This is a fun way to introduce the families of the periodic table and their properties. The students really enjoy watching the video clips from Periodic Table Videos and the experiments performed by the Chemistry Department at the University of Nottingham.
As a class, we found the location of each family, recorded the elements for each family, discussed their properties, color coded the periodic table, and discussed any patterns they noticed.
- Google Slides (Public) – updated for 2016 with links to the YouTube videos to view an element in each family
- Handout – (pdf) students take notes for each family and use this is a reference for further lessons
- Periodic Table – (Updated 2016 pdf) I like to use this student version of the periodic table from Jefferson Lab for my 6th graders. I photocopy it double sided – one side stays blank while the other side is color coded. If students have binders with a clear pocket on the outside front, I ask that they place it there for quick reference and access.
This activity was featured on the following blog post: The Joy of Chemistry – A Unit in Photos a few years ago. You can read about how she used this lesson in her 3rd grade classroom as part of her Chemistry unit.
Below is a video about Sodium from Periodic Table Videos. They have a lot of great chemistry videos posted for free on their site, be sure to check them out!
- Google Slides – students will learn how to find the number of energy levels (shells) for elements in periods 1 – 8 and the number of valence electrons in their outer shells using the periodic table. Updated (Public link)
- Handout – updated Shells & Valence Electrons
- “Find that Element!” Worksheet (pdf)- Practice finding the period & group for each element
I updated the Google Slides and worksheet for my lesson on drawing Bohr Diagrams. This lesson will walk your students through the basics on how to draw a Bohr Diagram for the first 20 elements on the periodic table. I also created a simple worksheet for students to record their drawings and do independent practice.
You can access them at:
For additional lessons related to atoms and the periodic table, please click on the tags below.
- How has the surface of our planet changed over time?
- What clues are provided to show that the surface of our planet has changed?
Materials (per 2-3 students): I make these ahead of time to save time in class and I can reuse them for each class.
- Foam Board
- Glue stick
- Disposable scalpel or sharp craft knife
- USGS landmasses (Pangaea activity PDF)
- Blue construction paper
- Ziptop bag
- Print out and glue landmasses to a piece of foam board
- Carefully cut out each land mass and fossil key
- Place into zip-top bag
- Have students place the landmasses into their current geographic positions on top of the blue construction paper.
- What do they notice about the landmasses? Discuss.
- Ask students: “Do you think you can make one large landmass using the clues provided?”
- After a few minutes, check on their progress, what did they do first? What was giving them difficultly? Encourage students to try alternate possibilities.
- Discuss findings, what possibilities did they come up with?
- Ask students how the landmasses moved to their current position- accept all possibilities.
- Ask students: “Are the landmasses are still moving?”
- Show “Animated Life: Pangea” by the NYTimes
- Have students try to create Pangea again.
The Pangaea Pop-Up video is a great video to show also:
My 6th graders recently completed “Bond with a Classmate” from Tracy’s ScienceSpot website. I have used this activity successfully with both 5th and 6th grade science classes over the years. Here is the description form her website:
Bond with a Classmate (Gail Sanders, Monroe Middle School, Wheaton, IL)
In this activity from Gail Sanders, a member of the MidLevel Science Teachers group in Northern Illinois, students are given a tag (or necklace) to wear with the symbol of an ion and its oxidation number. Positive ions are green and the negative ions are blue. The students are instructed to “bond” with other ions and keep a record of their bonds. Students had to work with their bonding partner to agree on and write a formula and name for the compound they formed. Once that was done, they could break the bond and find a different ion with which to bond. After 5 bonds, students switch tags with another student and start bonding again.
I have a modified version of the student handout posted here (link pdf file). If you have a smaller group of students, I would suggest changing cards after 3 bonds. When a student has successfully made 3 bonds, they come up to my desk, I quickly check their bonds for correctness, and then give them an oppositely charged ion. For example, if a student is Mg +2, they would then receive Cl -1 and make 3 bonds with that new ion.
The version in the video posted above is a more challenging version of the activity, I would suggest 8th grade or higher. Bond with James – free lesson plan on TPT (link). You can also combine both set of cards.
I don’t use the yarn for this activity, the students carry the cards around with them and it is easier for them to place the cards on the table when they pair up so they can write down the formula and compound name more easily instead of looking down and upside down at their cards.
If you have used this activity, would love to hear how it worked with your students and if you have any other ideas to add to this lesson.
- Molecular Model Kits – 1 kit per group of 4 students
- Student Handout – updated for 2015 (pdf)
- Formula cards (pdf) – print, cut apart, laminate
- 1 set per group of 4 students
- colored pencils
- periodic table
For this activity, students will practice reading formulas, counting atoms, building molecules, and identifying bond types. This activity can be used in several different ways.
Different stations can be set up around the classroom with 2-4 formulas per stations. Each station will have enough supplies to create the models indicated. Students will complete one station at a time, have their work spot checked for completion, and then proceed to an open station. Making duplicate stations helps prevent bottle necking at the stations that take longer to complete.
You can either do timed rotations or have students move freely when they are done. Some stations will be more difficult than others and extra time will be needed for students to complete those models. I like to have several “Make your Own” stations around the room to facilitate movement and give the students more time to explore model making.
Instead of stations, each lab group will have a complete set of formula cards and a molecular model kit. 4 students will share the materials and students can work with a partner or individually. The models can be completed in any order, this helps free up the materials so that not all students are waiting to use the Carbon or Sodium atoms.
If there are students who finish early, they can check their answers by matching the model images with the formulas using the answer cards (see below). Or they can create games with a partner using the cards.
Samples of Formula Cards and Answers
Free Task Card Templates provided by: Rebecca Bishop at TPT (link) ~ thank you!
- Some of the molecules have both Ionic and Covalent bonds and are indicated on the cards
- One molecule has a double bond – CO2
- One molecule has a triple bond – N2
- Metals are: Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium
- Non-Metals are: Hydrogen, Chlorine, Oxygen, Carbon, Nitrogen
Be sure to see my Chemistry page (link) for more lessons related to atoms and bonding.