Memory to Knowledge

Today we had our last major memory quiz of “memory week!” In chemistry there are a number of things that need to be memorized: ion charges, valence on transition metals, structure and names of polyatomic ions, etc. This semester – in a flash of insight – I decided to cram the memorization into a sequence of days, roughly 4-5 classes. Doing this means the knowledge is learned incrementally and students have a bite-sized chunk to memorize each day; each day contains a quiz enabling students to check their learning.

Now that we quizzed on polyatomic ions today, I thought about how to have kids connect the names with “real life.” (1) Practice writing formulas from names. (2) Find names on “real” objects.

(1) Practice writing names: I gave paired students a jar/bottle of chemical substrate from the prep room, selected to be an ionic compound. Student wrote the narrative name, then the compound formula – and had a partner to lean on in ambiguous cases. It confirmed what they JUST memorized and gave them a chance to “affectively” understand that the memory is really a short cut in the long run, though it is a lot of effort initially. With a 1 minute timer it turned into a game and was actually fun!

(2) Tonight students will find food labels, cosmetics, toiletries, etc. and take a picture of two labels which contain ionic compounds (see my model pickle jar label below). We will do an exploratory demonstration tomorrow about the conductivity of ionic solutions with my favorite “electric pickle” using 240V and a jar of Gherkins.

pickle ingredients

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