Worksheets and lesson ideas to challenge students aged 11 to 16 to think hard about distillation (GCSE and Key Stage 3)
Distillation is a fantastic concept to teach as it brings together theory and practical work in a really meaningful way. Don’t underestimate it’s complexity as a concept as it requires lots of prior knowledge. Students will need to have a sound understanding of elements, mixtures and compounds, state changes and solutions before teaching how to separate them. Sometimes we overlook the concept of boiling point when teaching distillation, but it is really important that students understand that distillation only works when liquids have different boiling points. Although animations can be useful to teach distillation, it’s definitely worth demonstrating the full apparatus.
It may help students if distillation is introduced without the complex lab apparatus first. The video below is an example of such a set-up. Once students understand this idea, you can move on to explaining condensers, thermometers and round bottom flasks.
Different boiling points
A powerful way to demonstrate that liquids have different boiling points is to put a test tube of petroleum ether (40-60°C) in a beaker of kettle boiled water. Don’t use a Bunsen as petroleum ether is highly flammable. Students will see the petroleum ether bubbling but the water won’t be.
Key Stage 3 worksheet on distillation and making Ribena. Students read about how Ribena is made and use this context to answer questions on distillation and filtration. This task is best used once students have been introduced to the key concepts in distillation: evaporation and condensation. (PDF)
GCSE and KS3 worksheet on distillation. Students write a story about the experiences of a particle being distilled. They also consider the implications of an incorrect set-up of the distillation apparatus. (PDF)
Follow this link for resources and worksheets on the fractional distillation of crude oil.