5 Exciting Ways to Teach Electrophilic Aromatic Substitution to Help Students Learn

Anjaney Kothari

Electrophilic aromatic substitution is among the most unnerving reaction mechanisms in organic chemistry. First, learners must be familiar with the concept of resonance and its role in determining the stability of aromatic compounds. Further, substituents can activate or deactivate the benzene ring, which will determine the course of the substitution reaction. To make it all the more complex, there can often be multiple possible products of an electrophilic aromatic substitution reaction but one will dominate the product pool, depending on the stability of the different products.

Clearly, educators need to come up with innovative methods that resolve all the confusions and complexities surrounding electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions. Here, we list five exciting ways to teach electrophilic aromatic substitution that will make this topic easier to learn.

1. Engage Students with Interactive Models

When it comes to teaching reaction mechanisms, interactive models can offer a whole new outlook to students. They allow students to perceive chemistry in a visual, three-dimensional and tangible framework.

For example, in Labster’s electrophilic aromatic substitution virtual lab, students visualize the direction of electronic movement during electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions. They also virtually observe how activating and deactivating groups affect the outcomes of such reactions.

the mechanism of electrophile substitutionn.

2. Make the Topic Fun with Games and Activities

Games and activities share a good chemistry with organic chemistry. They make daunting reaction mechanisms appear lucrative. At the same time, well-crafted games and activities can help students to make a sense of why a topic of study may be useful.

Here is an example of how you could teach electrophilic aromatic substitution through a fun and simple activity:

·   Draw out the chemical structures of various aromatic compounds on different pieces of paper.

·   Fold up the paper chits and put them all in a glass bowl.

·   Invite your students to randomly draw any two pieces of paper from the glass bowl.

·   Ask them to come up with a stepwise mechanism for an electrophilic aromatic substitution reaction that converts one of those compounds to the other.

·   If they do not find this conversion to be possible, they can exchange one of their compounds with another compound that one of their fellow students drew from the bowl.

This activity will encourage the students to interact with each other and think about different possible electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions.

3. Accelerate Learning by Incorporating Technology

Visualization-oriented technologies, like simulation, animation, and virtual reality, are making a splash in education. They are able to achieve what 2D whiteboard diagrams and lecturing cannot – absolute immersion in the subject matter.  

Take Labster’s electrophilic aromatic substitution virtual lab, for example. This simulation teaches the basics of electrophilic aromatic substitution by taking the students inside the world of perfume-making. Firstly, the students interactively learn about resonance structures, activators and deactivators, and ortho-, meta- and para-directing benzene substituents. Then, they apply this knowledge to design the electrophilic aromatic substitution reaction that will produce the best perfume ever!

degrees of activation and deactivation in electrophilic aromatic substitution virtual lab.
Discover Labster's electrophilic aromatic substitution virtual lab today!

4. Inspire Students Through Career Exploration

STEM professionals rely on a thorough knowledge of one or more topics of study. For example, many STEM careers require the application of electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions on a daily basis. Educators should create awareness about these career options so that students become motivated to study harder.

For instance, talk to your students about how pharmacologists use electrophilic aromatic substitution to develop drug molecules with specific activities. Tell them how materials scientists use this reaction mechanism to functionalize aromatic polymers for applications in electronics and biomaterials.

5. Connect Topic to Real-World Applications

Showcasing the real-world applications of a study topic lets students know why they should go through the trouble of learning about it in the first place. Once students start caring about the subject matter, they are able to learn it quicker and better.

Here are some real-world applications of electrophilic aromatic substitution that you could share with your students:

·   Flavor and fragrance industries benefit from the aromatic compounds that this reaction is able to produce.

·   Dyes and pigments with stable and vibrant color profiles are possible because of electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions.

·   Synthesis of many pesticides, which protect our crops from pests, requires the use of electrophilic aromatic substitution.

Final thoughts

Learning electrophilic aromatic substitution comes with an accompanying workload of understanding several other basic concepts in organic chemistry. The creative methods we have discussed here will help you make electrophilic aromatic substitution an exciting topic for students.

Try our free 30-day All Access Educator's Pass today and teach with the Electrophilic Aromatic Substitution simulation alongside 300+ other virtual labs!
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