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

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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 so that they may read, use and interpret the patterns of the periodic table and 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 includes the EXPLAIN components of this lesson; Time: 1-2 50-minute lessons or equivalent block periods.
  • Part 3 (this lesson) includes the EXTEND and EVALUATE components of the lesson; Time: 1-2 50-minute lessons or equivalent block periods.


The EXTEND stage allows students to apply new knowledge to a novel situation. There are several novel situations in this case:

1) Elements Bee: An elements bee is a fun way (and optional way) to get students interested in the periodic table in a competitive way. Generally, students memorize elements from the periodic table in order and recite in front of the class. Students are challenged to remember more than their friends in friendly competition. For a poster to announce your bee, use this: Elements Bee Announcement. An alternate to the bee is a periodic table of the elements trivia contest. Students can write trivia questions to be answered by contestants or teams. The internet also has a wealth of periodic table-related trivia questions like these: Fun Trivia- Periodic Table. There are also online jeopardy game making sites like: Instant Jeopardy Review, Jeopardy Labs, Jeopardy Rocks or even PowerPoint!

2) The Periodic Table Jingles Extension is a creative expression extension. For this project, students write their own jingles to remember the names and symbols of tricky elements. "A - U, give me your gold!" and "PB sits in your stomach like lead!" are commonly used jingles and students have fun writing and sharing their own.

3) The Create Your Own Periodic Table Extension is an excellent project that promotes higher-level thinking and creative problem-solving as students design their own periodic table of "something else".  There are lots of examples like the Periodic Table of Ipad Apps, Periodic Table of Harry Potter and the Periodic Table of Meat! Students choose their own topics (be sure to remind them the topic must be broad enough to have many categories and items). Students then conduct research to complete a classification system (following the periodic table outline as described in the instructions or by creating their own). This project can be kept simple (use first 18 elements, only match the element symbols to the starting letter) as seen in the Periodic Table of Candy Extension - Student Example or can be complex as seen here: Periodic Table of the Places Extension - Student Example.


100 minutes

The EVALUATION stage is for both students and teachers to determine how much learning and understanding has taken place. This evaluation method helps students process and summarize their learning.

Using the Periodic Table Classification Game and Assessment, it is possible to evaluate student understanding about patterns on the periodic table in addition to assess students' aptitude for using the periodic table to glean information about the elements. This classification game can be used for review or assessment. A nifty little follow up assessment is for students to complete their own classification game entry like these: Periodic Table Classification Game - Student Created Examples. These student created entries can be traded with other students to act as a "quiz" to check for understanding.