The Periodic Table of Elements is truly an organizational masterpiece. I can appreciate that, even as a Type B teacher. However, the first time you place a Periodic Table in front of your middle school science students, they will probably look insanely confused. What are those letters? What do the different colors mean? Is this even English? I can’t blame them. Didn’t you have those same thoughts the first time you saw one? I’m giving you a list of periodic table activities to help your students not only understand how to read the periodic table but also engage them as well! Here are a few of the key things you may want your middle school science students to know and be able to do by the end of your Periodic Table unit:
- How to gain information from the Periodic Table
- Understand the arrangement of the periodic table (groups and periods)
- Explain how properties are used to classify elements
- Recognize that elements are grouped in the periodic table according to similarities of their properties
1. Engagement and Introducing the Periodic TableGive students the basic information they need to understand the periodic table. This is where you will explicitly teach your students how to obtain information from it. I like to begin this unt with an engagement piece. Have students categorize something common such as fruit, clothing items, sports or celebrities. Ask them why they grouped these things in the way they did. Then, discuss how the periodic table is essentially an organizational tool for scientists. After you have done this activity, you can move into a periodic table lesson with guided notes. You can scaffold these notes with fill in the blank options, have them fill out notes digitally using Google Slides or give them the option of taking notes more independently. Checkpoints throughout the lesson help to reinforce the concepts and help students practice reading information on the periodic table.
2. Periodic Table Scavenger HuntLet your students get a little competitive with this one. Create a list of elements, and give students clues or descriptions to find the corresponding element on the periodic table. This can be done individually or in teams. The repetitive nature of an activity like this mixed with competition will really get your middle school students engaged. They play to win, right?
3. Periodic Table of Elements ActivitiesThese are some simple periodic table of elements activities that can be used to review vocabulary, practice filling in missing parts of the periodic table, identifying elements with similar properties and researching where elements are found in nature. This portion of the activity gives students some real world context in understanding how these elements influence our day to day lives. Answer that “why do we need to know this?” question that our students just love to ask. Assign these in Google Classroom or print them out for your students interactive science notebooks!
4. Elements Christmas Ornaments ActivityIf it’s around the holiday season when you get to your periodic table unit, then this activity is so much fun! Give your students one of these little element ornaments and have them fill out information on an element of their choice. When they finish adding their information and coloring it, laminate the ornaments, punch a hole, add string, add them to a class Christmas tree and there you have it. A “chemistree!” Check out this one I made with my students! Grab the free element ornaments activity here.
5. StationsDifferentiating instruction is important and using stations is one of those teaching methods that allow you to provide a whole bunch of differentiation in one class period. These periodic table stations activities provide students with 7 different stations. Students research elements in their food, practice using PhET’s “Build an Atom” simulation, create element trading cards and more.
6. Make Bohr ModelsIf one of your standards includes having students understand Bohr models, students can create them using pipe cleaners and beads to make different models of atoms. You can find templates as part of the periodic table stations activities.
7. Element StoriesChallenge students to create short stories, videos, animations or comics where elements are characters with unique personalities and abilities based on their properties. This adds a creative “element” to your lesson.
8. Element Trading CardsStudents design trading cards with an element’s symbol, atomic number, atomic mass, and a fun fact about the element. Students can trade and collect them. This can be a quick activity. A template is included in the Periodic Table Stations activity.
9. Periodic Table BattleshipModify the classic game of Battleship using a printed periodic table. Instead of ships, students will place their “battleships” on elements, and they can use element symbols to call out coordinates.
10.Task CardsAnother great resource for review. These periodic table task cards can be used in a variety of ways.
- Independent practice
- Review games
- Gallery Walks
- Exit tickets/bellringers
- Interactive science notebook activities
- Early Finishers activity
- Small group instruction
11. Create a Class Periodic TableGive students a half sheet of paper and have them research a specific element. Depending on how large you want this to be, you can assign students more than one element. Typically, I would use elements 1- 54. Put them all together to make an awesome hallway or classroom display. Here are some books that are great for your science classroom library that students can use to help give them a visual idea of what the elements look like and how they are used in the real world.
Exploring the Elements: A Complete Guide to the Periodic Table (affiliate link)
The Periodic Table (affiliate link)
The Elements Book: A Visual Encyclopedia of the Periodic Table (affiliate link)