2. Organising a ‘circus’ of experiments

Organising a multi-step task in a group is demanding so don’t worry if your students were not very efficient. They need practice in working in this way. In the next activity, your students will also work in groups, but this time they will have 8 minutes to complete a task at a ‘station’ and then they have to move on to the next one. This sort of practical work is helpful if you don’t have enough equipment for the whole class to do an experiment at the same time. In Case study 2, the teacher uses this sort of activity to organise revision of the topic. Activity 2 and Resource 3 show how you could use this method to teach your students some of the everyday examples of neutralisation. In this sort of exercise each station does not need to involve apparatus. Students have the opportunity to talk about the ideas behind the activities, which can be a very powerful way of learning. This sort of activity takes quite a bit of preparation as each station will need an instruction sheet, but when you have done it once you can keep the instructions and use them again. It might not work perfectly the first time you try it, but that doesn’t matter. Afterwards, think carefully about what went well and what didn’t, so that you can improve on it next time.

Case study 2: A revision circus

Mr Mandela had a few lessons left before his students had to sit the end of term exam. He decided to organise a revision lesson. He set up eight different stations round the room. Each station had an activity from one of the topics that they needed to revise. He chose the activities carefully, so that some of the most difficult aspects of the work were covered. The activities included a card sorting activity, a matching activity for which students had to match definitions and scientific words, some simple experiments (based on reactions they needed to know), a list of simple questions and a past exam question. One of the stations involved some simple practical work: students had to mix some copper carbonate with an acid in a test-tube and write a chemical equation for the reaction. Mr Mandela thought that if they could see the reaction, it would help them remember the equation. He divided the class into groups. He had noticed that when doing practical work, the boys tended to take over while the girls watched. So he divided his class into groups of girls and groups of boys. The students had eight minutes at each station.

Mr Mandela found that the students were very engaged and quite noisy – but they were talking about the activities and arguing about the answers! He moved round the room, providing help if necessary and checking their answers. At the end of the lesson, they had covered a lot of the work and they could not believe that revision could be such fun.

Activity 2: Understanding neutralisation

Before the lesson, set out a number of stations around the room. At each station there should be a set of instructions that the students can follow, making it clear what they have to do and posing some questions (Resource 3). Divide your class into groups and send each group to one station. If you have a very large class, you can set up two versions of some of the stations. Make sure they all start together. After eight minutes (you may decide to make it longer or shorter, depending on the activities) tell them to stop work and move them on to the next station. It is important that they all move together. Keep going until each group has visited every station. While they are working you should move around the room and listen to their conversations and maybe ask some questions to make them think. At the end, gather them round the front and ask each group to report on one of the activities. You could finish by asking them to write a summary of what they have learnt in their exercise books.

1. Organising group work to make and evaluate an indicator

3. Investigating reactions of acids