ACS Science Coaches—Presentation Tips

The most common reason chemists become Science Coaches is they enjoy working with students. Students of all ages enjoy having guest presenters, so they will be more interested than usual during your classroom visit. For example, when you pose a question to a small group of students, they are going to really think (and respond), and when you praise their efforts and insights, they are going to feel like they have what it takes to do science. Knowing where students are developmentally and what they have to learn will help you interact with students more effectively.

Teaching Strategies

The teacher is the classroom management expert, so encourage him/her to help you whenever you present a demonstration or lesson to students. Teachers use strategies similar to those listed below to create an environment where students can participate and learn.

  • Learn and use students’ names
  • Require students to raise their hands for permission to speak
  • Use a signal to get the group quiet quickly
  • Stop and wait for attention from everyone before speaking; doing so will ensure that students will settle down and pay attention to you
  • Give “thinking time” after you ask a question; resist filling in the silence
  • Use concrete examples that reflect students’ experiences
  • With elementary students, praise attentive and helpful behavior; publicly acknowledging good behavior will encourage others to behave
  • With middle and high school students, ask questions one-on-one or in small groups; sit in a chair or squat down beside them to get the most thoughtful responses

Common Chemistry Topics

Follow the list of topics and concepts given by the teacher. In most cases, the district outlines what is taught at each grade level. The following topics are provided to give you an idea of what to expect.


Topics vary from district to district and grade level.

  • Water
  • Matter and its changes
  • Chemical change
  • Classification
  • Designing and conducting experiments
  • Measuring
  • Recording data

Middle School

Depending on your district, students may study chemistry only once between 6th and 8th grade or they may be taught smaller units spread out over the three years.

  • States of matter
  • Density
  • Physical and chemical change
  • Atoms, molecules, and the periodic table
  • Covalent and ionic bonds
  • Acids and bases
  • Designing and conducting experiments
  • Using tools of science
  • Measuring
  • Representing data
  • Developing explanations based on evidence

High School Chemistry

  • Acids and bases
  • Atomic theory
  • Bonding
  • Equilibrium
  • Nuclear chemistry
  • Organic / biochemistry
  • Periodicity
  • Reactions
  • Solids, liquids and gases
  • Solutions
  • Stoichiometry
  • Thermochemistry

Developmental Traits

Elementary School Students

  • Enjoy being helpful
  • Respond well to praise
  • Need concrete experiences
  • Can either handle equipment or listen (they can’t do both at the same time)
  • Openly show appreciation and enthusiasm

Middle and High School Students

  • Get embarrassed easily
  • Do not want to volunteer to assist in front of peers
  • More likely to participate in small groups than with the whole class
  • Need concrete experiences to help understand abstract concepts
  • Want learning to be relevant to their lives
  • Need praise even though they may not appear to respond to it
  • May not show appreciation even though they feel it