First day of Semester 2: Review

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SWBAT recall important information about atomic structure and the use of the periodic table.

Big Idea

Practice with the periodic table is crucial before beginning our study of chemical reactions.


The first day back from an extended break always presents challenges.  This lesson occurs on our first day back from winter break.  In addition to following two weeks off, it is the start of a new semester.  With the coming of a new semester, many of our students move around, from period to period or teacher to teacher.  These quirks make the first school day of January always tough: I want to re-establish relationships with existing students, and begin building relationships with new students.

This lesson is a review of the first semester content, couched in a stations format.  This allows me to observe how the newly mixed students interact, especially how do they naturally form groups alongside what content do they remember from first semester.

It also lets me float around the room and interact with students, meeting my new students, figuring out who is repeating second semester due to a previous failure, check in with my old students about their break, and their expectations on the coming semester.

As this is a review of the entire first semester, this lesson is tagged to the first two Performance Expectations (HS-PS1-1 and 1-2) from Semester 1 which cover atomic structure and the use and organization of the periodic table.  It is only aligned to the core content of those expectations, not the cross cutting concepts or science and engineering practices. 

My expectation is that students will have very limited content recall, but I'm hoping students remember enough about the periodic table and the atom to allow us to move directly into chemical reactions in our next class.

The only classroom prep for this lesson is to print, cut-out, and tape the stations around the room.  I generally put out two sets of thirteen stations, splitting the room in half.  This allows students the option of working alone, as well as working with a partner, and there should always be an available station with 26 (2 sets of 13) choices and 28 students.

Welcome Back

5 minutes

When students are entering the room I am meeting them at the door.  I take special care to introduce myself to any students who I did not teach in the previous semester.  When students ask about assigned seats, I tell them not to worry about it today.

When the bell rings, I welcome the students back to school.  I ask if anyone had done anything extraordinary over the break.  A few students have gone on vacation, and numerous students visited family in Mexico.  Students will ask about my break, and I talk about spending time with family and just trying to relax.

I ask, "Who remembers what we did the first day of last semester?"  The kids panic at first, roll their eyes and bemoan "That was so long ago!"  In each class, someone remembers the rainbow measuring lab.  I remind students that we always have something to do, and today is no exception.  I pass out the student sheet for the stations review, and explain the procedure to the class.

  • There are two sets of 13 stations, so you will work either on the windows side of the room, or the door side. 
  • You may work with a single partner, or alone. 
  • You can switch partners between stations, but cannot work with more than one person at a time. 
  • Only one group per station at a time, there should always be someplace open, or you can wait off to the side.

I remind students that they learned all of this material first semester, but that it has been a while, and we need to refresh their brains.  I ask them to try every station, because knowing what you forgot is just as important as knowing what you remember.  I tell students they will need a periodic table for some stations, and they can use their colored one from first semester, or get a blank one from the front desk.

I ask if there are questions about the procedure.  If needed, I clarify steps and then release students to the activity.


Review Stations

40 minutes

Once students begin, I take attendance into our system and set the Online Stopwatch to go off with 5 minutes left in the period.  I project the online stopwatch so students can see it on the front screen, and begin to circulate with the students.

While circulating, I have four purposes:

  1. Maintain our procedures: particularly only two students to a group and only one group per station
  2. Give assistance and feedback on student performance at the stations.  I try to refer students back to when we learned it, and guide with questions such as "How can we use the periodic table to figure out the number of protons of that element?"  I do a bit of cheerleading when concepts are coming back to students and they are experiencing success.
  3. Assess how efficiently students are working together.  I'm watching the choices of pairings and determining if they are working together well, or are off task and chatting.  This will guide my seating charts and group assignments later in the semester.  Additionally, I'm watching for students who prefer to work alone: having been that student, I try to recognize and provide opportunities for solo work when possible.
  4. Build and rebuild relationships.  In the paired setting, I can have private conversations with students about their break, their final grade first semester, my expectations for them this semester, and their concerns for the semester.

I give students a 10 minute and 5 minutes warning.  When the timer goes off, I ask students to return to their tables.

A key to the stations is available here: Atomic Review Stations Key.


5 minutes

When students have returned to the front of the room, I remind them to put their name on their stations sheet.

I thank them for jumping right in: it can be a challenge for them to re-activate that quickly.  I ask students to give me a thumbs up if they remembered more than 75%, thumbs sideways if they remembered between 50-75% and a thumbs down if they remembered less than 50%.  Most of the thumbs are up or sideways in each class, which if true, is a great sign for us to proceed forward.

I tell students that this semester is starting with a focus on chemical reactions: "What do you think that means?"

  • "We're making meth?" (I completely detest Breaking Bad.)
  • "You're going to blow stuff up?"
  • "We're going to do more labs?"

I give a no and two yes responses.  Students turn in their papers as they leave.

Looking over the papers, it is evident that students are still in different places, but the key skills for moving forward this semester are present.  Students can recognize elements by their symbols, they can still tell metals from non-metals, and can differentiate between atomic numbers and atomic masses.