Chemistry

Creative Ways to Teach the Periodic Table of Elements



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Siberian chemist, Dimitri Mendeleev, was the brain behind the periodic table. In 1869, he arranged all of the elements in columns and rows, leaving gaps for elements not yet known. Today, the chart is more complete with the newest element, copernicium, being added in February of 2010. The current known number of elements is now 112 but there is room for more. Chemistry students struggle to learn the entire periodic table, with its families, groups and periods. There are a variety of creative techniques that can help your students learn the periodic table of elements. 

Rote memorization is probably the oldest method students have used to learn the elements. It works well for those whose learning style compliments rote learning, but for many students, it is a difficult and often, unsuccessful endeavor. Students who like to read will enjoy learning facts about the elements through an excellent book. Adrian Dingle has written, "The Periodic Table: Elements with Style," a book that gives most representative elements their own story. It element has a section sharing its basic facts and a story to help the reader remember. 

Use technology. Let your students play a game similar to Jeopardy but based on the periodic table on the Internet by clicking here. You can also project the game onto the white board and play it with the entire class. This is an excellent way to review the material. Other free games are available on the Internet too. They can be used in the classroom or at the student's home. Try "Concentration" located here, element flashcards located at this web address or "Element Hangman" found here. Let students test what they know against the timer in this fun quiz, "Name the Elements." The versatility of many of these games allows the student to chose the level of difficulty or the number or cards he will deal with each session. 

Creative drawing and writing can be used to help students learn the periodic table. Have students create their own comic book heroes based on elements found on the table. Hero clothing will contain the symbol for the element and they story will reflect facts about the element. For example, Helium can fly because he is lighter than air. The same type of exercise can be used by having students write element oriented skits that they perform in class. The more ways a student interacts with the information, the easier it is for her to form long-term connections.

Draw family trees for each family of elements. Hang them on the tree according to their atomic numbers or atomic weight. 

Place a giant periodic table on the largest bulletin board in your room. Let students try to place element cards in the correct locations. They can work individually, in pairs or in small groups. Have a contest and time each individual or group. 

Play games in the classroom. Click here to create your own bingo cards. Don't call out the name of the element, call out the symbols or atomic numbers. Call out "Au" or "79". Students will the correct element will put a marker on gold.

Music does more than soothe  a savage beast; it can help teach the elements. Students can make their own songs or listen to songs already available. Youtube offers a couple songs that will inspire your kids. "They Might be Giants: Meet the Elements" shares special facts about various elements. Lyrics like, "Balloons are full of helium and so is every star. Stars are mostly hydrogen, which may someday fill your car," helps students relate to the elements. Teach the names of the elements listening to "The Elements Song" or "The New Elements Song." Perhaps the cream of the crops available at Youtube is the song, "Oh, so elementary!" 

Don't get bogged down with the same activities each year. Stretch your imagination and involve as many senses as you can. Get your class moving, singing and playing and, before you know it, you'll have them memorizing the periodic table of elements.



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