Making the memory stick!

Revathy Pappu

Every batch, every class, or for that matter every student is different – as such there are no set patterns or tailor made solutions or ways of teaching. A difficulty that arises is the demand of a ‘fast learner’ on the one hand and a ‘slow learner’ on the other. To meet with these extremes from time to time the teacher has to change her/his ways of teaching and the techniques used. With this as the backdrop, I would like to share a few ways of remembering certain aspects of chemistry.

Teaching cannot be viewed as just the transmission of information or subject. Children need to see the beauty of what is around them and cultivate a sense of appreciation. To appreciate one has to observe. Observation and appreciation go together.

Learning the a, b, c, d of chemistry the fun way
Introducing the language of chemistry in class invokes mixed feelings amongst students and parents alike. When a child is introduced to the subject, learning the terminology is a must. Rote learning the symbols and valencies of elements becomes necessary. Here comes the problem of – ‘memorizing’, that looms large in front of most children, though some find it fun. So we end up playing a memory game in the class. A student starts off with saying aloud the symbol and name of that element. He is followed by the next student stating the symbol and the name of the element stated by the previous student and adding the symbol and name of another element. The next student (3rd one) states the two previous elements with their symbols and adds a new element with its symbol. The chain goes on like this and by the end of the class all the children would have learnt the names and symbols of around 20 to 25 elements. The last student thus states all the elements with their respective symbols. If needed, they can be prompted. The same can be done with the valency of the elements.

Atomic structure and valency
It is a joy to see the faces of children when the connectivity between valency and electronic configuration dawns on them. The concept of orbitals can be introduced in class IX to make chemical bonding interesting. The orbital concept must be dealt with in the most elementary way. Lone pairs in an element can be appreciated only then. Number of valence electrons minus valency divided by two gives the number of lone pairs. Again this can be extended when they learn the periodic table – the number of lone pairs remains the same in the same group.

The author did her Masters in Radio Chemistry from Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati. She has also taught research scholars and medical students at Hyderabad Science Society (BARC sponsored programme) and enjoys teaching school children. She can be reached at

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