Asking for help can sometimes be a daunting task. Half of students aren’t in the habit of asking questions to their teacher when they need help – and it’s those students who get lower grades. Sending an email is a particularly good way to pose questions to your teacher because the teacher will respond when they have time. This means you might get a better-researched, more informative answer than if you asked them during the lesson.
But what should you write? If you want Chemistry help, try emailing your teacher with some of these phrases. Adjust each one to fit your specific situation.
When you want to arrange a time to meet
- “Mr Kennedy, are you free period 7 tomorrow to go over Hess’ Law calculations?”
- “Dear Sir, I’ve read through the textbook chapter and it still doesn’t make sense to me. Could you please explain it to me during a free period some time this week? Thank you!”
- “Dear Miss, I’ve attempted some of the homework questions and I just don’t know where to start. Could I meet up with you this week so you can explain it to me? I’ve been reading the textbook chapter and it still doesn’t make sense to me! Thank you”
When you want your work marked
- “Dear Sir, I’ve finished worksheets 3-6 on titrations. Could you please check my answers? They’re attached. Thanks!”
- “Dear Miss, Do you have answers to questions 1-25 that we did on Friday? Or, even better, if I give you my answers next lesson, could you correct them for me? Thanks!”
When you want to learn a particular topic
- “Dear Mr Kennedy, Could we please go over benzene rings in class? I’m not sure I understand them. Thanks”
- “Dear Miss, Can we please do a summary of bonding next lesson? I think I need to learn this again before the test. Thanks!”
When you want more practice materials
- “Sir, Do you have any more Unit 1 practice papers? I’ve finished the two you already gave us in class. Thanks”
- “Dear Mr Kennedy, Do you have any practice questions on buffer solutions? There seems to be only one question on this in the Heinemann Chemistry textbook. Thanks”
When you think the textbook or teacher is wrong
- “Dear Teacher, When we went through worksheet 7 in class, you wrote the relative molar mass of sodium thiosulfate to be 135.1. Isn’t it actually 158.1, which means the answer would actually be 0.309 M?”
- “Dear Mr Kennedy, On page 185, the textbook has the structural formula for sucrose without a hydroxyl group on the sixth carbon atom. Could you please check it? Is the book correct? Thanks!”
When you’re absent from class
- “Dear Mr K, Sorry I missed Thursday’s lesson. I was ill at home and missed two days of school. Could you please send me any work that I missed? Thank you”
- Dear Miss K, I have a Biology excursion on Monday and therefore won’t be able to do the SAC. Can I please reschedule it for another time next week? Thank you”
Finally… when you want some specific Chemistry help
- When asking questions to your teacher, it’s important that you number each question in the email. This makes it much easier for your teacher to refer to them in their response.
- Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about asking for Chemistry help. Just send the email or knock on your teacher’s door. Don’t apologise for asking your teacher questions! It’s your teacher’s responsibility to help students: they enjoy doing this, and this is why they chose to teach!
- An example “help” email is shown below.
“Dear Mr Kennedy, I have some questions about titrations:
(1) Why do titrations using 0.10 M ethanoic acid and 0.10 M hydrochloric acid require the same titre volume even though one is strong and one is weak?
(2) What’s the “pH range” referring to in the indicators section of the data booklet?
(3) I think I got question 4 wrong. Could you please check it for me?
(4) What’s the difference between benzene and cyclohexene?
(5) What are three different definitions of oxidation and reduction? I can only think of OIL RIG!
- Ask your classmate about their study habits. You may be able to explain how they can do homework more effectively.
- Pay special attention not to emphasize the depth of your understanding. Your goal is to work with the student, not to give them answers. Make sure that they are actively involved.
Express interest in the work of your peers. Ask “What parts of the assignment were you comfortable with?” Make sure you ask questions of each member of the group. While discussing the assignment, be sure to ascertain the depth of your peers' understanding. This conversation is the start of a potential study group that can make your classmates less dependent on your help.
Direct conversation to the homework assignment. Once the conversation gets going, direct the group to the first step of the first problem. You can say “Hey, that sounds like a good way to solve the first question.” Make sure that everyone is involved, even if it slows the process down. Interject small pointers in order to direct the group to the right answer, and give everyone a chance to understand each step.
Guide the study group. Encourage the impromptu group to work together. Point out that they are covering challenging points. Use your grasp of the topic to steer everyone to a consensus and then confirm "Yeah, that's what I got."
Encourage your peers to repeat the collective study effort. If you would like to work with them, offer to organize the study group. If you would like to continue studying independently, say “Hey, you guys can keep working together! With this study group, you can be sure that you’ll always complete your homework.” Praise their efforts and minimize your role so that they will be confident even without your leadership.
Tell the teacher that a study group has formed. The teacher’s recognition will help solidify the group, and it will emphasize each student’s responsibility for participating. Make your collective intentions clear and accept any guidance or help that your teacher may offer. Many high school teachers approve of study groups, and in college they are often the norm.