Periodic Table of the Elements Activity

Laura Reiser Wetzel
Eckerd College
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Students work in groups to create the Periodic Table of the Elements in class using cards that they completed as homework. This is meant as a review of the Periodic Table and a direct illustration of how Dmitri Mendeleev first organized the elements like cards in a game of solitaire.

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I developed this activity for Earth Materials (MS 257), a sophomore-level course for Geosciences students and Marine Science majors specializing in Geology or Geophysics.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

This is an introductory exercise, so I simply assume that students have had a high school chemistry course and are familiar with the basic building blocks and structures of atoms: electrons, protons, neutrons, electron orbitals, and nucleus.

How the activity is situated in the course

I use the activity as a review in the first week of my Earth Materials class so that students may learn or recall basic concepts such as atomic mass, atomic number, isotopes, electron configurations, element classifications, and common chemical properties. Elemental characteristics are then linked to mineral compositions. Homework is done to prepare for the in-class activity, which takes about 1 hour.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The goal is for students to become familiar with the organization of the Periodic Table of the Elements and how that organization relates to mineral groups.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students must use the common features among elements to organize them into the rows and columns of the Periodic Table.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students work in groups.

Description of the activity/assignment

Student Handout Periodic Table Activity (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 979kB May5 14)

Element Card Homework (Acrobat (PDF) 89kB May6 14)

The Element Card Homework file contains card forms for the first 92 elements in alphabetical order, four elements to a page. Each student is assigned a subset of the elements so that the class, as a whole, fills out cards for all elements. For example, if there are 23 people in the course, then each student is assigned four elements (one page). Students turn in the homework, and then the instructor is able to make as many copies as necessary for the in-class activity. I have four tables in class, so I need four complete sets of the 92 elements, with the paper cut so that each element is one "card."

The Student Handout Periodic Table Activity contains the instructions and questions for the in-class activity.

Determining whether students have met the goals

I check the Periodic Table in class to ensure correct completion. I also check answers to the additional questions, either in or after class. I circulate through class to clear up confusion. I review any prevalent problems in the next class period.

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