Have you ever been teaching a group of students, and you can almost see your words going in one ear and out of the other ear?
They doodle. (And not in a good way!)
You don't know what to do besides snow plow through the lesson, and pretend it is going along fine. After all, you know students can smell fear.
Have you considered the problem may not be you? It's your cookie-cutter McBoring-Hill slides provided by McBoring-Hill.
PowerPoints provide us with the ability to wow our students. Unfortunately, they are rarely wowed.
After fixing these common mistakes, your students will be binging your presentations like Netflix.
#1 You Always Teach Off of PowerPoints
Every lesson you begin starts with a PowerPoint.
It comes with the curriculum. It’s easy. There aren’t any errors. (Most of the time.) They are consistent. You know what word fits with the description I just gave you?
That’s right, boring.
When you are flying through a PowerPoint, you can't really fix it if your students are bored. You get flustered and try to rush because the lesson isn't going according to plan and you don't know what else to do besides get it over with. But, when you are hand writing the lesson, you can stop and draw and color code and really engage your students.
Mix it up a little. Hand write the information on slides on the board instead of talking through them like an auctioneer on Red Bull. Your student engagement will skyrocket from that one change.
Watch their faces and watch their pencils to gauge the difference.
#2 You Read Slides
No one means to read slides. We all know we shouldn’t. But, your kids were late getting up, you spilled your coffee and then had to change your shirt. Some student stopped you on the way into class and handed you late work from 2 months ago. And now, you are distracted and need to run through the lesson without a lot of thinking.
Which means you are going to inadvertently read the slides. But you can fool proof your slides.
When using a slide presentation to teach, build in interactive slides. Add in poll slides, text in answer slides, problem slides, text in emoji slides, game show slides. By building in interactive slides you are making it so you can't read slides.
So take control of those bad mornings, by planning for frustration and forcing yourself to be better.
#3 Your Slide Pace is Too Slow for Gen Z
Gen Z needs a fast pace. Pshhhh! I need a fast pace.
Clicking the slide and then talking on that one slide for 5-10 minutes is not okay.
Teachers! This is the world we live in. If you are not flashing and in their faces, you will not get their attention. I’m not saying that it is right, I’m saying that it is.
So, roll with it and add a little bit more to your PowerPoints. Put in a slide with an emoji teasing them about how they will feel about these problems.
When doing example problems, put each step on a slide instead of the whole problem. Or, have the steps fly in one by one. This way you can engage your students and ask what they think the next step should be.
Or, using the previous point, they could text in opinions!
If you must teach with slides, make them fast and make them furiously flashy!
#4 Your Information Pace is Too Fast for Students
This may seem to contradict what I just said, but these are two different things. Your slide pace needs to be like drivers on the Autobahn. Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!
BUT -and I mean BUT- Your information pace needs to be slow and allow for practice.
For example, if I was teaching writing chemical equations, the first 2 teaching minutes would look like this:
0:15 Intro slide-Slide with 1 simple chemical formula-
0:30-Slide breaking down chemical formula-Slide showing metals,nonmetals, metaloids
0:45-Slide with a poll
3:00-Slide with an example problem on it
5:00-Slide with a practice problem
6:00-Go over problems with students for 2 minutes
See how I am mixing in slides for students to interact with and digest information along with informational slides?
#5 Not Enough Practice with the New Information
There are many lists that students must use in chemistry class. Many times we will put that list on a slide and tell the students to access it on Google Classroom later.
They need to learn to use it now. In class. With you.
So leave the list up, or hand out copies, and have everyone practice together. Work out a problem yourself, then have them do it. Have students take a poll or text in the answers. It doesn't matter as long as they are working with the new material you gave them now.
Because we both know, they aren't going back to Google Classroom unless they are familiar with the material.
#6 Your Fonts are Too Cute
So, if you are a super awesome teacher (which I know you are!), and you recognize how dreadfully boring most mass produced PowerPoints are, you created your own PowerPoint tailored to your own classroom needs and it is wayyy better than that vanilla PowerPoint produced by McBoringHill.
But, are your fonts a little too cute? I love fun fonts as much as the next teacher, but they have a place. So make sure that readability is #1 and cute fonts are #2.
#7 Your Notes Aren’t Interactive
If your PowerPoint lasts for 35 minutes with 5-7 minutes at the beginning and end of class with no example problems, polls, feedback, interaction, student problem attempts, then…
Houston. We have a problem.
If you are introducing cations and anions have a slide where they have to copy down the ions and label/ color the cations and anions.
If you are teaching writing chemical formulas, then you need a slide where students attempt to write a formula from a name.
Then, you give the answer after they attempt it. And you aren’t done there. You need to put up another slide with a slightly harder problem shortly after the last one. It doesn’t matter if you have students work it out on their papers, take a text message poll, discuss in groups, as long as they are engaging with the problem.
Improve Your PowerPoints
That is a lot of information. My point is that we can improve our PowerPoints.
If you don’t have time, find a PowerPoint that fits your classroom on TpT. Or, even better, take me up on #1 and just hand write your lesson.
I really want you to stop and think about the content of your slides from a student perspective, and make it better. I did!
My slides were terrible! But over time, I improved.
Your slides can improve too.
Do you give your students steps to follow when working empirical formula problems? I find that it REALLY helps my students.
But, sometimes it is hard to come up with exactly the right steps, so I’ve laid them out for you. Just copy them down or pin this post so you can share them with your students.
Let’s get started.
#1 Get to Grams
Usually you are either give your students the grams of each element or give them the percentages of each element within a compound. Convert percent to grams by dividing, but save yourself teaching headache by just telling them to exchange the % to a gram sign. Do make sure they understand that we are assuming 100 grams of substance, which is why that trick works.
When you begin to teach these problems to your students, start with problems that require them to convert percentages to grams as opposed to the problems that start with grams. That way, in problems students don't have to convert to grams, they feel like they get to "skip" a step. If you teach it the other way around, students feel like you are giving them extra work.
It's all in how you present it.
#2 Set Up Converting to Moles
Now students are in grams, tell them that the second step is to set up converting to moles. To do that, they need to divide the grams by the atomic mass of the element.
Tell your students specifically that they will have to look the number in the denominator up by finding it in the periodic table. Otherwise, they will ask you 1600 times. In one day.
At this point, stop and ask if any student has a question.
#3 Divide by Atomic Mass
For example, tell your students that they have 62.1 g C, and they need to divide it by 12.01 g/mol. Tell them to write that new number down to three decimals. Repeat that for all the elements in the problem.
Tell your students not to round until the end of the problem. That will keep all of your students at the same place with the same numbers.
#4 Divide by Smallest #
Tell students at this point they will have 2 or 3 or 4 awkward looking numbers and that is ok. Tell them to pick the smallest awkward number and divide all the by that number.
For example, looking at 5.170, 13.663, and 1.720, 1.720 is the smallest number. Divide 5.170, 13.663, and 1.720 by the 1.720.
Tell students to write that new resulting number down.
#5 Use those Numbers as Formula Subscripts
The last step students did should get them a whole number. That is the whole point of the division. Tell students that if they got 2.001 go with 2. Tell students we must have whole numbers.
You may also want to mention to your students if they end up with a 2.5 they need to either 1) check their work or 2) multiply all the numbers by 2 to make it even.
Bonus Step for Molecular Formulas
Tell students if they need to find the molecular formula, find the molar mass of their current formula, and divide by the molar mass given in the problem.
Empirical Steps Made Easy
Your students are going to love that you gave them these steps!
Now when you put your examples on the board, make sure you do one example where you do the work and write the steps right next to the work. Even better, color code the steps to the work.
If you liked these steps, you are going to love this illustrated guide to empirical formulas where you will make this process super easy for students to learn. Molecule Men who are working in an empirical formula factory use a step by step process to get the right formula out.
Hi! I'm CoScine. I write chemistry worksheets for visual learners. They are fun, easy to follow, and most of them are quick to grade. Since I started my teaching career at the college level, these are just simple chemistry. These worksheets are hard core science.