Atomic Model Timeline


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Image Source: Science with Mr. Enns


This is a great explanation as well – he has tons of Chemistry videos which are geared more towards High School and College Students.


Rocks, Fossils, and the Law of Superposition Sequencing Activity


  • Sequence information using items which overlap specific sets
  • Relate sequencing to the Law of Superposition
  • Show how fossils can be used to give relative dates to rock layers.


  • Fossils, Rocks, and the Law of Superposition Google Slides – this will walk you through the lesson step-by-step
  • Set of 8 cards for each groupsdownload from the UEN
    • additional lesson plan details on their site
    • print and cut apart the 8 cards for each part of the lesson
    • to set up the cards, use large 4×6 index cards and store in ziptop bags.
    • on one side of the index cards, glue on the nonsense letters
    • on the reverse side, glue on the fossil layers
      • laminate for durability
      • Replace the letters for each fossil layer, see my ppt for new random letters
        • spelling out the word “ORGANISM is way too easy for students to figure out and they will not really have a chance to work on the activity with the depth of thinking and problem solving that you want them to do
        • be sure to stagger cards so that the order of the cards is not the same, otherwise they will flip over the cards and have the answer for part 2
  • Notes HandoutLaw of Superposition Notes (pdf) students will take notes and record their answers on this handout.

Tips for this lesson:

This is a fantastic lesson and I have used it successfully with both 5th and 6th grade students. When introducing this lesson I use the analogy of a laundry hamper, or in most cases, the pile of dirty clothes on the floor in their bedroom. Today’s clothes would go on top of the pile, each day adding a layer of dirty clothes. The older clothes would be on the bottom of the pile, kind of like a timeline of what they wore this week. When that laundry is collected and moved to the laundry room, the layers would get disrupted. With rocks, the layers form on top of each other, and the older layers are on the bottom. We then brainstorm how those layers can be disrupted: earthquakes, tectonic plates moving, landslides, digging, etc…

For this activity, they have to figure out the pattern of how these layers are formed, and there are clues in each layer, they just need to know what to look for. For the nonsense letters, there is a pattern that connects all the layers together. Many will think it is alphabetical, but I tell them that it is not. Once they have worked on it a few minutes, I have them share their theories. Once each group has shared their theory, I give them the clue. And suddenly, the pattern is clear now that they know what to look for. Using the same strategy, they will then sequence the fossils on the reverse side of the index cards.


The Atoms Family


  • Google Slide Presentation (Public) – a fun way to introduce the parts of the atom and how to determine the numbers of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Get ready to do some singing and snapping 🙂
  • Handoutsvia

Color Coding Families on the Periodic Table

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!

Patterns of the Periodic Table: Finding Shells and Valence Electrons


  • 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
    • Older version: How to determine the number of valence electrons and shells using the element’s group number and period – Notes (pdf) and Slides (ppt)
  • Find that Element!” Worksheet (pdf)- Practice finding the period & group for each element


How to draw Lewis Structures – a step by step tutorial


  • Updated Google Slides (Public Link) with step-by-step instructions on how to draw Lewis Structures
  • Lewis Diagrams worksheets

How to draw Bohr Diagrams – a step by step tutorial

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.

Pangea Puzzle Activity

Puzzle Pieces: Landmasses in their current position (not to scale)

Essential Questions:

  • How has the surface of our planet changed over time?
  • What clues are provided to show that the surface of our planet has changed?
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Pangea: Image Source NYTimes

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



  1. Print out and glue landmasses to a piece of foam board
  2. Carefully cut out each land mass and fossil key
  3. Place into zip-top bag
Glue landmasses onto foam board then cut out pieces

Class Activity

  1. Have students place the landmasses into their current geographic positions on top of the blue construction paper.
  2. What do they notice about the landmasses? Discuss.
  3. Ask students: “Do you think you can make one large landmass using the clues provided?”
  4. After a few minutes, check on their progress, what did they do first? What was giving them difficultly? Encourage students to try alternate possibilities.
  5. Discuss findings, what possibilities did they come up with?
  6. Ask students how the landmasses moved to their current position- accept all possibilities.
  7. Ask students: “Are the landmasses are still moving?”
  8. Show “Animated Life: Pangea” by the NYTimes
  9. Have students try to create Pangea again.
  10. Discuss.

The Pangaea Pop-Up video is a great video to show also:

Real Time Earthquake Data Mapping Activity

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Image Source: USGS

Essential Questions:

  • Where do earthquakes occur?
  • How are earthquakes recorded and measured?
  • What is the relationship between earthquake location and magnitude?
  • How do earthquakes impact humans and the environment?


  • Internet Access & USGS Earthquake Data
    • this link is set to the following settings: 30 days, 2.5+ magnitude, terrain, and no plate boundaries
  • Google Sheets Template – one per table top map
    • Earthquake Data Mapping Activity (Public Template)
      • to edit this spreadsheet, make a copy for each map, then share editing rights with each group of students who will be working on that map
        • if you don’t use Google Drive, you can download the Google Sheet as an Excel spreadsheet
      • ex: Map A data is shared with 4 students from period 1, 4 students from period 2, 4 students from period 3, 4 students from period 4, and 4 students from period 5. When done, they will have 200 EQs plotted and color coded on the table top map.
  • Colored pencils or markers per map
  • 1 Table sized map per lab group (3-6 students) – printed and assembled
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Sampling of student data from different regions of the world


  1. Assemble one table map and materials per lab group.
  2. Show students how to use and navigate the USGS website, find EQ data, and how to record their data on the Google Spreadsheets.
  3. Assign each group a map and 1-2 regions of the world. They will collect 25 data points for each region. They can choose any EQs over a magnitude of 3.0 for their region(s).
  4. Once they have all of their data, they will plot the EQs onto the table map. The magnitude of the EQ is the color they will plot onto the map.
    1. ex. Magnitude of 7.5 will be a purple dot
  5. Students will analyze their data and look for patterns
    1. What regions of the world have EQs?
    2. What regions of the world had more EQs? Less?
    3. What regions of the world had lower magnitude EQs? Higher?
    4. Why are EQs located where they are?
    5. etc…
  6. After this activity, I introduced Plate Tectonics and we discussed the relationship between EQs and tectonic plates.


Bond with a Classmate Activity

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.

Lesson Worksheets: Bond with a Classmate Cards (pdf) and Bond with a Classmate worksheet (pdf)

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.