University of Virginia
Physics Department

Metals, Non-Metals, Metalloids

A Physical Science Activity

Student Activity




  1. 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.
  2. When all group members agree on a property, a group member should write this property on the index card under the element name.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.



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 discovered element.


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.



  1. 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.
  2. Another quick assessment during the period could be to have students list various properties of elements based on their placement on the periodic table.
  3. 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?"