An element that’s fun

Vijayalakshmi Nandakumar

“The runner wiped a trickle of sweat from her head. Her running and dodging skills were being put to test by the opposing team during a game of kho kho. The chasing team is following a beautiful pattern, one player displacing the other, running to catch the runner, and passing their energy to the next player in line. “Outttttt…..” comes their unanimous scream as the last runner has been caught!”

The children were listening with rapt attention, almost forgetting that they were in a chemistry class. The teacher goes on.… “Electrons present in a metallic conductor move like the chasing team, the motion then creates a current!”

The teacher’s purpose is achieved with this simple analogy. The children were able to visualize the situation and understand the concept very easily. Whenever the term “current” comes to their mind, I’ll bet that the visualization of the kho kho game will make them smile.

Often times, I have found that explaining concepts with real world analogies is quite effective. Children make the association with the analogy, and hence hold on to the concept.

As a teacher and a student of chemistry, I want to share some of my favorite analogies that make concepts more fun to learn.

The polar covalent bond
Picture two people (Bholu and Golu) sharing an umbrella. They are like two atoms sharing the electron cloud and forming a covalent bond. Golu is selfish, and pulls the umbrella towards himself, so only he has the umbrella and Bholu is left without the umbrella. This is now like the electron cloud being pulled over the more electronegative element. Golu’s selfishness represents the unequal sharing of electrons and the formation of polarity.

The author teaches chemistry and biology at Vidyaranya High School, Hyderabad. She can be reached at

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