Graphene: The Next Wonder Material?

American Chemical Society
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Instructor Guide/Manual , Article
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



The article, from the American Chemical Society’s October 2012 edition of ChemMatters, introduced graphene, an allotrope of carbon. Graphene provides an opportunity for students to examine how the molecular level structure of a material is important to the functioning of the material by comparing the properties of graphene to other allotropes of carbon, graphite, diamond, and coal. The article includes a brief discussion of other allotropes of carbon for comparison to emphasize how the bonding arrangements of atoms is important to the properties of the material. A Teacher’s Guide is available with suggestions for how to use the article and background information for the teacher. This resource and the Spanish translation of the article are available here:

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Grade 12
  • Grade 10
  • Grade 11
  • Grade 9
  • High School
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

HS-PS2-6 Communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the attractive and repulsive forces that determine the functioning of the material. Examples could include why electrically conductive materials are often made of metal, flexible but durable materials are made up of long chained molecules, and pharmaceuticals are designed to interact with specific receptors.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to provided molecular structures of specific designed materials.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The article and accompanying video does include a comparison of the bonding arrangement of carbon atoms in graphene in contrast to the arrangements in coal, diamond, and graphite. In order to clearly address this PE, the discussion of the article needs to emphasize this. One of the questions in the Teacher’s Guide that supports this discussion is: “How does the molecular structure of graphene differ from the other allotropes of carbon— diamond and graphite?” This question can be used to support students in thinking about what the article says about the arrangements of atoms in these allotropes prior to a whole class discussion. In order to emphasize this as a key idea in the article for discussion, a teacher may choose to use a combination of the reading resources in the Teacher’s Guide for supporting students before, during, and after reading. Read below for further suggestions in this review for emphasizing the Crosscutting Concept of Structure and Function.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The article describes possible uses of graphene as related to the properties of the material. Reading activities suggested in the Teacher’s Guide can support students in organizing the information, yet to address this practice, students may need support in paraphrasing skills and will need to be lead to summarize the overall central idea stated in the article as: “The way atoms are connected to each other in solid materials has a huge impact on their overall properties.” Some ideas for working with students on paraphrasing and summarizing skills is available from the OWL at Purdue,

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Ideas presented in the article emphasize the ability of atoms to bond in different arrangements. The different bonding arrangements of carbon atoms in diamond, graphite, and graphene, account for the different properties of these materials. Students should be directed to this key idea with attention to Figure 2 in the resource and support with 3-D representation (physical or virtual) when available. The article does not address how it is possible for carbon to form multiple bonding patterns creating the different allotropes of carbon. Students with prior knowledge of bonding including valence electrons and VSEPR theory should be asked to justify how different forms exist using these ideas. Alternatively, this article can motivate questions about how it is possible for carbon to bond in different arrangements and lead to further learning about valence electrons, bonding, and molecular geometry.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
This resource can be used to address the idea that the molecular substructure of materials affects the properties of those materials. Before reading, students should be asked to consider what they know about familiar allotropes of carbon: diamond and graphite. Videos, molecular models, and other resources should be used to support this discussion. Students could complete a graphic organizer individually or in groups with what they know about the familiar materials. During reading, students could add to the ideas they collected from the before reading activity and add new learning about graphene to an organizer like that found on page 21 of the Teacher’s Guide. After reading, students consider questions like #1-2 found on page 4 of the Teacher’s Guide. Emphasis in the discussion should be placed on the structure of graphene in relation to the properties of this material.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Overall, the resource provides opportunities to develop and use all three dimensions of the NGSS. The resource odes not provide explicit opportunities for using the three dimensions together to support students in making sense of phenomena. Figure 2 in the article is an important diagram for supporting students’ understanding of the structure and function relationships described in the article, yet its small size and placement far down the page under-emphasizes its importance for students. Furthermore, the video linked from the article page is simply an audio-visual retelling of the article. It would be of greater benefit to have the reading activities and supporting resources better emphasize the central idea around the structure and function relationship for the design of materials.

  • Instructional Supports: The Teacher’s Guide includes suggestions for reading activities for students. Resources also include a Spanish translation that could be used in a dual language immersion setting and a video version of the reading that can help support students who have vision impairments or read well below grade level. However, there is no clear guidance for how to utilize these supplementary resources for supporting all students. Furthermore, the resource is lacking instructional supports that would allow opportunities for students to explore methods for representing their ideas in ways that align to NGSS.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Resources in the Teacher’s Guide provide suggestions for formative assessment monitoring student progress. Better guidance is needed on how to use these resources at different stages of the lesson using Close Reading strategies and allow for providing ongoing feedback to students. Some strategies for Close Reading can be found here:

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: While this is a web-based resource, there is not strong emphasis on having students interact with the technology as a key feature of the learning.