5 Engaging Methods to Teach Elimination Reactions in Organic Chemistry

Anjaney Kothari

Elimination reactions in organic chemistry find widespread application in petrochemical, pharmaceutical, agrochemical, biochemical and polymer industries. Different types of elimination reactions have distinct mechanisms and generate products that follow a specific stereochemistry.

Due to the reactivity differences and structural aspects involved, teaching about elimination reactions and their mechanisms can become more complex than one might imagine. Educators thus need new methods to engage their students with this topic. Here, we list five engaging methods to teach elimination reactions that will make this topic approachable for students.

1. Engage Students with Interactive Models

Interactive models allow students to learn complex topics at a pace that suits them the best. These models provide real-time feedback to the students, enhancing both the rate and quality of learning.

You can use some classic interactive models to teach organic chemistry elimination reactions to your students. For example, provide your students with ball-and-stick models of cyclohexanol or an alkyl halide. Help them transform these reactants to elimination products by rearranging the molecular models. You can choose multiple different organic compounds to demonstrate both E1 and E2 elimination reactions. Further, you can leverage the 3D nature of the ball-and-stick models to teach the stereochemistry of elimination products.

2. Make the Topic Fun with Games and Activities

Games and activities can offer a new perspective to the study material that educators teach in the conventional classroom setting. They set up an achievable target and a fun-filled path for the students to reach that target.

Take Labster’s elimination reaction virtual lab, for example. In our gamified virtual lab, the students help Kim, a virtual polymer scientist, to optimize the reaction that converts cyclohexanol to cyclohexene. Solving this puzzle will require the students to learn about E1 and E2 elimination reactions. They will also need to learn about Zaitsev’s rule in order to predict the products of different elimination reactions.

Elimination reaction virtual lab with bromine.
Discover Labster's elimination reaction virtual lab today!

3. Accelerate Learning by Incorporating Technology

Technologies, like simulation, animation, and virtual reality, can make reaction mechanisms easier to follow for students. For instance, they can help visualize how certain groups undergo elimination to make way for new chemical products. Organic chemistry educators can use such technologies to accelerate learning, especially when teaching the different types of reaction mechanisms.

For example, Labster’s elimination reaction virtual lab uses interactive simulations to teach the fundamentals of organic chemistry elimination reactions. In our simulation, the students enter a realistic but virtual chemistry lab and try their hands at bringing some elimination reactions to life. The simulation allows students to manipulate organic molecules as they undergo different elimination reactions. The students also learn about the differences in the reactivity of different alkyl halides towards E1 and E2 reactions. Using 3D virtual models, the simulation further teaches the stereochemistry of the elimination products.

Elimination reaction virtual lab with bromobutane.

4. Inspire Students Through Career Exploration

Can one reaction in all of organic chemistry really be so important that it can build careers? The answer is yes, and the quicker students learn this, the more exciting elimination reactions will become for them.

For example, talk to your students about how enzymologists and biochemists use elimination reactions to synthesize or metabolize different biomolecules. Tell them how environmental chemists must learn about elimination reactions to understand the fate of certain pollutants in the environment. Discuss how polymer chemists use elimination reactions to synthesize widely used polymers like polyesters and polyamides.

5. Connect Topic to Real-World Scenarios

Connecting study topics with real-world scenarios makes the subject matter more three-dimensional and less bookish. Students are able to realize the significance of pursuing these study topics, and may even become inspired to do so themselves.

To teach elimination reactions to your students, think of ways to connect these reactions to real-world scenarios. For example, talk to your students about the use of elimination reactions to improve fuel performance in the petrochemical industry. Tell them that the industrial synthesis of plastics and synthetic rubber involves elimination of hydrogen halides from alkyl halides.

Final thoughts

All organic chemistry learners must understand the mechanism and significance of elimination reactions. The methods that we have discussed here allow you to make elimination reactions an approachable topic of study for students.

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