Category Archives: Whiteboarding

Chemistry Revision Session

I had a revision session with some of my Year 12 students after school today, working through the gravimetric analysis of sulfate in fertiliser. Below is a whiteboard of the solution I wrote.


“Chalk” one up for Whiteboarding and the Mistake Game

20130913-204701.jpgRecently I’ve been seeking feedback from my Year 11 Chemistry class about their plans for moving on to Year 12. (For North American readers, our Year 11 is only 3 terms long, finishing 3/4 of the way through the year so that Year 12 can go for 12 months and finish in time for their HSC exams in October. They can choose to drop a subject at this point and so many students use it as a time to take stock of how they are going.)

As a part of this feedback process, I gave them a Google Form so they could signal their intentions and give me some feedback on how our class has been going. I’ve found it really useful in the past, even if it hasn’t always been pleasant. One thing that was really enlightening, though, was the positive comments about whiteboarding and the Mistake Game. Here are some highlights:

“Using the whiteboards has been extremely helpful, as you can keep trying, correcting and rubbing out your working to express the process of figuring out the question in a visual form, and I enjoyed that. Also the Mistake Game was good because not only did I realise mistakes people could make, I also realised some of the mistakes I was making myself.”

“I love the whiteboards. The mistake game was effective as I found I focused a lot harder on trying to find mistakes in problems rather than trying to solve them!”

So proud!

The Mystery of the Unknown Bottles

My Year 12 Chemistry students were testing for cations and anions the other day. Today they were applying some of what they had learnt to determine the identity of a set of unknown solutions (A – D).

They were told that their set contained four solutions – HCl, Na2CO3, Ca(NO3)2 and Pb(NO3)2 – but that they didn’t know which was which. Their task was to combine these four solutions in particular combinations to work out the identity of each one, using their previous results to guide them as to how to detect particular ions.

It went really well! The practical component was very straightforward to carry out but it was the interpretation of their results that required some really mental effort. Some really wrestled with it and eventually worked out which was which, whereas other groups didn’t quite get it finished in time before we had to come back to discuss it together. Here is one group’s whiteboard of their data and interpretation:

20130821-155825.jpgAnd here is one student’s creative solution to how to work on a whiteboard while standing around the same bench!


Chemistry MasterChef

Today I carried out an awesome activity with my Year 8’s to cap off our topic on separating mixtures. We’ve already gone through examples of each separating technique, from filtration to crystallisation, sedimentation to magnetic separation.

To help consolidate their skills in separating a range of mixtures, I thought I’d take inspiration from MasterChef’s Mystery Box challenge. I created a list of 8 different mixtures:

    Rice and salt
    Salt crystals and herbs
    Peppercorns and herbs
    Coffee grounds and water
    Iron filings and salt
    Salt and canola oil
    Tea leaves and water
    Rice, salt, peppercorns and herbs

Each of these was under a numbered box at their benches. At the front was a “pantry” of general separating equipment – filter funnels and paper, gauze mats, Bunsens, beakers, measuring cylinders, sieves and so on. They chose a number out of a hat and then had to reveal their mixture from under the box. They could separate their mixture into its components however they liked using the pantry equipment and anything else they needed.

It was fantastic! They were so engrossed in what they were doing – negotiating, problem solving, writing and rewriting their ideas on their whiteboards, arguing and debating the best approach to the problem. On one hand some groups wanted to cut corners, but on the other hand others were being super meticulous in trying to separate every skerrick. Here’s one group’s effort with the peppercorns and herbs, showing the “mystery box” in the background:

20130820-151504.jpgHere’s a close up of their before and after samples:

20130820-151606.jpgDefinitely a keeper!

Whiteboarding motion graphs

As part of our Year 10 motion unit, we’ve been working through how to represent motion using distance vs time graphs. Today I split the students into groups of 2-3 and gave them a scenario about someone walking, incorporating all sorts of combinations of constant velocity, acceleration and time at rest. They were to create a distance vs time graph on their whiteboards.









They then had to go around the room and look at each others’ graphs to try and figure out what the other graphs were representing. They recorded this on a separate whiteboard (I had only about half the class today so we had lots of spare boards).

Afterwards, they went back to their board and wrote out their scenario on it. They then had another walk around, having a look at the other answers to see how close they were. For a Friday afternoon lesson, they were really engaged and interested. The conversation was really productive and they were really making the effort to wrestle with what the graphs represented. It was fantastic!