I was handed nothing but a textbook to teach a chemistry class. So I designed a curriculum ...

After finding all the best resources from Teach for America (TFA) alumni and scouring the web, my list of problems developed.

  • Not enough practice problems
  • Poor formatting
  • Problems aren't scaffolded
  • No application
  • Disorganized files
  • No congruency between notes, problems, and PowerPoints
  • Too complex of vocabulary
Teachers are criticized for reinventing the wheel. To me, the wheel parts were there, they just needed to be put together.

I created a Chemistry curriculum for the no-textbook-needed teacher. It is comprised of 325+ resources. Each lesson took 8+ hours to develop and has been tested and refined in the classroom. 

notable impacts

  • Created a webpage so all teachers have free access the chemistry curriculum


The blog has 11,600+ page views all time. 

  • I've mentored two other teachers using my resources. One has gone on to mentor other teachers.
  • Several lessons and tests have been used as the exemplary models for Teach for America chemistry resources

designed a specific, optimized Format for each resource

My students are exposed to a familiar, intentional design for all their notes, practice sheets, quizzes, and PowerPoints. 

Unique characteristics of my design:

  • The vocabulary follows the ELI5 (explain like I'm five) principle
  • Developed through trial and error by teaching through the entire chemistry curriculum six times
  • The tests are formatted similarly to the ACT

In the image to the right, I've highlighted some formatting rules I follow when designing notes for a lesson.

Curriculum is data driven

I use a tracker to evaluate the success of each lesson and how well individual students learn the material.

In 2013, in a school of 1,500 students, I was one of three teachers recognized for my outstanding teaching because of 1. the relationship I built with my students and 2. the proof of success that the students were achieving.

Designed Original Diagrams to Teach Scientific Principles

None of these pictures are to be understood on their own. Students interact with them to learn content.

For example, to teach vapor pressure and boiling point, we use a molecular diagram. Students can cross out external molecules to see how vapor pressure changes with different atmospheres (i.e., high altitude, low altitude, space, etc.).

Various pictures I created to teach complex ideas.

The curriculum is organized, adaptable, and complete

Organized: The curriculum is almost biblical in the sense that it is broken down by unit, day, and fact.

Unit 2, Day 2, Fact 1 is "the atomic number is always the number of protons."

Adaptable: It is easy to rearrange, add, or subtract both facts and days because of how everything is broken down.

Complete: All 75+, 1hr lessons, have notes, practice problems, PowerPoint, and a relevant quiz. Every unit has a test, a practice test, and a unit vision.


The diagram shows the adaptability of the curriculum. Content covering nuclear chemistry is broken down into five days. There are specific problems in the unit test and in the midterm that correspond to those particular days. So, if you don't want to teach a particular fact or skill, you can easily find what day that fact is in and which questions on the exams that students would not be able to answer.

I had one question—what can I do that MIT open courseware can't do?

You can't learn Spanish just by listening to someone talk in Spanish. Similarly, teaching biology begins with the actual teaching of science vocabulary. 

Common Vocabulary based issues in biology resources

  • Few methods practice using vocabulary
  • Too many new vocabulary words are taught at once
  • More breadth vs. depth
  • Lack of application; lack of purpose
  • Missing easy jumps to current science issues

Created Tests and notes that focus around specific vocabulary

Tests: I give both a vocabulary test and a multiple choice/written test. Students must score an 80% on the vocabulary test to take the multiple choice test. Why? How can you apply vocabulary if you don't know the vocabulary?

Notes: My students take notes directly on notecards.

Benefits of strategy: 

  • Provides a tool they can study from (the notecard)
  • Shows students exactly what they need to learn.
  • Allows for conversation to talk about learning strategies (see diagram)

Initial Signs of Success

  • I taught three students AP Biology for one semester. All we used was notecards. One student received a four, another received a three. The third student, who barely passed my class, received a two.
  • All my students (40) in freshman biology were all able to get an 80% or higher on a test with 63 vocabulary words and facts.

Designed Novel, Practice worksheets grounded in application

I've designed 35+ worksheets that are 20min activities where students independently learn something new about the world using the vocabulary they have been learning.

Real Science: Worksheets

Students are walked through a concept that uses new vocabulary words and test their comprehension by analyzing graphs, tables, and diagrams.

Real Science: Readings

Based on Teach for America's best practices in English classes, Real Science Readings prompt previous knowledge, guide students through readings, and help them analyze what they've read.

Im still experimenting

The beauty of education is that it's never solved. 

10min Notecard Jams:  Immediately after I give a lesson, I have students take 10min to teach each other the new vocabulary and concepts before they venture into the real science worksheet.

Call and Response: I'm finding students are having difficulty pronouncing words. I'll use EmmaSaying or the online dictionary pronunciation of words so students can hear and repeat the word.

Google Searches: To build a better visualization of material, I'll google vocabulary words and see what images arise. We then compare and contrast images to each other to get a better understanding of the vocabulary we're learning.

Written Summaries: After each Real Science, I have students take 10min to summarize the point of the worksheet. It's been shown writing down what you've learned is one of the best ways of learning.