Periodic Table Basics

53 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


TSWBAT differentiate between metals and non-metals in terms of the number of valence electrons, electron behavior, and reactivity .

Big Idea

One of the best ways to remember key information about the periodic table is to color its groups.


This lesson addresses the NGSS 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".  The goal of the lesson is for students to elaborate on previously learned information show a deeper understanding of the periodic table.   This lesson is aligned with the NGSS Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI) PS1.A: The periodic table orders elements horizontally by the number of protons in the atom’s nucleus and places those with similar chemical properties in columns. The repeating patterns of this table reflect patterns of outer electron states.     

In this lesson students explore the periodic table using the NGSS Science Practice 2: Developing and using models.  The activity has students label the major parts of the periodic table in order to distinguish between metals and nonmetals, families and periods, and physical and chemical properties.  This lesson continues to build on the Crosscutting Concept Patterns by showing students that the arrangement of periodic table reveals patterns in elements' valence electrons, reactivity and other properties. 


15 minutes

I start this lessons by showing the 4th segment (15 min), The periodic table, of Nova’s Hunting the Elements.  I recommend buying the video but it can be streamed at, and is an excellent summary of the periodic table that does not need to be shown in order. 

This portion of the video breaks down the periodic table into its different sections and provides the audience with real examples of a variety of elements.

I normally have students write some facts down about videos and summarize it in a short paragraph, but for this lesson I am giving them a break so they can enjoy the video for its content. After showing this video most students spend the next couple of weeks asking to see more.  It's that entertaining and engaging of a science video.  So, throughout the unit I will break up the 2 hour video showing my students segments of the movie that are relevant to a variety of topics, such as bonding.


25 minutes

After the video I handout a copy of the periodic table coloring assignment.  I explain to them that they can use their text book and the Color Coding the Periodic Table portion of the assignment to color the periodic table that is provided.  The periodic table is blank and only contains the name of the element, symbol, atomic number and mass number.  I let them know they should follow the list of instructions and color coordinate each part of the periodic table with the provided colored pencils.  I prefer them to use colored pencils instead markers because they do not bleed through the table. 

The directions are fairly straight forward and easy to follow, so students have very little questions about how to accomplish this task.  The only question that kids have is if they can use a different color.  I find that it is okay for them to use a different color because they have to make a key that can be used as an easy reference.  They also ask if it matters where they place the key.  I have found out that the top of the periodic table works best for easy reference and have provided a student example.

As a final instruction, I let them know that they need to answer The Family Tie questions that are on the back side of periodic table using their textbook and Color Coding the Periodic Table directions that were provided. Also, anyone who has not completed the webquest from the previous day needs to complete that first and both assignments will be check-in for completion first thing tomorrow.


10 minutes

As most students are wrapping things up with about 10-15 minutes left, I will hand back their K-W-L from the previous day.  My goal is to have them reflect upon what they know about the periodic table after they have had a chance to examine it in a variety of ways via webquest, coloring and questions. 

I like to have them do it by memory, not using their webquest or color coded periodic table, and see what they can remember.  I am looking for a couple of family names like noble gases and alkali metals, rows are called periods, columns are families and have the same number of valence electrons.  This is enough information to demonstrate a good foundation for moving forward.

If students still struggle with some of this information needed to understand the periodic table, it's usually just a matter of needing to sit down and put it into context with something like ion calculation or bonding.   These are the students that I will usually let use their color coded periodic table for the duration of the unit and perhaps on quizzes and the test.