Periodic Table of the Elements Exploration Project (Part 2/3)

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SWBAT use the periodic table of the elements to identify properties of the elements.

Big Idea

The periodic table is like the DaVinci Code - lots of secrets locked away in the classification of the elements waiting to be unlocked!


Secret mysteries of the periodic table unlocked! To the naked eye, the Periodic Table of the Elements appears to be a chart filled with numbers and letters. To the learned eye, the periodic table is home to many secret patterns and useful information about the properties of the elements all house in an elegant classification system.

This lesson introduces students to the table so that they may read, use and interpret the patterns of the periodic table. It affords students opportunities to practice science skills such as developing models to describe unobservable mechanisms (SP2) and analyzing and interpreting data to provide evidence for phenomena (SP4). While study of the periodic table is not specifically referenced in the NGSS, two related performance expectations within the Matter and Its Interactions Core Disciplinary Idea are linked:

MS-PS1-1: Develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures.  

MS-PS1-2:Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.

As students explore the periodic table as a classification system, they are able to recognize patterns within graphs, charts, and images that can be used to identify patterns in data (CCC).

This is a stand alone investigation or can be used as part of a unit of study with the following lessons:

Building Atomic Models Simulation Investigation

Atoms Family Atomic Structure Review

Cooking Up Atoms Investigation

This project is a research-based inquiry investigation including multiple lessons taught over the span of 1 week. To help manage the magnitude of this project, you will find the project split into 3 parts.

  • Part 1 includes the ENGAGE and EXPLORE components of the lesson; Time: 2 or more 50-minute lessons or equivalent block periods.
  • Part 2 (this lesson) includes the EXPLAIN components of this lesson; Time: 1-2 50-minute lessons or equivalent block periods.
  • Part 3 includes the EXTEND and EVALUATE components of the lesson; Time: 1-2 50-minute lessons or equivalent block periods.


50 minutes

The EXPLAIN stage provides students with an opportunity to communicate what they have learned so far and figure out what it means. This stage of the lesson presents a great place for a quick formative assessment.

Students use the Looking for Periodic Table Patterns Activity to complete the last step of the Periodic Table Project Student Guide. This activity helps students recognize that the periodic table of the elements is an organized classification system that was designed with regular, repeating patters according to physical and chemical properties. Students complete the questions using their mini-periodic table to help students unlock the "secret" patterns of the periodic table. This Periodic Table Organization video provides an introduction to this activity.

After students complete the activity, a class-wide discussion and summary activity is an important closure and evaluation strategy. Students work with a partner to identify as many patterns that they can identify on the Periodic Table Patterns Summary sheet. Student pairs share their patterns with the class and are shown visually on a periodic table to further illustrate the pattern. Slide 2 of this presentation lists many common patterns: Periodic Table Classification Game and Assessment.

For more about the power of this summary activity, visit this section's reflection: The Power of Summary.

For next steps, continue on to Part 3, which includes the EXTEND and EVALUATE components of the lesson; Time: 1-2 50-minute lessons or equivalent block periods.