5 Stimulating Ways to Teach Organic Chemistry Reactivity Rules to Help Students Learn

Anjaney Kothari

Organic chemistry is an intimidating field of study for many students. Part of the reason for this is the complexity of the reaction mechanisms that govern the synthesis and interaction of organic compounds.

Indeed, there are a few too many reactivity rules in organic chemistry, making it complicated for students and educators alike. Assimilating and presenting the reactivity rules is just as tough for educators as memorizing and retaining them is for students. Here, we list five ways to teach organic chemistry reactivity rules to your students in a stimulating manner.

1. Engage Students with Interactive Models

Interactive models provide a way to quickly and permanently etch difficult study topics in the students’ memories. They facilitate direct visualization of molecular and sub-molecular phenomena, which helps advance learning in challenging subjects such as organic chemistry.

Take Labster’s ‘organic chemistry reactivity rules’ simulation, for example. In our interactive simulation, students learn about the molecular-level phenomena that determine the outcome of chemical reactions between organic compounds. They also get to practice drawing the various organic chemistry reaction mechanisms virtually. Finally, the students use their knowledge to predict how any two given organic compounds would react. Thus, our simulation covers everything, from theory to application, in under 50 minutes!

Organic chemistry reactivity rules in a virtual lab.

2. Make the Topic Fun with Games and Activities

Perhaps the biggest qualm that students have about organic chemistry is that it requires loads of memorization and information retention. By actively participating in educational games and activities, students can remember the study material better and apply it more smartly.

For example, to teach the reactivity rules in organic chemistry, you can lay out several ball-and-stick models of organic compounds. The students can then demonstrate addition, elimination and substitution reactions using these 3D models. They can also create the molecular structures of reaction intermediates and transition states, and assess their structural stability.

3. Accelerate Learning by Incorporating Technology

Technology has the power to provide an intimate look into what goes on in a reaction at the molecular level. By using animation, simulation and virtual reality, educators can give their students a detailed visual experience of organic chemistry mechanisms. This will help the students understand and learn the reactivity rules faster.

For example, Labster’s ‘organic chemistry reactivity rules’ simulation uses interactive simulations to teach complex organic chemistry concepts. Our simulation beautifully demonstrates the distribution of electrons across a molecule and how it affects chemical reactivity. The students also learn about lone pairs, nucleophiles, electrophiles, leaving groups, catalysts, intermediates and transition states in a chemical reaction. Further, they get to predict how different functional groups contribute to an organic compound’s reactivity.

Molecular bonds in a virtual lab.
Discover Labster's organic chemistry reactivity rules virtual lab today!

4. Inspire Students Through Career Exploration

To prevent students from dreading the intricacies of organic chemistry and reaction mechanisms, inspire them through career exploration. Tell them exactly how learning organic chemistry reactivity rules helps keep a number of industries and careers afloat.

For example, talk to your students about how materials scientists use reaction mechanisms to predict the outcome of polymerization reactions. Tell them how medicinal chemists apply their knowledge of reaction mechanisms to develop safer and more efficacious drugs. Discuss how environmental scientists implement reactivity rules to devise methods to effectively degrade organic pollutants.

5. Connect Topic to Real-World Applications

Real-world applications of scientific concepts bring the immense power of science into perspective. Connecting your topic to its applications will allow your students to see just how useful what they are studying is.

For example, talk about how organic chemistry reactivity rules are useful in optimizing the processes that help refine crude oil. Discuss how a knowledge of reaction mechanisms can help predict how liver enzymes would metabolize a drug. Share how reaction mechanisms aid in the optimal synthesis of polymers for a host of industrial applications.

Final thoughts

The road to mastering organic chemistry is riddled with reaction mechanisms and reactivity rules. It is imperative that educators find innovative ways to familiarize their students with these mechanisms and rules. The stimulating teaching methods we have discussed here will make learning organic chemistry reactivity rules an exciting task for students.

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