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Keep Calm and Chemistry On: Tips for the New Chemistry Teacher

Polly Dornette
Product Development
Updated November 2017

Looking for lab activities that work every time? Explore these easy, engaging, and safe chemistry activities that are sure to produce a reaction from your students. Whether you’re new to chemistry or feeling out of your element, you’ll learn fresh ways to create excitement in your lab.

Demos are a safe alternative

One of a new chemistry teacher’s biggest concerns is student safety in the lab. A way to minimize risk is to perform teacher-led demos that allow your students to observe the experiments from a safe distance. For example, flame tests are a classic lab activity for teaching atomic structure and emission spectroscopy, but they require students to work around an open flame. Doing these tests as a demo keeps students a safe distance away while allowing them to observe and record data. The use of splints soaked in salt solutions improve the safety of this demo furtther.

Perform the Demo

Chemistry games can add to the fun

If you ask students what they dread most about chemistry class, the majority will answer having to memorize the periodic table. Minimize student fears of the periodic table, and make learning fun, by turning the topic into a game that will increase their understanding of periodic trends and the table. Prepare a card for each element that lists its chemical and physical properties (atomic radius, electronegativity, ionization energy, etc.). Next, task students with grouping the elements (cards) based on those properties and then organizing them into a table of recurring properties.

Play the Game

How-to videos are great for new procedures

Carolina.com has a wide array of how-to videos for science teachers and students. Have you forgotten how to set up a buret and perform a titration? Watch this video and be ready to demonstrate the technique to your students in tomorrow’s lab. If you’re not sure students in the back of the room can see your demonstration, play the video for the class.

Watch the Video

Manipulatives are great for tough concepts

For many students, balancing chemical equations is a tough skill to master. Use colored beads or blocks to represent the atoms in the reaction. This helps students understand the law of conservation of mass and visualize the number of atoms participating on each side of the chemical equation.

Balance the Equation

Microscale makes for easy clean up

Using smaller chemical volumes doesn’t just save you money on the purchase of materials; it can help you avoid costly chemical disposal fees and makes clean up a breeze. For example, when studying reaction types, have students use single drops of reactants on an acetate sheet or in a 96-well plate. A color change, formation of a precipitant, or formation of a gas can be easily detected from these 2-drop reactions.

Try Microscale

Don’t fall for viral videos

If you haven’t seen them yourself, your students have surely told you about a dozen different chemistry experiments they’ve seen posted on the Internet or that have “gone viral” in social media. Many of these “experiments” are faked by camera tricks, don’t actually produce the result shown, or are very dangerous. Caution: Never perform labs or experiments you or your students found on the Internet from sources that have not been thoroughly vetted. There are plenty of well-known chemistry demos and labs that can be found from reputable sources that will produce amazing results.

Find Trusted Demos

Stock up on free resources from a trusted source

Carolina.com has tons of free resources to help you have a successful year of teaching chemistry. Visit for access to apps for Apple® mobile devices, how-to videos, lab instructions, chemical SDSs, and much more.

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