I’m thinking about elements and compounds at the moment. I’m also thinking about language, constructing schemas, knowledge organisers and dual coding after a brilliant #CogSciSci meeting yesterday.


Pritesh Raichura showed us how he “drew out” the links between concepts and ideas behind a relatively straightforward mole equation. You can see some examples of some dual coding he’d done previously here. But the diagram he showed us in his talked was different. It was about showing how ideas link together. Which is really what a Knoweldge Organiser should be.

And Mark Hardman talked about how you can’t just “give” students schema and expect them to absorb it. They have to build it themselves. They have to make the links between ideas and concepts themselves.

And at the start of the day, both Amanda Fleck and Jasper Green had talked about language and literacy in Science. Words are not enough. Decoding isn’t enough. You have to really understand what the words mean, and how they link to other words. You have to be able to use them completely fluently: to be able to use the correct word in the appropriate context, and to still fully appreciate all the concepts and links behind it.

And I’ve been thinking about elements and compounds, and how they lie at the heart of everything we do, but how they aren’t always well understood. Even if students know the definitions, they might not really understand how they link to different ideas, contexts and concepts. And even if they can do all this, they need to be able to interpret them from diagrams, models and symbols. (Johnstone’s triangle, anyone?….).

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Anyway, I’ve been trying to combine all this and find a way of pulling them together. Comments appreciated. What have I got wrong? What have I forgotten? What’s in the wrong place? What needs to be added? Taken out?

Elements, compounds and language

The problem with helping students to udnerstand elements and compounds is that there’s so much language they need to understand. Not just element  and comopound, but also particle, atom, molecule, mixture. 

And even if students understand that something can be a molecule but also an element or a compound, how do you then introduce inorganic lattices at this stage? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you just stick to molymods and NaCl “molecules”. But then you’re setting up a load of misconceptions for later unpicking.

And then there’s chemical formulae….

Anyway… starting with the words and ideas, I want to try and find a way of displaying them helpfully. This is where I’ve got to.

You have to start with atoms. And I think you have to explain that these join together to make molecules. And you can have elements or mixtures of elements.


But these molecules can be liquids and solids as well as gases (as in the first representations). And it’s important to show that the molecules are still there, just “closter together”.


But atoms can also join to different atoms and make molecular compounds.


And these molecular compounds can also be liquids and solids, as well as gases (boxes on the left) or the atoms in the first step can simply “join together” to make a liquid or solid.


And you can also have mixtures of molecular compounds (and elements)- boxes on the left. Ot the atoms can join directly to other atoms in a regular arrangement to make a solid compund.


So overall, it looks a bit like this:


Does this look coherent? Helpful? At all?…