I call this the new teacher syndrome. Here I am trying to teach my 11th grade Honors Chemistry class the physical and chemical properties of matter and that density is one of the unique physical properties of matter and how it can be used to identify it.
“What are some physical properties we can use to classify matter?” I asked. The whole class was dead quiet and I could see on their faces that they were clueless as to what my question was and where this lesson was heading. I wish you could see how frustrated and disappointed I was. You may be wondering what the reason was for my disappointment.
For Pete’s sake, this is my 11th grade Honors chemistry class! I had high expectation and I had just made the number one mistake that most new teachers like me made. I had assumed that all my students would come into my class with extensive science background knowledge. Well sometimes they do, but the missing link may be how the concept is introduced, I later discovered.
The following year I made the entire lesson more interesting with visual and engaging hands-on components. I placed some objects (beaker of colored water, a stick of candle wax, a piece of rock and balloon filled with air) in front of the class, introduced the lesson and I asked the same question as last year, “Observe these items and list some of the physical properties and the properties you can measure?”
I was amazed at how differently the students took in the information and how excited they were about the lesson. I also noticed how visuals change the dynamics of a lesson.