INTRODUCTION TO CHEMISTRY is a multisensory thematic unit which will introduce basic concepts in Chemistry to students with moderate mental retardation between the ages of nine and thirteen. While this unit is intended for students with special needs, regular education teachers at the primary level may find this information appropriate for their classes. INTRODUCTION TO CHEMISTRY will integrate many curriculum areas around the common theme of basic chemistry. This unit will provide background information necessary to the planning of varied lessons. In addition, this unit will provide the teacher with teaching methodology, sample lesson plans, and an annotated bibliography.
INTRODUCTION TO CHEMISTRY is intended to meet the specific needs of my students. I teach students with moderate mental retardation at the primary level. In addition, other significant needs such as expressive/receptive language disorders, significant visual impairment, and gross/fine motor difficulties present themselves. Some of my students experience receptive language problems which inhibit their ability to process oral information. Other students experience expressive language problems which impede their ability to demonstrate understanding with responses to questioning. Therefore, I must present information in a variety of ways using as many modalities as possible. I use a multi-sensory, hands-on approach to teaching which allows for experimentation by students within the unit. Therefore, I rely heavily on the theory of multiple intelligences as a means of presenting information and creating alternative methods of assessing students' knowledge. I utilize technology as a means for assessing knowledge. A computer program entitled Board maker is used to create pictorial representations of what is said or read. When planning a lesson, one can select the vocabulary that will be used and find "universal pictures" to illustrate the word and its meaning. Therefore, the student can participate in the lesson by "reading" the directions, making choices, and expressing a thought . When one can pinpoint certain vocabulary and provided a means for presenting the vocabulary, a students' understanding is enhanced. Therefore in this unit, I will include a section on the necessity of a common vocabulary with consistent, basic vocabulary as a method for creating a common understanding.
It has been my experience that science is a wonderful content area to develop topics for thematic units. Students enjoy playing the scientist on the journey to discovery. They are able to fully participate in their learning through questioning and experimentation. The students will be able to repeat experiments in a science center and perhaps design their own experiments to enhance their ability to interact with the material being taught. In addition, science is based on first principles which are often simple and concrete in nature. Therefore, I am able to break down topics into basic components for teaching which one can then build upon as a carpenter builds a house upon a foundation.