Periodic Table Basics

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Students will be able to identify the major parts of the periodic table and explain the properties of metals, non-metals, and metalloids through taking notes, watching a video, coloring periodic tables, and performing an activity.

Big Idea

The periodic table is an important tool for understanding the chemical and physical properties of elements.


In this lesson students are introduced to the Periodic Table as a way to organize elements.  Although students should have seen the periodic table at the middle school level I have found that most of my students are not familiar with the different components of the table.

Students are taking notes while simultaneously coloring in a periodic table to reinforce the different components of the table.  Additionally, as students learn about metals, non-metals, and metalloids they are given a chance to examine some common elements and characterize them.

  • This lesson aligns with NGSS Performance Expectation: HS-PS1-1: Use the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.
  • This lesson also aligns with NGSS Cross Cutting Concept 1: Patterns.  It does so because the patterns that guide the organization of the Periodic Table are key to help with the classification of elements and should promote student to question why the patterns exist.

Within this lesson there are several resources I use.

  1. When explaining metals I show students examples of malleable by holding up a sheet of lead or copper or aluminum foil, and examples of ductile by holding up copper or lead wire.
  2. I have students classify samples at the end of the notes.  Do do this I give each group a bag of four containers (carbon, lead, tin, and silicon) where they can examine each of the four containers.


10 minutes

I begin this lesson by having students think about why there is a periodic table.  This is located on the first slide of the PowerPoint

After giving students a minute to think on their own I have them share with their partners at their table for a few minutes.  I then call on groups to share out their thoughts and make sure to repeat their ideas so the whole class to hear.

After groups have shared out I tell the class, "The goal of the periodic table is to help organize the elements so that we can better understand their properties and predict their behavior." 

I then play the Tom Lehrer video of the elements either through the flash animation or through you tube.


40 minutes

When I introduce the material for this section I present a Power Point while students fill in a Notes Graphic Organizer and color in a Periodic Table.  The Periodic Table I use is the same one from the California Standards Test.

I start the PowerPoint on Slide 3 with the history of the Periodic Table and have students only fill in a summary at the end of the slide.

I then go through each of the important parts of the Periodic Table including atomic number, atomic mass, symbol, groups, periods, transition metals, lanthanides, actinides, metals, non-metals, metalloids, and groups with special names. 

When I go through properties of metals, non-metals, and metalloids I use various examples.

  • When explaining metals I show students examples of malleable substances by holding up a sheet of lead or copper or aluminum foil, and ductile by holding up copper or lead wire.  I also talk to students about how we use metal for pots when cooking and metals for wires in appliances,etc..
  • For non-metals I talk abut brittle substances like on the "Got Milk" commercials when they show peoples bone's falling apart if they don't drink milk.  I also refer to the insulation in houses or insulation for our clothes and how those are made of non-metals like cotton which is made of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.
  • Finally for metalloids I refer to Silicon Valley (and how its not silicone which is what lots of students think of) and how its called Silicon Valley because of all of the computer technology.

While I explain each of these concepts students fill in notes on their Graphic Organizer notes papers as well as fill in the concepts on their new "Pretty Periodic Table".  On the PowerPoint I have pictures of how I want students to draw on their Periodic Table.  This pictures shows a final product of a Colored-in Periodic Table.

This is a copy of a student's filled in notes for Page 1 and Page 2 of the notes graphic organizer.


15 minutes

As a way to allow students to synthesize the material we covered in the notes I have them perform an activity where they record information about four different elements (Carbon, Tin, Silicon, and Lead).  I present the activity as the last slide (Slide 18) of the PowerPoint.

I give each group a bag of elements that contains a small petri dish with a sample of each of the four elements.  This picture shows how I give the elements to students.

I expect students to fill in information regarding the four elements at the bottom of their notes.  The information they records includes the symbol, group, row, atomic number, atomic mass, and whether the element is a metal, non-metal, or metalloid.  Additionally I have them write down the properties of the sample that coincide with it being a metal, non-metal or metalloid. 

Students usually say that...

  • Lead is a metal because it is flat (malleable), ductile (can be pulled into wires), and possibly that it is a good conductor of electricity.
  • Carbon is a non-metal because it is dull and brittle.
  • Tin is a metal because it is shiny and malleable.
  • Silicon is a metalloid because it is shiny and brittle.

As I walk around the classroom I make sure that students are not just saying that the elements are metals, non-metals, or metalloids because of their position (to the left, right, or on the Metalloid Staircase).  This example of student work shows how the student mostly put how he determined that the element was a metal, non-metal, or metalloid based on location rather than properties.


20 minutes

For the evaluation section of this lesson I have students perform homework which has them review the components of the Periodic Table that we learned in class.

When I assign the homework I encourage students to use their notes and Pretty Periodic Table to help them, but remind them that they will not be able to use the Pretty Periodic Table on their quizzes or exams.

Additionally, some students do not see that they are supposed to color in the periodic table at the top of the homework so I make sure to point out to them to fill it in.

I stamp the homework for completion the next day and go over using the answer key.

The most common mistakes that students make on the homework is not writing in the special name for groups and mixing up the atomic number and mass.  I make sure to remind them that there is a key on their periodic table to refer to if they forget which number is which.  Additionally I remind them that the atomic number is always the smaller of the two numbers.