I ask them to stop looking things up on the web. I explain to them that I want them to think about their work. They have all the information they need in their notes and handouts to be successful with this project.
Stopping class to discuss this is important because students are often reluctant to think for themselves in this information age. They often act as if every questions can be plugged into a search engine and that whatever pops up is the answer. This is an erroneous view; we must have the skills necessary to critically examine information, and to make sense out of information from various sources.
To wrap this lesson up I project some student work like this student's rough draft of the first paragraph. I note some strengths. The student has named how and if the compound is used in everyday life. However, the writing only shows a vague understanding of a number of key points, especially around how atoms satisfy the octet rule. There are hardly any transitions in the paragraph, which may indicate that the student has not thought very much about or does not understand about what is being written. Clearly, I note, this person needs to back up and think about the project not just as a bunch of questions to be answered, but also as a report containing interrelated parts that can be linked using transitions.
Ending class this way allows me to focus on what I am looking for with students. Many students are in a similar space; I observed this as I was working with students. They understand that they need transitions, but I will have to constantly motivate them to think and make connections for themselves if they are to create a high quality paper.