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Years 7-11 Students


Curriculum Overview

We believe that in order to be a great chemist, students need to be able to develop their powerful knowledge and understanding of the golden threads of Chemistry: Particles, The Periodic Table and Chemical reactions. Our aim is for our students to not only be able to explain theoretical concepts but can investigate them practically for themselves. Students will learn how to analyse both quantitative and qualitative data and link this to different chemical concepts plus be able to link across to the other two science specialisms.  

As staff we understand the huge importance of chemistry to the modern world- how knowledge of chemistry is used to meet global challenges and how so many materials and technologies we now take for granted just wouldn’t have been possible without chemistry. We want our students to understand this too.  We teach them how chemistry is used to find new, more environmentally ways of extracting valuable metals from dwindling resources, how chemists can make manufacturing processes faster and more efficient and why an understanding of chemistry can help in tackling complex global issues like climate change.  

The rationale behind our curriculum design is in the way that certain topics allow students to master their practical skills alongside the powerful knowledge they are gaining. Many of the topics are taught on a spiral curriculum throughout all key stages, such as acids and bases, atoms and molecules which allows students to further deepen their knowledge and build connections as they move up through the years. Students are continually exposed to different retrieval practice methods to check that their knowledge is secure and that it is revisited to minimise forgetting.  

We provide a vast amount of extra-curricular experiences for all our students as we know that many of our students have a very inquisitive and curious mindset and we want to do all that we can to nurture this. From Years 7 through to Year 13 students can get involved in: STEM club, RSC Top of The Bench competitions, Chemistry Quizzes at different schools/universities, Chemistry Olympiad and Cambridge Chemistry Challenge for Post-16 students. Sixth form students also have the opportunity for practical work at local universities and we invest heavily in the different Chemistry career prospects available to our students.  

Year 9  

The Year 9 chemistry content starts with a topic called Atoms, Ions and Isotopes which we have devised ourselves. It starts with a recap of key definitions (atoms, element, compound, mixture, etc) and then brings together the particle model (from KS3) and expands it to encompass the nature of the subatomic particles and the full structure of the atom. Once this is established, we then teach the students to use the periodic table accordingly to work out the relevant numbers of each sub atomic particle there are in an element. What an ‘ion’ is and how it is different to an elemental atom is then explored but we do not teach any bonding at this stage. Isotopes are covered here because it is important that they know the mass number is an average of the masses of the isotopes which is all based on nuclear structure. We also reinforce the KS3 understanding the students have about the ‘conservation of mass’ in reactions and show them the importance of balancing simple chemical symbol equations so that the number of each element is the same on either side of the arrow. We look at the historical side of the development of the model of the atom (from Aristotle, Dalton Thomson, Rutherford, Bohr and Chadwick) and use this as a good opportunity to reinforce the ideas from KS3 that the scientific status quo should always be questioned and when evidence is gathered by scientists, it should be rigorously cross-examined. Theories and models of scientific ideas have developed in this way and have led us to the modern model of the atom. A HW booklets and a STAR marked HW piece is in the topic for the students to be given some feedback on. There is limited scope for class practicals in this topic but some teacher’s demos are available. Assessment at the end of the topic for term 1 tracking.  

After ½ term, the Year 9s then move on to a practical topic called ‘chemical analysis’. It is placed here because it builds on some KS3 chemical tests the students have already explored (e.g. CO2 bubbled through limewater turns it cloudy) but is expanded to look at the tests for oxygen, hydrogen and chlorine gas. Where we used word equations for these reactions in Year 8, we now use balanced symbol equations as taught in topic 1. The practical skills (safety, lab organisation and being able to listen to and read instructions) are reinforced in this topic. An important theme throughout this topic is also the idea of separating mixtures (fractional distillation, chromatography, filtration, crystallisation). The first (of 8) required practicals is covered here which is chromatography. Again, there is a HW booklet and STAR marked HW piece for this topic. Assessment is set which incorporates content from this topic plus the previous topic (Atoms, Ions & Isotopes)  

After Christmas of Year 9, the students cover ‘Periodic table I’. We thought about doing this topic as part of the first topic but decided that the practicals in ‘chemical analysis’ provided a contrast to the theoretical side of the subject. Periodic table 1 is a chance to recap some of the principles of the structure of the periodic table covered in topic 1. The topic starts with a sequence of lessons that again looks at the history of the periodic table and how Newland’s ideas were expanded on by Mendeleev and that while the modern periodic table is considered to be a triumph of one man’s thinking, it is once again the culmination of much dogged research by different people over the years. We then look at the trends in reactivity of the group 1 alkali metals and the group 7 halogens. Word and symbol equations for some reactions are explored and balancing equations again revisited (this is necessary throughout the course). The trends are not fully explained at this stage and displacements of halogens is also not covered here as it is conceptually very hard to understand if you do not know about ionic and covalent bonding i.e. why does 2KBr à Br2 when it is displaced. Not much scope for class practicals but some classic teacher demos here. This is a short topic and while there are important opportunities for HW throughout the SoW, there is no HW booklet or STAR marked HW piece designated.  

Topic 4 is a short visit to ‘chemical calculations’. The idea behind teaching some of this difficult and what is traditionally a Y11 topic now in Year 9 is that by spreading out the learning and giving lots of opportunity to revisiting/interleaving key ideas (e.g. as future lesson starters), there will be a sound reinforcement of the important principles that are necessary. It also provides a refreshing contrast to the content so far this year. Many of the students at IGS are extremely capable mathematicians and that discipline being able to linked to chemistry inspires them. We only really teach the students how to establish the Ar of an element and the Mr of a compound/molecule. This is simple addition of the mass numbers on the periodic table and only takes a cycle of lessons.  

Before term 2 has finished we start another contrasting topic called ‘using resources’ with the Year 9s. This is an excellent opportunity to show the students what chemists/chemical engineers are doing with the subject in industry. The main idea behind the topic is the management of water. This involves the ideas behind turning very contaminated waste water into potable water that we drink. We complete our 2nd required practical here which is the purification of water by simple distillation.  The idea of renewable and finite resources is explored and that products need a ‘life cycle assessment’. The 3 Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) are covered too. This topic is quite different to those the come before it as it looks at some of the bigger picture ideas such as burning fossil fuels and climate change. Pollution, disposal of waste products and changing land use are all aspects that environmental chemists study and this provides opportunity for stimulating debate and open ended projects for the year 9s. There is a HW booklet and a STAR marked piece for this topic. The Year 9 EOY exam in Term 3 is where this and all preceding topics are assessed.  

Following on from the exam, the Year 9s complete a practical project based on the ISAs of the old science specification. This provides an excellent opportunity for the students to write a hypothesis and plan their own investigation in groups using key ideas from KS3 (health and safety, variables, validity, accuracy, precision, graph drawing, table drawing, analysing, concluding, etc.). They then complete the investigation and gather data to analyse. It allows the student to put into practice much of practical skills they have been taught this year.  As teachers it means that we can make sure that the students are not leaving Year 9 without being proficient at such skills i.e. no one should be arriving in year 10 not being able to draw a graph from some data! 

 Year 10 

Year 10 starts with new classes/new teachers and combined and separate chemists on slightly different paths. The year starts with topic 8 ‘rates of reaction’. This fun and practical topic is another opportunity to reinforce laboratory and investigative skills and to complete the next required practical in the GCSE course. An assessment at the end of this topic will incorporate content from this topic plus fundamental ideas from Periodic Table 1. Topic 9 is ‘Energy changes’. This 8-lesson sequence has considerable maths in it and another required practical looking at temperature change in a reaction. Again, this practical is another important checkpoint for judging whether the students in the class can clearly define which the dependent and independent variables are in an investigation and whether they can plan it so as to be a valid and fair test. Challenging bond energy calculations are also covered at this point for all classes even though it will not be on the Foundation paper. It is tempting to just teach the batteries and fuel cells part of this topic to the separate chemists now but we have decided against it because they have little understanding of half reactions and REDOX equations – this will be slotted in later after electrolysis is covered.  

Topic 7 is ‘periodic table II’. This obviously follows on from the Year 9 topic and takes idea of trends in the periodic table to the next level. The students are now fully expected to be able to explain the trends in reactivity as you descend group 1 and group 7. Halogen displacement reactions are also covered in detail now - the structure and bonding knowledge acquired in topic 6 allows this to be done effectively. One of the biggest diversions for the separate chemists occurs in topic 7 as they learn about the transitions metals and then they do a large required practical on testing for positive and negative ions using various chemical methods.  Topic 11 is a short topic on metals. This topic is especially useful at this time of the course because it links many previous together. For example, metal displacement reactions are linked back to halogen displacements reactions and allow a useful recap. Ore mining practises allow a recap to year 9 ‘Using resources’ topic. Topic 12 is also where REDOX equations and half equations are first properly introduced. There are some interesting demos that teachers can do (e.g. thermite and silver precipitation). Separate chemists to include detail on metal alloys here. STAR marked HW pieces here andlots of opportunity for formative assessment as the topic progresses. An assessment is placed here which tests the students knowledge and application from the previous topics. 

Structure and Bonding is taught in the middle of Year 10 as it is the largest and trickiest topic for students. The whole of structure and bonding is based around the models we have for the structures and until the students are in Year 10, we believe that most of them have not sufficiently developed in their understanding of science to full grasp these ideas. It draws on Year 9 content by needing the students to know the structure of the atom and how to use the periodic table and the idea of a noble gas electron configuration being important to making the atom more stable (making ions). We now look at how covalent bonding, ionic bonding, metallic bonding and at monatomic elements. If the students understand the bonding and the structure, they will understand (and be able to predict) what properties the substances will have (conductivity, melting point, etc). There are especially interesting aspects to this topic which enthuse the students (e.g. how pure carbon can be such contrasting substances as diamond and graphite based on simply on how bonds are forming around each carbon atom) and some potential for simple practical investigations. Separate chemists will complete a small extra part on nanoparticles. This is ideally placed as the students need to be quoting figures in standard form (x 10x) and has been taught in the maths specification for year 10s. 

Towards the end of the year mocks take place for the Year 10 students. Previous lessons will include different effective revision strategies and regular retrieval and spaced practice. 

Year 11 

Topic 12 ‘chemical calculations’ is taught next. This very challenging topic is rooted in the Year 9 calculations topic and that early foundation allows a quick start with the more demanding content now. The separate chemists have considerably more to do here and will go on to cover titrations (required practical). An assessment on both metals and calculations will fit in here.  

The second half of term 1 is focused on topic 13 ‘acids, bases and salts’ and the penultimate required practical (making soluble salts from in insoluble base). This topic is the culmination of all the word and symbol equation practice the students have done over the last 2 years and is now where they should freely be writing balanced symbol equations for neutralisation reaction. 

Term 2 of Y11 starts with Y11 mock exams and then we go straight into Topic 14 ‘electrolysis’. This topic is where half equations and REDOX chemistry skills are honed and the final required practical is completed. There are many ‘rules’ to remember for this and the Year 11s are normally very focused at this stage and take these on readily. It’s also a great time to reinforce some of the REDOX chemistry in the mining of ore processes discussed in Topic 11 (at the end of Year 10 when those focus is less acute!). Before term 2 ends, we should have started Topic 15 ‘organic chemistry’. This topic covers crude oil, fractional distillation and cracking and provides useful links to Year 9 ‘using resources’ topic for revision purposes. There is a large amount of extra content on various organic reactions for the separate chemists to be taught here but they would probably have started it around ½ term of term 1 so are a bit further ahead. Both the combined and the separate scientists should cover polymerisation here although that is only one lesson for the combined and several (including DNA and biochemistry) for the separate scientists. The separate chemists should also include composites here as it is a standalone piece of understanding but fits in well with polymerisation. 

To finish Year 11 Topic 16 is called ‘the chemistry of the atmosphere’ and it is a relatively straightforward one. It provides ample opportunity to recap a lot of the principles learnt earlier in Year 9 for example, such is life-cycle assessments and water purification. It is also the type of topic which because, it’s not too demanding, allows some space for larger and more summative past paper homeworks to be delivered which facilitate the revision of earlier topics.

Further Information:

Learning Journey

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