Jim Al-Khalili as guest lecturer

Like me, you may have just watched the repeat of Chemistry – A Volatile History (Episode 2) on BBC4. By a happy coincidence, my Year 8 class are currently studying the periodic table (They already love The Elements Song) so I now plan to have @jimalkhalili in as a guest lecturer this week. Just watching something is a pretty boring (not to say ineffective) way to learn, so thought I’d share a few ideas and the questions I’m planning to use, on the off chance someone else might find them useful. Below are some ideas pinched from my earlier blogpost ‘Constructive Laziness‘:

  • Give them the questions first.
  • Provide a list of key terms (out of sequence) and ask them to note down definitions and/or examples.
  • Ask them to produce summary notes, perhaps using a Cornell blank.
  • Have them write a review for the BBC Bitesize website.
  • Ask them to choose headings for a Powerpoint that they can then write for homework.
  • Give them handouts using Powerpoint that have titles, but no content. This is another way to give them the framework for the notes. (Differentiated versions easily produced.)
  • Tell them it is old or out of date. What mistakes can they spot? How would they script an improved version?

For this episode, a few notes that are easily copied, then turned into a handout of questions, copied on to a whiteboard (leave up as the starter and see how many they can answer afterwards, no writing allowed), or just read out. All times are approximate, jotted as I watched, scribbled questions and scoffed my tea. A lot of these are fairly trivial, and I’d suggest using only a selection – perhaps as a stimulus to inspire students to write their own, more useful questions. (I’m probably going to try out the Question Formulation Technique as described in @totallywired77’s blog post.)

I’d suggest skipping first 2.5 minutes (until credits) as it spoils the surprises.

Up to 15min: Dalton and atomic weight

1 How many elements were identified at the early part of the century?

2 What was Dalton’s main social hobby and when did he do it?

3 What did Dalton call the particles we call ‘atoms’?

4 Which colour balloon drops quickly and why?

5 What does STM stand for?

6 How hot is the glass used to make the round bottomed flask?

7 What is the most common element in the Earth’s crust?

15-30min Patterns

8 How close was Berzelius to the true weight of chlorine?

9 How many elements were in each group suggested by Dobereiner?

10 What is the second element tested in the water?

11 How many elements were known when Mendeleyev started to investigate?

12 In which year did John Newlands present his ‘octaves’ idea?

13 Which 2 gases does the presenter say smell similar?

30-40min Mendeleyev

14 What fraction the books in Mendeleyev’s study are about chemistry?

15 What did Mendeleyev call his card game?

40-50min Spectroscopy

16 How did Rubidium get its name?

17 How did spectroscopy help to confirm Mendeleyev’s table?

18 What is the atomic weight of the gas first discovered in the spectral lines of the sun?

50min-end Inside the Atom

19 What was Bohr’s chosen sport?

20 How many electrons in the first ring/shell/orbital?

21 Which was the heaviest known element at the time?

22 Which three metals does the presenter test?

23 What particles did Moseley count in the nucleus?

24 How old was Moseley when he died?

  1. 55
  2. bowls, Thursday afternoons
  3. ‘ultimate particles’
  4. yellow, because it contains (dense) Krypton
  5. Scanning Tunnelling Microscope
  6. About 1000 degrees Celsius
  7. Oxygen
  8. a fifth of a percent
  9. three (triads)
  10. Sodium (Na)
  11. 63
  12. 1866
  13. Chlorine and Bromine
  14. A tenth
  15. Chemical Solitaire
  16. The spectrogram shows a ruby red light
  17. Elements that filled the gaps in the table were discovered, matching Mendeleyev’s predictions
  18. 4 (He)
  19. Football (goalkeeper)
  20. 2
  21. Uranium (U)
  22. Copper, Rubidium, Molybdenum
  23. Protons
  24. 26

5 thoughts on “Jim Al-Khalili as guest lecturer”

  1. I absolutely agree. Students need to be actively engaged with what they’re watching. The list of suggestions is really good too, lots of opportunity for AfL too!

  2. Thank-you very much. Ive got a random 1/2 hour to fill due to early closing. Starting 21st Century Science Additional B4 with y11. This is perfect! I’ll let you know how we get on.

  3. This is really gratifying to see. If only the BBC produced DVDs of more of their documentaries for use in schools – I think that would be a fantastic use of a tiny fraction of the licence fee.

    1. Agreed, and thanks for both comment and the tweeted link. If the bbc decide to follow your suggestion, maybe I’ll be able to contribute some worksheets and suggested activities. . . my rates run from reasonable down to nothing, after all!

      Well, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. . .

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