Overwhelmed by the available chemistry resources? Looking for new chemistry teaching ideas? Elementary Articles is the place for chemistry, education, and everything else.

Elementary Articles is the official blog for the RSC's Learn Chemistry – your home for chemistry education resources and activities.

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Do you teach chemistry in the UK or Ireland? We need your help to inform our policy work on the chemistry curriculum.

The question of who should design the curriculum has been on the agenda recently – take a look at this blog post by Kristy Turner and this debate at the 2016 ASE annual conference. Many agree that an independent panel, supported by subject experts and specialists in designing curriculums and assessments, could resist frequent change at the whim of politicians.

Therefore, we are designing a chemistry curriculum for primary school through to pre-university chemistry. We are using analysis from teacher and student surveys, input from curriculum experts and representatives from interested sectors. This is not to try and initiate change in the recently introduced curriculum, but to inform our long-term view on the curriculum and in anticipation of future changes.

We have developed a framework for the curriculum in the form of Key Chemistry Concept Strands, which structure learning within and across different key stages.

We want to know what you think of these concept strands. Do they make sense? Would you have organised them differently? How would structure the curriculum as a teacher of chemistry? Let us know by completing our short survey. It should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.

Using your responses, we will start to design the content and context, the development of skills and the assessment, at each key stage, using the consolidated Key Chemistry Concept Strands as a framework for each.

Image © Shutterstock

Posted by Joanna Furtado on Mar 3, 2016 10:45 AM GMT

Chemistry teacherFrom September 2016 there are new practical requirements for GCSE science in Wales and England.

Are you concerned about introducing one of the new experimental techniques? Do you need resources to help students use apparatus? Looking for an interesting way to approach a particular topic? We can help!

To support the teaching of chemistry practical work, we have published a document that maps the requirements of the English GCSE specifications to Learn Chemistry resources. You can find all the specifications from the four main awarding bodies in England, both for combined and separate sciences. Download it here: English GCSE chemistry practical requirements

There's also an equivalent resource for Wales. We hope to add a similar resource for Northern Ireland in the following weeks.

The Learn Chemistry resources we've identified are intended to support your teaching. They suggest some exciting ways to demonstrate the techniques that students should become familiar with. They are not intended to be a scheme of work.

If you're new to Learn Chemistry, visit our dedicated experimentation hub for more ideas to increase engagement in scientific investigation, develop new skills and enhance students' knowledge.

Still not sure which GCSE science specification to choose? Read our earlier blogpost to help you make your decision.

Due to Ofqual rejecting the English GCSE science specifications for a second time, on 05/02/16, the content in the English resource is subject to any changes that occur in the re-drafting of the specifications. We will update the resources as the new specifications are accredited.

Joanna Furtado and Chrissie Maitland

Posted by Joanna Furtado on Feb 4, 2016 9:57 AM GMT

Confused about which GCSE science specification you should choose for your new Year 10’s in September 2016? Not sure how all the awarding bodies are differentiating themselves? Searching for some sort of coherent summary of the differences between them?

To help provide a brief, unbiased summary, we have put together a Learn Chemistry article which you can find here http://goo.gl/qktdSK. Looking at the third article on the Learn Chemistry resource page you will find a table containing the four main awarding bodies, their different science specifications for GCSE, and the extra offers they have to support teachers of GCSE science.  The hyperlinks in each box take you through to the relevant page for the specification, or the specification itself if it is accredited. The coloured key indicates whether a particular qualification will count towards Progress and Attainment 8, and towards the English Baccalaureate.


The main difference that you might notice from previous years are the schemes of work and syllabuses for KS3, with particular focus on the transition in Year 9 to KS4; other differences include Entry Level Certificates for lower ability students, which can run alongside GCSEs, and new STEM technical awards, which replace BTECs and Cambridge National Certificates at Level 1/2.

We hope this will help to equip you to choose your specification, when they are accredited, ready for teaching in September 2016!

Due to Ofqual rejecting the English GCSE science specifications for a second time, on 05/02/16, the content in this resource is subject to any changes that occur in the re-drafting of the specifications. We will update the resources as the new specifications are accredited.
Posted by Joanna Furtado on Feb 1, 2016 11:10 AM GMT
Are you looking for a free activity for your students during British Science Week? I’m a Scientist invites students to be the judges in this online X Factor style competition for scientists. Your students read the scientists’ profiles, ask them questions and have live online text-based chats. Students then vote for their favourite scientist to win £500 to spend on more STEM engagement.

This March the Royal Society of Chemistry is funding the I’m a Scientist Toxicology and Biochemistry Zones, as well as a Climate Change Zone just for primary school students. Your students will be able to have live chats with scientists all over the UK. Students can find out about their research, its applications and the variety of careers available.

I’m a Scientist runs between 7–18 March and is completely free for UK schools. The Toxicology and Biochemistry zones are open to all secondary schools and the Climate Change Zone is open to primary schools (Years 5 and 6). All teachers are sent a Teacher Pack with lesson plans to help introduce students to the event and make the activity simple to organise.

“I think the best bit of I'm a Scientist is the weeks after - I got lots of 'Miss, you know when the scientist said ...' ” - Teacher

Students become more enthused about science, learn that science lessons relate to real life, and see that scientists are normal people.

To take part, register before 1st February at: imascientist.org.uk/teachers

To see the full list of March 2016 zones and to find out more visit: imascientist.org.uk/2016/01/march-2016-zones or email Josh in the I’m a Scientist team at josh@gallomanor.com or give him a ring on 01225 326892.

Posted by Jenny O'Hare on Jan 14, 2016 1:27 PM GMT
We’re looking forward to meeting many of you during the exhibition at the annual conference of the Association for Science Education 7–9 January 2016 where we’ll be focusing on how to put chemistry into practice. We’re holding seven free interactive workshops throughout the conference that give you opportunities to experience our new continuing professional development courses, explore primary science in context, discover careers in chemistry, involve your classes in a global experiment and get hands on with our spectroscopy kit for schools.
Have a chat with us and the other exhibitors about everything related to science education, or find out more about our opportunities for teachers and students. Visit Stand A4 to let us know your opinion on the support we provide through Learn Chemistry Partnership. New registrations and existing main contact teachers at partner schools will all get a free Top Trumps pack too.
We look forward to meeting you there! The exhibition is free and you can register as a delegate on the ASE’s website.

Royal Society of Chemistry sessions at the ASE Annual Conference 2016

Thursday 7 January
A Future in Chemistry: Find out how this digital resource can help your students take decisions about their careers. 9.30–10.30 am room LG13.
Spectroscopy in a Suitcase: See how your students can learn about spectroscopy through hands-on experience. 11 am–12 pm room LG14 
Global experiments: Involve your class in practical experiments and share their results with thousands of students around the world. 12.30–2.30 pm room LG14
Showcase: New online CPD courses: Experience a free course taster – as well as an extract from our face-to-face offerings. 3–4 pm room LG13
Friday 8 January
The Impact of Screen Experiments: Find out more about our pre-lab screen experiment resources that allow students to  complete their own unique experiments and record their results online. 12–1 pm room LG13
Surprising STEM: Relate classroom subjects and curriculum topics to students’ future options and pathways. In conjunction with the Royal Society of Biology, the Institute of Physics, Engineering UK and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications.1.30–2.30pm room LG14
Primary Science in Context: Explore how you can deliver science in context, from effective planning to meaningful activities. 4–5pm room LG14
Posted by Helen Bache on Dec 4, 2015 9:57 AM GMT

As a professional body, we encourage all of our members to develop their technical and professional skills by undertaking continuing professional development (CPD). This can take many forms including formal, structured training courses. To help our members decide on valuable and appropriate training for their needs, we started a programme to formally approve training courses spanning a wide range of subject areas.  Courses are judged against a broad set of criteria by subject experts drawn from our membership and, if they are found to meet these criteria, they are awarded our seal of approval. 

What courses do we approve?

Approved training courses are listed on a database, which allows users to easily search for courses relevant to them. We already have around 100 training courses listed, offered by several different training providers and spanning a wide range of subject areas.  A number of our own courses for teachers have been approved, and it might not be immediately obvious why we do this. Quite simply, we develop our courses with the intent of meeting our own high standards, so it makes sense to put them through the same approval process showing they meet the same criteria we expect of other providers. 

Our courses for teachers – Developing expertise in teaching chemistry

Our online courses are designed to give users an in-depth understanding of key concepts in teaching chemistry. Courses can be completed the users’ pace, which allows them to try out new strategies and activities in the classroom before progressing any further. You can view all of our courses here.
We currently have six online courses available and a number of further courses in development, each of which will be subject to the same rigorous approval process as those by any other provider.

Posted by Florence Greatrix on Nov 27, 2015 1:35 PM GMT
We all like a bit of recognition for the skills and competencies we demonstrate at work. Praise from our colleagues and managers is great for giving us that on a personal level, but when you want something that you can really shout about within your professional community, that’s where gaining chartered status comes in to play. 
Chartered Science Teacher (CSciTeach) provides professional recognition of your achievements and demonstrates impact in science teaching and learning. In a recent survey of over 250 science teachers, 90% agreed that this is relevant to their careers. So if you have more than 4 years’ experience since gaining qualified teacher status (QTS) and can demonstrate the required competences, it may be time to apply.

Tips for a good CSciTeach application
When summarising your recent teaching practice consider the following:
•    How do you plan your lessons and other activities to ensure effectiveness?
•    How have you supported students to better understand scientific concepts?
•    When have you led a team or helped colleagues to develop their skills?
•    How do you make sure you keep up to date with key areas of scientific and pedagogic research?

Try to give specific examples and consider including figures relating to student attainment or qualitative evidence such as feedback you have received.

For more information and to download an application form visit our website and email CSciTeach@rsc.org if you have any questions.

Posted by Andrea McGhee on Aug 26, 2015 3:20 PM BST
We’ve created a new app based on our hugely popular Periodic Table website. The app includes our favourite features from the website, like an interactive slider which shows the elements change state as you increase the temperature and the discovery of the elements as you scroll through history. There are podcasts and videos about the elements too.

We’ve also added some exciting new features, including lots of new images. There are photos of the elements in their natural states, and pictures of real-life applications of the elements. For example, did you know that neodymium is used in microphones? And europium is used in Euro bank notes to help prevent counterfeiting?

You can also customise your Periodic Table app so you just see the things you’re interested in. You can adjust your settings to turn sections of data on or off, depending on what stage of education you’re at. For quick access to figures, we’ve also added a simple table where you can do things like sort the elements in order of increasing density.

The app is free, and is available for tablets and mobile phones on both Android and Apple.

Get it on Google Play 
Posted by Jenny O'Hare on Aug 11, 2015 4:55 PM BST
Many teachers will have begun planning for the new A-level chemistry specification which will start from september 2015.
Planning what practicals to run with your students and having a back-up plan can be time consuming but don't worry help is at hand.


Chrissie Maitland our Education Coordinator for the South East shares her A-level practical collection guide:

This guide has been written to help teachers make the most of the new practical assessment for students. Each exam board will provide a set of standard experiments that they recommend their teachers do, however, most of the exam boards are being flexible and are allowing teachers to choose the experiments they ask their students to complete. This guide gives a series of alternative experiments that match with the practical apparatus and techniques, so that you have the freedom to choose which experiments you do. Moreover, if you have students who have found some of the techniques difficult, but you don’t want to make them repeat the same experiment, then this guide again offers alternatives to help your student’s to master these techniques.

This resource on Learn Chemistry contains the most up-to-date version of the mapping table which now includes the WJEC specifications.

New Specification A-level: Practical Apparatus and Techniques
  Apparatus and Techniques
1 use appropriate apparatus to record a range of measurements (to include mass, time, volume of liquids and gases, temperature)
2 use water bath or electric heater or sand bath for heating
3 measure pH using pH charts, or pH meter, or pH probe on a data logger
4 use laboratory apparatus for a variety of experimental techniques including:
  • titration, using burette and pipette
  • distillation and heating under reflux, including setting up glassware using retort stand and clamps
  • qualitative tests for ions and organic functional groups
  • filtration, including use of fluted filter paper, or filtration under reduced pressure
5 use volumetric flask, including accurate technique for making up a standard solution
6 use acid-base indicators in titrations of weak/strong acids with weak/strong alkalis
7 purify:
  • a solid product by recrystallization
  • a liquid product, including use of separating funnel
8 use melting point apparatus
9 use thin-layer or paper chromatography
10 set up electrochemical cells and measuring voltages
11 safely and carefully handle solids and liquids, including corrosive, irritant, flammable and toxic substances
12 measure rates of reaction by at least two different methods, for example:
  • an initial rate method such as a clock reaction
  • a continuous monitoring method
Comparison Table – Practical Technique vs Exam board experiments
Practical Technique AQA Experiment Numbers Edexcel Experiment Numbers OCR A and B Practical Activity Groups Eduqas Topic References
1 1,2,3,7,9,10 1,2,4,6,8,11,12,13,14,16 1,2,3 C1.6,C2.1,C2.2, C2.3, PI1.2, PI3, PI5.1
2 3,4,5,6,10,11 4,5,7,15,16 5,6,7 C3.3,C3.4,OA4
3 6,9,11 9 2,11 PI5.2
4 1,2,4,5,6,9,10,11 1-16 2,4,5,6,7 C1,6,C2.1,C3.3,C3.4,PI1.2,PI5.1, PI5.2,OA2.2,OA4
5 1 2,3,11 2,11 C2.1,Pl1.2
6 9 2,3,13 2,11 C2.1
7 10 5,6,12,16 5,6 OA4
8 10 15,16 6 OA2.2, OA4
9 12 5,6,16 6 OA4
10 8 10 8 PI1.1
11 1-12 1-16 1-12 C2.1,C2.2,C3.3,PI1.2,OA2.2,OA4
12 7 13 9,10 C2.3, PI3
Practical techniques and suitable practical’s from Learn Chemistry
(matched were possible to the specification core experiments)

Practical Technique Experiments from Learn Chemistry Exam Board Experiment
1 Interactive Lab Primer – Lab Apparatus
The Volume of Hydrogen Gas
The Formula of Hydrated CuSO4
Finding the Formula of an Oxide of Copper
Weighing Gases
Heats of Reaction
Exothermic and Endothermic
A Reversible Reaction
Measuring Enthalpy Changes
Neutralisation – ‘Curing Acidity’
Thermometric Titration
OCR 1; Edexcel 1; Eduqas C2.3
Eduqas PI1.2
Eduqas PI1.2
AQA 2; Edexcel 8
AQA 2; Edexcel 8; Eduqas PI1.4
AQA 2; Edexcel 8
AQA 2; OCR 3; Edexcel 8; Eduqas C2.2, PI4.1
2 Fractional Distillation of Crude Oil
Limonene from Oranges and Lemons
Aspirin (or Aspirin)
also Pre-lab resource
AQA 5, 10; Eduqas OA4
AQA 10; OCR 6; Edexcel 16; Eduqas OA4
3 Neutralisation of Indigestion Tablets
On the Acid Trail
Universal Indicators
pH of Oxides
Neutralisation – ‘Curing Acidity’
Gifted and Talented Chemistry – ‘Acids and Alkalis’
AQA 1; OCR 2, 11; Edexcel 2, 3; Eduqas C2.1
AQA 9; OCR 2, 11; Edexcel 9; Eduqas C2.1
AQA 9; OCR 2, 11; Edexcel 9; Eduqas C2.1
AQA 9; OCR 2, 11; Edexcel 9; Eduqas C2.1
4 Interactive Lab Primer – Titration
Interactive Lab Primer – Distillation
Interactive Lab Primer – Reflux
Interactive Lab Primer – Filtration
Limonene from Oranges and Lemons
Neutralisation of Indigestion Tablets
Titration of NaOH with HCl
Testing Salt for Anions and Cations
Flame Tests
Testing for Negative Ions
Reactions of Positive Ions
Reactions of the Halogens
Fractional Distillation of Crude Oil
The Oxidation of Alcohols
Analysis of Aspirin Tablets
Chromium, Molybdenum and Tungsten
Aspirin (or Aspirin)
Tannin in Wine
Copper in Brass
Testing for Aldehydes and Ketones
Properties of Ethanoic Acid
Testing for Unsaturation
Properties of Transitions Metals
Halogen Compounds
Gifted and Talented Chemistry – ‘Acids and Alkalis’
Creative Problem Solving - ;Five White Solids’
Detecting Aspartame
Hydration of Alkenes
Thermometric Titration
Silver and Lead Halides
AQA 5, 10; Eduqas OA4
AQA 1; OCR 2, 11, Eduqas C2.1
AQA 1; OCR 2, 11; Edexcel 2, 3
AQA 10; Eduqas C3.4
AQA 4, 11; OCR 4; Eduqas C1.6
AQA 4; OCR 4; Edexcel 7, 15; Eduqas C1.6
AQA 4; OCR 4; Edexcel 7, 15; Eduqas C1.6
AQA 4, 11: OCR 4; Edexcel 7, 15; Eduqas C1.6
Eduqas C1.6
AQA 6; OCR 5; Edexcel 5
AQA 1; OCR 2
AQA 11; OCR 4; Edexcel 15
AQA 10; OCR 6; Edexcel 16; Eduqas OA4
Edexcel 11
Edexcel 11
AQA 6; OCR 7; Edexcel 7, 15; Eduqas C3.4, OA2.2
AQA 6; OCR 7; Edexcel 7, 15; Eduqas C3.4
AQA 6; OCR 7; Eduqas C3.2
AQA 4, 11; OCR 4; Edexcel 7, 15
Eduqas C3.3
AQA 10; OCR 6; Edexcel 16; Eduqas OA4
AQA 4; OCR 4; Edexcel 7, 15; Eduqas C1.6
5 Interactive Lab Primer – Standard Solution AQA 1; OCR 1, 2
6 On the Acid Trail AQA 9; OCR 2; Edexcel 9; Eduqas C2.1, PI5.2
7 Interactive Lab Primer – Recrystallisation
Interactive Lab Primer – Separating Funnel
Hydration of Alkenes
Purifying an Impure Solid
OCR 6; Eduqas OA4
OCR 5; Eduqas OA4
8 Interactive Lab Primer – Melting Point
Observing the lowering of Melting Point
AQA 10; OCR 6; Eduqas OA4
AQA 10; OCR 6; Eduqas OA4
9 Interactive Lab Primer - TLC
Chromatography of Leaves
Aspirin (or Aspirin) also Pre-lab resource
Chemistry Masterclass
Detecting Aspartame
AQA 12; OCR 6
AQA 10, 12; OCR 6; Edexcel 16; Eduqas OA4
AQA 12; OCR 6
10 Electricity from Chemicals
Gratzel Cell
Kitchen Currents
AQA 8; OCR 8; Edexcel 10; Eduqas PI1.1
AQA 8; OCR 8; Edexcel 10; Eduqas PI1.1
AQA 8; OCR 8; Edexcel 10; Eduqas PI1.1
11 All Experiments
Interactive Lab Primer – Working Safely
All Experiments
12 Rate of Reaction – Concentration and Temperature
Rate of reaction - Temperature
Rate of Reaction - Concentration
Iodine Clock
Finding the rate expression
Rate of Reaction – Magnesium and Hydrochloric acid
Rates and Rhubarb
Old Nassau
AQA 3, 7; OCR 9; Eduqas C2.3
AQA 3, 7; OCR 9; Eduqas C2.3
AQA 7; OCR 9; Eduqas C2.3
AQA 7; OCR 10; Edexcel 13; Eduqas C2.3
AQA 7; OCR 10; Edexcel 13; Eduqas C2.3, PI3
For more information you can also review an earlier forum post or just search Learn Chemistry for your choice of over 400 class practicals and demonstrations.
For those new to Learn Chemistry please note you can also visit our dedicated experimentation hub for teachers looking for practical resources.

Lee Page, Royal Society of Chemistry, Education Executive.
Chrissie Maitland, Royal Society of Chemistry, Education Coordinator (South East)

           ff81bca072d5e518d2bb2e03207437a6-huge-le                7699e92943ee32693c1abbcb0520ce5a-huge-ca

Posted by Lee Page on May 27, 2015 1:13 PM BST
You might think of Learn Chemistry as a place to find online materials, but recently we’ve made some changes to make it easier to find some physical resources to support your teaching as well. If you're a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, you're entitled to a 35% discount on everything in our online shop. One teacher per school can get complementary personal membership when they register their school for Learn Chemistry Partnership, a free programme to ensure your school makes the most of our activities and resources.

Posted by Jenny O'Hare on May 26, 2015 4:31 PM BST
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