Archive : July 2018

Lesson Structure

Mr Khemistry

Recently i implemented a new lesson structure for the J2 classes, inspired by my Harvard teaching and learning course.

It’s easily remembered by the acronyms ABCDE, inspired by my son’s fascination with alphabets.

A for Aim – What’s the learning objective we’re trying to master today?

B for Big Idea – What’s the underlying concept behind this learning objective?

C for Culling – Which are the important information in the question stem?

D for Doing – In the prescribed time limit for the marks allocated.

E for Evaluation – Reflecting on the gaps in understanding, or careless mistakes.

In having this structure, students knew what is expected of them every single lesson, to go through the lesson knowing there is one main concept we need to learn. Some people might be worried that such structure will crimp creativity, actually i think the reverse is true. Having a well-defined lesson structure allows students the mental space and boundaries to explore, either with their discussions or with their questions and answers.

In the last lesson when i taught energy cycles, i was amazed at the variety of answers i got when they presented on the whiteboard after the D stage.

At the E stage, the different ways which they drew the energy cycle was really unexpected. Even the incorrect answers led us to identify new misconceptions.

I used to think lesson plans were unnecessary, but now i’m starting to see the value in having a broad structure for the lesson 🙂

Return to Home to find out more about JC Chem tuition with Mr Khemistry.

Posture for Learning

Mr Khemistry

Did you know that there’s a posture for learning? I didn’t until quite someone pointed out the link between posture and our physiological state of mind. 

A couple of examples:

You get angry and your nostrils flare, face turns red and your fists clench. 

Watching a scary movie and your heart beats faster, palms get sweaty and your breathing becomes shallow.

These are our bodies’ physical response to our state of mind, it works the other way too i.e. adjusting your body’s posture will alter your state of mind.

E.g. Before you step up the stage to give a presentation, you breathe deeply to calm your nerves.

Breathing deeply also works to cool down anger.

So what IS the posture for learning?

As teachers, we know that our enthusiasm and passion for what we are teaching will rub off on the students we are teaching. We learn how to engage students and keep their attention. 

How about students? What should you do to ensure that you are in the best frame of mind for learning? First, take note of what NOT to do.

  1. Passive listening 
  2. Folding of arms
  3. Leaning back on your chair or slouching/sleeping on your desk
  4. Staring into space
  5. Constantly checking your handphone

What kind of posture encourages learning?

  1. Relevant notes on your desk with pen and highlighter ready
  2. Sitting up and leaning slightly forward
  3. Engaging with what the teacher is saying, ask questions when in doubt

Happy Learning! 🙂



Thinking about the “M” word

Mr Khemistry

No, not money…Memory! 🙂

Many have argued that our system of education is antiquated because a good grade is usually dependent on memorizing large chunks of information. 

Why do we need to remember so much information when we have unprecedented access to huge amounts of data to literally anything at our fingertips?

I would say that without knowing the basic knowledge, there’s no way we can critically think about higher order questions. For example, in organic chemistry, we cannot begin to think about synthesis and deductive questions if we do not have basic knowledge of reagent and conditions involved in various reactions. 

So how do we improve our memory?

Firstly, it’s important to recognize our memory works in three steps, Encoding, Storage and Retrieval. 

Encoding – In the context of school/tuition, it is mostly via visual and sound encoding. Semantic (what something means) encoding is the most effective as the information will likely be stored under our Long Term memory.

Storage – Information is either stored in the Short Term Memory (STM) or Long Term Memory (LTM). Research have shown that students who simply read through their notes and tutorials tend to store the information in their STM. Constant reviewing, practicing and reflecting upon their mistakes helps move the information into the LTM.

Retrieval – Some methods of improving retrieval of information: State dependent learning, being in the environment you are in when you first learn helps you recall better. Schemas/acronyms, mental shortcuts that help you organize and understand new information. Chunking/mindmaps – grouping similar information together allows easier recall. Frequent short tests/quiz helps retention as well. 

Lastly, remember our brain is a muscle and it gets stronger when it is used more. Conversely, if you don’t like to think and enjoy being a passive consumer….it atrophies. Our brains can be filled with junk or it can be filled with all kinds of valuable knowledge. It can also get malnutrition from lack of “brain food” and burdened by negative emotions/stress hormones. Treat it well.

Share this with someone if you found it useful! 🙂


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