- University of Virginia
- Physics Department
A Physical Science Activity
2003 Virginia SOLs
- describe properties of various elements;
- arrange the elements based on properties in order to understand the organization
of the periodic table;
- label elements as metal, non-metal, or metalloid.
- Why do we organize things? What are some different ways that
we organize information? How do scientists organize the elements?
The periodic table is organized so that elements with common
properties are placed near each other or in similar fashion. In
this way, we can use the periodic table to predict behaviors of
elements with which we are not already familiar.
This activity is designed as an introduction to the periodic
table. Most students will not be familiar with the table and will
need to understand how it's organized in order to be able to use it
successfully. This activity centers around metals, non-metals, and
metalloids (or semi-metals). Metals are defined to be any of a class
of elements that generally are solid at room temperature, have a
grayish color and shiny surface, are good conductors of heat and
electricity, and can be pounded into various shapes. Non-metals are
basically the opposite of metals. They are elements that lack luster,
that generally do not conduct electricity or heat, and that are not
ductile (able to be drawn into thin wire) or malleable (able to
flattened into a sheet). Metalloids (or semi-metals) as their name
indicates, have properties of both metals and
To print out the Student Copy only,
- Samples of elements (2-3 of each region - metal, non-metal, and metalloid
- for each group of 3-4 students)
- Index Cards (1 for each of the elements used)
- Tape, magnetic tape, or tacks to hang index card on the board
- Periodic Table
- Crayons or colored pencils
(Teacher instructions are italicized.)
- Divide students into groups (3-4 students per group would be a good size).
- Provide each group of students with sample elements and index cards (you
may have the students write the element name on the index card or you may
do that yourself before you hand them out). It would be good if each group
was provided with different elements from the same region, so that more elements
could be compared.
- Observe the elements provided to you and, as a group, discuss some
of the properties you see. You should include things like the state
of matter, shape, size, texture, color (and any other additions your
teacher gives you) in your observations. If you have already discussed
heat and electricity in the class, you could also include conductivity
tests in order for the students to come up with those properties.
- When all group members agree on a property, a group member should
write this property on the index card under the element name.
- Continue with this process until you have written down all the properties
they can come up with for all of the sample elements you have.
- When you have completed all of the elements, you should arrange the
index cards so that the ones with similar properties are in a pile.
- Once all groups are finished, call the class back together as a large
group for discussion. Have a representative from Group 1 place the elements
from each of their piles together on the board. Hopefully there will be 3
different sections on the board.
- Each subsequent group should try to match their piles in the sections
that are already on the board based on the properties they wrote down.
- As a class, discuss the similar properties found in each section on the
board. Now you can name the sections of elements. The students may be able
to name the one section as "metals" themselves. The other two sections may
be named simply by understanding prefixes (NON-metal and SEMI-metal or metalloid)
- Provide each student with a periodic table (that can be colored) and
crayons or colored pencils. Each student should choose a different color for
each of the three different sections they just learned about and make a key
on the table. They should then color each box for the elements on the board
with the correct color. From this, they should be able to determine where
the regions for these three types of elements are.
- Once the regions are discovered, ask the students to name some other
metals, non-metals, and metalloids that weren't put on the board earlier.
Show the students on a large periodic table where the boundaries for each
region are, and have them finish coloring in their personal periodic table.
Have them keep these tables for reference later.
Students pretend to have discovered an element which they name
after themselves (or some other creative name of their choice). They
write up a description of the element including properties and a
picture. The students will pair up and trade their element
descriptions with each other. The students will then have to place
the description they receive in the correct region on a blank
periodic table. The students could also make these descriptions into
posters to put around the room or brochures to advertise their newly
Students with Special Needs
Each student should be able to participate in this activity in some capacity.
If they are not able to write or color well, some adaptations may need to be
made for color-coding the periodic table.
Click here for further
information on laboratories with students with special needs.
- A quick assessment during the class period could simply be to
ask various students to name elements that are metals, non-metals,
or metalloids based on their placement on the periodic table.
- Another quick assessment during the period could be to have
students list various properties of elements based on their
placement on the periodic table.
- An assessment at the end of the section could be a test that
would have the students color-code a periodic table and then
answer questions about specific elements using that periodic
table. Example questions could include things like "Is carbon a
metal, non-metal, or semi-metal?" "Is iron shiny?" "Does oxygen
conduct heat well?"