This in-class activity was used on the first day of Advanced Inorganic Chemistry in lieu of lecture to review symmetry operations and point groups in small molecules. The learning object was adapted to a small group discussion format from a fundamental quiz posted by Barbara Reisner (James Madison University) and a problem set question posted by Adam Johnson (Harvey Mudd College).
At the end of this in-class activity, students will be able:
- To recall the types of symmetry operations present in simple molecules including the nomenclature used for different types of mirror planes.
- To identify the distinguishing characteristics of each point group by thinking of a molecular example (preferably inorganic!) that belongs to that point group.
I let the students self-select into groups of 3-4 and provided them with a photocopy of a point group flowchart from an inorganic textbook. Although I expect them ultimately to be able to work without the aid of a flowchart, this was a necessary “jog” to their memory on the first day of class.
I collected the group scribe sheets at the end of class to get a sense of how they did although this was not a graded activity.
The attached document provides a quick overview of the common problems that students had with this activity. They generally did not get very far with the last question, thinking of molecular examples for common point groups. In the future, I would either provide more time, pare down the list to 5 or 6 key point groups, or follow up the activity with a problem set question.