9 Creative Ways to Teach Chemistry Without Lecturing

Ginelle Testa

Finding new ways to teach chemistry to 20 or even 200 students can be exhausting, and the subject can feel inaccessible to students, especially when lecturing is the primary teaching method. You can, however, incorporate other creative ways to engage your students. We’ve identified nine ways to make your chemistry teaching life more manageable and fun! 

1. Use interactive visuals

Interactive visuals can bring otherwise complex concepts to life. A study by Learning From Science News found that people had an easier time digesting and engaging with information when visualizing it. “The possibility to access information through clicking, sliding, or zooming-in might provide a more direct and personally meaningful experience of abstract phenomena and thus facilitate comprehension and learning.”

Labster’s video, High Performance Liquid Chromatography will help students visualize this tricky analytical chemistry technique. 

2. Flip the classroom/lab

Have your students watch a video, do a simulation, or in some way prepare for the lesson ahead while at home. Then, when they come into the classroom, your job is to solidify understanding because they’ve already got the foundation! According to a study by ICSMRE, “In class environments, the flipped classroom model has been found to increase students' attitudes, achievement, and motivation.”

3. Do Interesting Experiments

What’s your favorite chemistry experiment to do in the lab with students? Maybe it’s doing a simple chromatography experiment with a coffee filter, markers, and some water! Doing experiments that interest students in the topic is essential to holding their attention. 

Flow injection analysis is a technique that you may not have access to in the classroom, but with virtual labs, students have full access! Check out Labster’s FIA simulation, where students will measure caffeine levels in various beverages. 

4. Relate chemistry to everyday life

According to science.org, chemistry relates to what we eat, what we wear, our transport, the technology we use, how we treat illnesses, and how we get electricity. There are so many uses in our everyday life! Teach your students about some of these ways and you might just spark their interest. Here are some chemistry facts that relate to everyday life, from ZME science:

  • Water expands when it freezes, unlike other substances
  • If you pour a handful of salt into a glass of water, the water level will go down
  • Diamond and graphite are both entirely made of carbon and nothing else
  • One inch of rain is equal to 10 inches of snow

5. Learn through storylines

Cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner’s research suggests that people are 20 times more likely to remember facts if they’re part of a story. Stories are easy to remember because there’s context, and it’s fun. The ease of remembering and level of engagement is why all Labster’s simulations follow a storyline.

In Labster’s simulation, Basic Chemistry Thermodynamics: Solve the challenge of storing renewable energy, students learn the core concepts of thermodynamics and apply the technique of bomb calorimetry to help solve the challenge of storing renewable energy. 

Basic Chemistry Thermodynamics lab scene

6. Help students develop chemical imagination

Imagination and creativity aren’t just for the arts! Being a chemist involves hypothesizing, tinkering, and doodling chemical formulas. Help them develop this practice by encouraging them to use the scientific method. 

We have a lab for that! Our Scientific Method simulation encourages students to use the scientific method to come up with a hypothesis and subsequently design an experiment that will test the validity of your hypothesis.

7. Use the 5E approach

The 5Es are: engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate. This model encourages teachers to introduce and conclude their instruction creatively, then have students explore between opening and closing! The model was discovered for biology, but it can be applied to any science discipline or teaching! 

The 5 Es encourage students to tackle real-world problems like Labster’s virtual lab, Environmental Impact of Coal Power Plants, where students uncover the environmental impacts of coal power plants and fish farming. Then they’ll explore the issues with our current fuel source and help Marie come up with a greener solution to save the environment.

8. Go on a virtual field trip

Virtual field trips allow students to go to environments they might not otherwise have access to right from their computers or phones!

Students may not be able to visit a coal power plant to learn that this source of energy has environmental impacts, but in Labster’s virtual lab Environmental Impact of Coal Power Plants, students can take a virtual field trip to a plant!

9. Prep them for a Career

School is such a formative experience. Students discover their passions and interests in the classroom! There are so many jobs that can be pursued through the chemistry track: chemical engineer, scientist, researcher, teacher, etc. Get students excited about possible career tracks as many are thinking about it in both the high school and university level.

Questions for reflection:

  • What other ways have you found to engage students in chemistry class without lecturing?
  • What’s your favorite virtual lab to teach chemistry?

Want to teach your chemistry students in a fun way with virtual labs? Try our 30-day all-access educators pass!

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