Chemistry Changes in 2014 – 2015

For the first time in about nine or ten years, I will be making some significant changes to the organization of my chemistry course. These will take effect during the 2014 – 2015 school year. Since these changes impact the users of my site,  I am taking the time to share both the upcoming changes as well as the thought process behind the changes. I would also like to extend credit to my colleagues Brad Bowman and Jim Luke, who were integral to the process of re-working the curriculum.

Some of this comes as a result of NGSS and Common Core. I am not a fan of the way in which NGSS gutted chemistry, and I will not follow them in that direction. Over the next couple of years, California will be working at a new framework based on NGSS. That will be followed by new textbooks in about 2018. Needless-to-say, I’m not waiting for what is produced in Sacramento. Nor am I awaiting a new textbook – in fact, I hope that the traditional textbook will go the way of the dinosaur. We currently have excellent science standards, and I only hope that the folks working on the new framework acknowledge that fact.

What I DO like about NGSS and Common Core is the trend toward asking more complex questions in assessing student learning, and looking at multiple methods of assessing student understanding. Hey – maybe the new state assessments will include a LAB task! My benchmark assessments will still assess primarily the mastery of content, though the benchmarks will have more questions. The big change for my students will be seen on Unit tests, where the ability to think and synthesize will be critical. And, of course, the lab component will be central to my course.

Here is a quick summary of Units that will be taught in my class in the 2014 – 2015 school year. Some of these changes have been made already, and the remainder will be completed before the start of the 2014 – 2015 school year.

Unit 1 – Atomic Structure

This unit will keep everything that it has had in the past – basic atomic structure and nuclear chemistry, but will be extended to include electron orbitals and electron notations.  The benchmark’s within the unit will be:

  • Benchmark #1 – Basic atomic structure
  • Benchmark #2 – Nuclear Chemistry
  • Benchmark #3 – Electrons in orbitals and electron notations

Unit 2 – Periodic Behavior and Ionic Bonding

I will be paring back the “Periodic Trends” to focus on the trend in atomic radius, and an understanding of how that trend effects electron transfer.  Electron dot notation for elements will be included in periodic behavior. This will be followed by ionic bonding, ionic compound formulas, and the calculation of formula mass.

  • Benchmark #1 – The Periodic Table and Element Classes
  • Benchmark #1 – Periodic Behavior (radius, dot notation, ion formation)
  • Benchmark #2 – Ionic Bonding, Compound names and formula mass

Unit 3 – Covalent Bonding and Molecular Structure

By now it should be obvious that we have split “bonding” into two units. We have also opted to teach the calculation of molar mass within the bonding chapters. We hope that by practicing calculations of mass, and reinforcing the importance of the mole concept, that we will have fewer hurdles to leap when we get to stoichiometry.

  • Benchmark #1 – Covalent bonding (facts, nomenclature, molecular mass)
  • Benchmark #2 – Lewis Structures

Unit 4 – Conservation of Mass and Stoichiometry

There are not many changes here. I am nauseated by the NGSS denigration of methods of calculation in stoichiometry.

  • Benchmark #1 – Converting mass to moles, and moles to mass
  • Benchmark #2 – Balancing Chemical Equations
  • Benchmark #3 – Stoichiometric Calculations

Unit 5 – Reaction Energy, Kinetics, and Equilibrium

This past year we moved calculations of specific heat and latent heat of phase change into our new unit (6) on water and solutions. By doing so, we reduced the confusion that exists when discussing energy in physical changes and chemical changes within the same unit.

Also, in the past we taught this as the last unit of the year. We are moving it to the beginning of the second semester so that it more directly follows stoichiometry.

We will be increasing the focus on the energetics of fuel, food, and chemical cycles such as the carbon cycle. Nuclear energy will also be discussed in more depth than in the past.

  • Benchmark #1 – Reaction Energy (Endothermic, Exothermic, Energy Diagrams and Chemical Cycles)
  • Benchmark #2 – Reaction Kinetics and Equilibrium

Unit 6 – Water

In the past, this was a unit on solutions. In 2013 – 2014 we taught this with a focus on water. Moving forward, we will try to incorporate more information on water quality and water as a resource.

  • Benchmark #1 – Bulk Properties of water (includes specific heat, heat of phase change)
  • Benchmark #2 – Properties of Solutions
  • Benchmark #3 – Calculation of Solution Concentration (Molarity, % by mass, and PPM)
  • Benchmark #4 – Properties of Acids and Bases

Unit 7 – Gases and the Atmosphere

NGSS omits gas laws but expects us to explain the impact of humans on climate and the atmosphere. HUH? We will be doing both.

  • Benchmark #1 – Measurement of Temperature and Pressure
  • Benchmark #2 – Gas Laws
  • Benchmark #3 – Kinetic Molecular Theory

You can be certain that things will change as the school year progresses. However, the overall  scheme will remain intact, and you are more than welcome to come along for the ride.

I am the owner-developer of and a science teacher at El Diamante High School in Visalia, CA.

Posted in Chemistry, NGSS, Teaching