Lesson 15

Introduction to the Periodic Table: It's Elemental Plaid Pete!

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SWBAT construct a model for a given compound, and write the chemical formula.

Big Idea

What is an element? What is a compound? What is the Periodic Table? Students finally get introduced to Plaid Pete, and the fine art of constructing molecules and writing chemical formulas!

Setting Up the Investigation

Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards

In this investigation, students explore the  Disciplinary Core Idea of Structure and Properties of Matter -  that matter of any type can be subdivided into particles that are too small to see, but even then the matter still exists and can be detected by other means. (5-PS1-A); and use the Crosscutting Concept of Scale, Proportion, and Quantity  - natural objects exist from the very small to the immensely large (5-PS1-1).

Materials Needed:

It's Elemental Plaid Pete! Storyboard! Storyboard

1 black and white copy of The Periodic Table of the Elements (free printables from this website). I used the Basic Periodic Table with names - no weights.

Projectable color copy of The Periodic Table of the Elements (available from the same website)

What’s The Matter Plaid Pete? Common Compounds - Lesson 15

1 copy for each student of What's The Matter Plaid Pete? - Lab Sheet Lesson 15

1 copy of What’s The Matter Plaid Pete? Common Compounds - Lesson 15 for each pair of students

1 set of What's The Matter Plaid Pete?- Word Wall Cards Lesson 15

1 paper copy for each student of What's The Matter Plaid Pete?- Word Wall Cards Lesson 15

1 bag of Unifix Cubes for each pair of students with 20 each of red, yellow, and blue

Focus & Motivation

5 minutes

Introducing . . . Plaid Pete!

My students have now had a two day investigation into particles and particle theory.  In order for them to make sense of it all, it's time to introduce the idea of elements and compounds.  It is also high time that they were introduced to Plaid Pete.  I tell them that today they are actually going to get to meet Plaid Pete, and his Dad.  They are quite excited by this news.  I project the It's Elemental Plaid Pete! Storyboard and read it out loud to them.

They actually think it's pretty cool.  I am glad I spent the time creating it.

Share Lesson Objective & Success Criteria

Note:  Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now includinga language objective with each lesson.  These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.

I share the lesson objectives and success criteria:

Learning Objective:  I can construct a model for a given compound, and write the chemical formula.

Language Objective:  I can identify a simple main idea from an oral presentation.  [ELP.4-5.1]

Success Criteria:  I can correctly complete my lab sheet, revising as necessary for 100% accuracy.

I tell my students, "I have some idea about what Mr. Parker meant about 'hitting the toy box.'  Let's dive into this investigation and I will show you what I mean!"


15 minutes


My students have no background knowledge to build on for this content, except for the one who has the first 52 elements of the Periodic Table memorized (except the 2 that he forgot!).  Therefore, I do not provide a guided exploration activity and jump straight to instruction.

I tell my students to get out their Scientists Notebooks because it's time to watch a video, and take some notes.  We have previously "Listened with a question in mind."  I remind them of that, and tell them that today, we will be listening for answers to the following questions that will help us to meet our learning objective:

What are elements?  What are compounds?

I now want to move my students towards more formal note taking structures, so I show them how to create a modified T Table with the first question on the top left side, a line separating the table horizontally in the middle, and the second question just below the line. They will write their answers on the right side of the T table.  

A completed notebook looks like this student example.

I play the Scholastic Study Jams Video: Elements & Compounds. 

Students are surprised to hear that there are 118 elements, but they really do not fully understand what that means.  I know that in order for them to understand some small part of the magnitude of the Periodic Table, and what it represents, they will need to have many exposures and activities. Today is just the beginning.

Periodic Table of Elements

I hand out the black and white copies of The Periodic Table of the Elements to each student (free printables available at this linked website).

I project my color copy and explain that the Periodic Table is a chart that represents everything that makes up matter, and that since this video was made - 2 additional elements have been discovered, so now there are currently 118 different elements.  I explain that the Periodic Table is arranged in periods (rows) and groups (columns) because the elements that are grouped together have common properties.  They are also grouped into 3 major groups - metals, non-metals, and metalloids, and I display this table.  Again emphasizing that this grouping is based on the sharing of common properties.


I remind my students that the video told us that compounds are created when two or more of these elements are joined.  I reinforce the idea that this creates a substance with entirely different properties than either of the two elements by themselves.  

I ask my students to find Sodium (NA) on their Chart.  I have them place a marker on it. Then I ask them to find Chlorine (CL) and place a marker on it.  I explain that these two elements are highly poisonous to humans - by themselves.  However, when they are combined, they create a compound called salt.  I write: NaCl on the whiteboard and explain that this is the chemical formula (a type of model) for table salt.

I then ask them to find Hydrogen (H) and place their marker on it.  I ask them to find Oxygen (O) and place their marker on it.  I explain that these are both gases, however when you combine them in this compound H (subscript 2) O - you have the compound known as water.  I write the chemical formula for water on the board, and explain that the 2 is called a "subscript" and that it stands for the number of Hydrogen atoms in the compound.  I explain that since Oxygen only has one atom, no subscript is necessary.

I tell them, "If I wanted to model a molecule of water using these unifix cubes, and the blue cubes were atoms of Hydrogen, and the yellow cubes were atoms of oxygen, it would look like this."  I hold up the unifix cube compound I have created.I then take off one of the blue cubes and replace it with a red cube, and say, "This red cube is an atom of carbon.  Would this still be a molecule of water?"I accept student answers, and confirm that no it would not because now the atoms no longer match - the formula is not correct.

I tell my students, "I think you are now ready to start constructing your own compounds!

Team Activity

20 minutes

Using Elements to Construct Compounds

I hand out a copy of What's The Matter Plaid Pete? - Lab Sheet Lesson 15 and What’s The Matter Plaid Pete? Common Compounds - Lesson 15, to each of my students, and a bag of Unifix Cubes (red, yellow, and blue) to each of my teams.  

I use the example for Water in the first row of the Lab Sheet, and demonstrate how to connect the cubes to create a molecule of water, and how to use colored pencils to draw the model in the box indicated.  I point out that some rows have the atoms listed, but that they will have to write the chemical formula.  Using the water example, we discuss how that is done.  Once I am confident that students have enough information to complete the task, I have them begin.  A completed student lab sheet looks like this Student Example.

The engagement in my classroom is amazing!  I was initially concerned that they would become so focused on the cubes that they would lose the meaning of the lesson.  They didn't!  I heard remarks like, "Ewww - gasoline and corn syrup have the same kinds of atoms in them."  I can tell they are paying attention!

The student in Video Clip 1 is noticing how 1 atom can make a big difference.  In Video Clip 2 this student is noticing that something edible can become something that is poisonous with the addition of an atom.  I am also prompting the use of specific and precise science vocabulary in her answers.

Vocabulary Instruction

10 minutes

Introduce Vocabulary

Consistent with the 5E Model of Instruction - The majority of vocabulary instruction in my classroom occurs during the "Explain" or instructional stage.  This ensures that students have the experiential activities that will allow them to connect new vocabulary terms to conceptual understanding.

I present the words from the What's The Matter Plaid Pete?- Word Wall Cards Lesson 15 using the same instructional routine that I have previously used with my students.  

  1. Say the word to students.
  2. Ask students to repeat the word at least 5 times.  For example, I will say, "Say it to the window.  Say it to my hand.  Say it to the door.  Say it to the ceiling."
  3. I say the word in context.  For example, I will say, " The position the plants were placed in was one of the controlled variables in the video."  
  4. I will then randomly call on a student to use the word in a sentence, giving successive prompts to assist them, if needed.

Science Notebooks

I also use the same Science Notebook routine as has been used in previous lessons:

After introducing the words, I again demonstrate for students how to make a three column table with rows for each of the eight vocabulary words.  I model for them in my own Science Notebook how to write the word in the first box, a non-linguistic (e.g. picture) representation of the word in the second box, and work with the class to generate an example sentence for the first word in the third box.  Students cut out their copies of the cards and place in the envelope, which they glue on the page behind their table.  They will finish sentences for the remaining words either for homework, or for seat-work later.  A completed student notebook will look like this Example 1


Reflection & Closure

15 minutes


I have posted the following questions on the whiteboard, and I ask my students to turn to the next clean page in their Science Notebook, and answer these questions in complete sentences.  I tell them I am now looking for evidence of Science Language in their Notebook responses, and this requirement is now going to become a part of their grade.  I point out that requirement on the Science Notebook Rubric  I suggest they discuss their answers briefly with their partner, but that each person needs to construct their own response and write it.  I tell them we will have a class discussion in about 10 minutes.

Whiteboard Questions:

What did you notice about the change in properties that happened when the elements were combined to form compounds?

Did any of these changes surprise you?  Why?


My scientists are quite surprised.  This activity has opened their eyes!  They are amazed at the variety of combinations from only 3 elements, given that there are 118 known elements.  They are also amazed at the small differences a few atoms make in a molecule - that something like sugar and gasoline could contain almost the same atoms, but be totally different substances!

Great Resource

If you are looking for additional information on the Periodic Table of the elements.  TedEd has created a video for every single element on the table.  Just go to this link.  TedEd Periodic Table.