Ionic and Binary Compound Chemical Nomenclature

Ramona Caswell, M|State Fergus Falls
Ramona Caswell
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Initial Publication Date: February 24, 2010


This is a POGIL activity geared for general chemistry students. The activity guides students through the process of determining how ionic and binary compounds are named as well as inorganic acids. Students compare various compounds and determine what rules are most appropriate for naming each compound. In addition, the activity helps familiarize students with polyatomic ions and how oxyanions are named.

(This activity could be used online - see Teaching Notes)

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

The goals of this activity are:
  • to have students be able to differentiate between compounds and determine what naming scheme is most appropriate to use.
  • to work together with a small group as they analyze binary compound naming.

Context for Use

I use this activity for one or two 50 minute lecture periods after a brief introduction of naming ions and polyatomic ions. I usually place students in groups of 4-5 and assign roles with the POGIL format. I float between the groups answering questions. This could work for a class from 4 to 200. There is no special equipment needed and I find this activity greatly enhances student's ability to name compounds and determine compounds from a name.

Description and Teaching Materials

Student handout for nomenclature activity (Microsoft Word 234kB Feb23 10)
Students will also need access to a periodic table (with element names) and a polyatomic ion table (my students use the ones available in their text book).

Teaching Notes and Tips

This works best if students know how to name and distinguish ions alone first as well as have a list of polyatomic ions with their names. There are two points of confusion with this activity:
  1. Naming the oxyanions, students don't always see the relationship between the table that helps determine the -ate ions and the one that determines the -ite, per--ate, and hypo--ite ions. Most students put all of the oxyanions with a single negative charge instead of the appropriate charge based on the -ate ion.
  2. Students find it difficult to fill in the table for the acids. There is not a clear relationship for what column should be filled in first and so it takes them a little while to get going with this portion of the activity.
  3. This could easily be used for an online class as well. It is easier to complete in a group, however, so you may want to organize your students so they can work together.


I usually collect only one copy of this activity per group. I send it back to the groups with corrections made and allow for time in class for the group to understand where their mistakes were made.

References and Resources

Steven J. Hawkes, "A Mnemonic for Oxy-Anions," J. Chem. Educ., Vol. 67, 1990, 149. Pearson Education, Inc.