Periodic Table Scavenger Hunt

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SWBAT use the periodic table to find elements, determine the number of particles in an atom of the element, and determine the type of element.

Big Idea

Independent review using student resources cements understanding of the organization and uses of the periodic table.


This lesson is centered on 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.

Students are using the periodic table to determine the number of particles in atoms, as well as the type of element represented.  Using the periodic table as a mental model organizing information about elements, it also represents Science and Engineering Practice 2: Developing and using models.

Lastly, the Patterns Cross Cutting Concept is represented at the middle school level of "Graphs, charts and images can be used to identify patterns in data."  By understanding how the periodic table is organized, students can find the patterns to make accessing it much easier.


5 minutes

When students enter the room, I have these three questions projected on the board/screen.

  1. What does the atomic number tell us about the atom?
  2. How do we use atomic mass to find the number of neutrons?
  3. How do we determine the number of electrons in a neutral atom?

Students get out their binders and work on the three questions while I take attendance.  Then we go over them quickly.  Student responses should be:

  1. Number of protons
  2. Round the mass to a whole number and subtract the atomic number (or number of protons)
  3. Equal to the atomic number or number of protons

As we are still relatively fresh to the periodic table, many students will answer 2 or less of the questions initially.  I encourage them to use these notes to help them with today's lesson.  I then ask a student from each table to come get papers for their table.

Scavenger Hunt

35 minutes

As one student is coming to get the papers, I ask everyone to get out their Color Coded Periodic Table.  When everyone is back at their tables, I review the instructions on the Periodic Table Scavenger Hunt

  • Students are to work individually and quietly
  • They may use their notes and periodic table to complete the scavenger hunt
  • When they finish, they come to the front of the room to get time stamped and wait for the 30 minutes to be up.
  • The student who finishes with the most correct, the fastest, will win a prize: either a snack the following day or 5% extra credit on tomorrow's quiz, student choice.

I ask for student questions.  A common question is "Can I work with a partner?" to which I explain that this is an individual activity, but they can use their notes.

I allow students to spread out, 2 per table including our lab tables, but remind them this is a silent, individual activity.  I start a timer on my watch at this point.  At five minutes in, I circulate the room to check and answer questions.  Then I wait for students to finish and come to get time stamped.  At the end of the 30 minutes, I ask all students to return to their table and swap papers with a table mate.


10 minutes

We end the period by peer grading their scavenger hunts.  I begin by asking the graders to mark any blank questions wrong immediately.  Next we display the correct answers via the document camera and project them on the screen.  I then ask if anyone is holding a perfect paper, and if multiple hands go up, I ask each one for their time to determine the winner. If no one is holding a perfect paper, we then step down one question at a time to find a winner.

We give a round of applause to the winner, and I ask for their prize selection.  I record the prize winner and choice and ask students to return the papers to their owners.  I close out the period encouraging students who did not finish or missed questions to correct and fill in their papers, as this will be the study guide for how tomorrow's quiz will look.

While students are copying any correct answers needed, I circulate the room to answer last minute questions before students leave for the day.

The most difficult questions seem to be centered on how many outer electrons elements in different groups have, and now many electron rings an element has.  The first question will get attacked in multiple follow-up lessons, beginning with this one.

The second is a key aspect to the organization of the periodic table.  However, our curriculum limits us from going into real electron configuration at the regular chemistry level.  Students should understand the additional electron levels from our study of the structure of the atom, but may not be connecting it to the structure of the periodic table.  As we learn periodicity and properties I expect it to become more clear.

On the quiz the next day, students averaged a 12/15.  I was very happy with how this prepared them to use the periodic table.