Teaching the Periodic Table of Elements

Science teachers, are you struggling with how to make the periodic table of elements an engaging and fun unit for your students?

Learn how to teach a unit  using these strategies to motivate and excite your students.

Cement background knowledge into students on the first day of school. Forgoing traditional getting to know you activities, have students complete the “Elements of Me” activity.

It’s a fun take on the periodic table of elements, but instead students will add in things about themselves, such as

  • an “atomic number” (grade level),
  • element symbol (initials),
  • element name (first and last name), and
  • element mass (age).

This introduction activity will look awesome hanging in your classroom for back-to-school night, and when students start learning about the table later in the year, come back to visit these activities.

Start your unit by tackling important vocabulary terms. This is important because most of these terms are entirely unknown to students.

Unlike other vocabulary terms, you really can’t use context clues to figure out what most of these words mean.

So choose terms students will encounter multiple times throughout the unit that are meaningful to their understanding of the periodic table. Important terms could include:  

  • element,
  • chemical symbol,
  • universal,
  • group,
  • period, and
  • periodic table of elements.

Videos are simple to understand and fun to watch, so you might want to include a Brainpop or Flocabulary one. 

Next, continue to layer knowledge using science reading texts.

Text should include vocabulary and short, manageable paragraphs that are easy to understand. Including checkpoint questions and overall comprehension questions will help to summarize their learning.

Science texts can be completed

  • in class,
  • in small groups, or
  • independently.
  • Sometimes you may want to assign them as homework.

Fun Periodic Table Review Activities

Now comes the fun stuff! 

Periodic Table of Elements Review Activities

One of my favorite and most popular activities for this unit is the scavenger hunt.
Here’s how it works: students use their copy of the periodic table. 

Tips for the periodic table:

  • Print one in color and laminate it for small classes.
  • Allow students to use this for the unit and then collect it at the end of the unit for the following year.
  • Put the periodic table in a safe place to use next year.
Students use the table to search for the answers. This activity eases students into navigating the periodic table. 
Students first find
  • groups,
  • then periods,
  • then both.

They will also have to

  • search by the name of the element. 
  • find atomic numbers
  • metals and nonmetals. 
Students like this activity. They will better understand how to use the table and why the elements were categorized.
Nine choice assignments can teach about the periodic table of elements.
Students love the variety of the assignments that will tap into different learning styles to assess their understanding of
  • Dimitri Mendeleev,
  • searching for elements,
  • why it is useful and
  • researching elements.

Give students time to complete the assignments or use them as a great project or homework assignment. 

Integrating Holidays

Integrate holidays into the unit to help students acclimate to using the table by including a winter word search or coloring review sheets.
Again, both provide opportunities for students to utilize and become familiar  with their table.


Finally, complete the unit with a project by researching one of the elements.

Students are given a guideline of what they need to include and will complete their element tile.

This activity allows students to practice their research skills. Even in the older grades, students ask questions like, “How do I find this?” 

Requirements include simple information that can be gathered from the periodic table, such as the
  • atomic number,
  • mass,
  • element name, and
  • symbol.

Research skills are needed to determine who, when, and where the element was discovered, the chemical and physical properties, its uses, and fun facts. 

This project can be done during your class time or at home. Typically, students have a limited amount of class time to work on it in the classroom, but the rest must be completed at home.
Choose to allow students to pick their element or choose for them. If you have big classes, it could be cool to replicate the periodic table with your students. 
This periodic table of elements unit typically takes about two weeks from start to finish. 
 Graphic organizers can be versatile and used any way you like. For example, my students utilize these graphic organizers as a review of the unit. Want to try them out for free? Access them below. 
Using graphic organizers to review the periodic table of elements with grade 5, 6, and 7 students
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