Jul 312013

An Elemental Elements and Molecules Lesson Plan

elements and molecules

1) Elements and Molecules Unit Study Purpose Statement:

Provide students with an understanding of elements, atoms, molecules, and of the energy potential contained in atoms.

2) Elements and Molecules Unit Study Goal(s):

  • Students will be able to explain why vinegar and baking soda, when mixed, can pop open a film canister. [Energy is released from atoms when electrons rearrange themselves and create new molecules with new characteristics].
  • Students will identify the primary categories of elements [alkali metals, non-alkali metals, noble gases, etc].
  • Students will diagram the structure of basic atoms [protons, neutrons, electrons].
  • Students will be able to state the difference between an atom and a molecule.

3) Elements and Molecules Unit Study Target Audience:

Upper Elementary Science students

4) Elements and Molecules Unit Study Materials and Resources:

  • Periodic table of elements poster
  • Empty soda can
  • Ice water in a bowl
  • Boiling water
  • Tongs
  • Empty film canisters (one for each student)
  • Box of facial tissues
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • A Sunny day
  • Internet Access

5) Elements and Molecules Unit Study Anticipatory Set:

Start the class with a “Molecules on the Move” demonstration. Have an empty soda can in boiling hot water. When the class begins say, “Watch this.” Using the tongs, speedily lift the soda can out of the boiling water, turn the can upside down and immediately submerge the opening of the can in the ice water. The can should collapse instantaneously [very dramatic]. Ask students, “What happened to the can?” Students will generally respond that the cold air condensed. This is correct. Ask the students, “Within the air molecules, what changes to make the air “condense”?” [Reponses vary] Explain that the matter we see, or don’t see, all consists of molecules. In the case of condensing air, the particles in the air molecules suddenly jump closer together. This condenses the space needed by the air to make it smaller. Think of a hot day when you want plenty of room to spread out versus a freezing day when you want to huddle together to keep warm. Our class could take up this whole classroom or we could take up one small corner, but we would still have the same number of students in the class. The point is.. Molecules Move and they can take up more room or less room.

6) Elements and Molecules Unit Study Lesson:

Step-by-step instructions for teaching this lesson.

a. Explain the structure of atoms.
Draw examples on the board. Show how electrons can move from one atom to another and change the element(s). Explain that movement of electrons releases energy stored in the atom. Explain that molecules are the combination of more than one atom which creates a unique type of matter with unique characteristics. Draw H2O on the board showing how the separate atoms come together to form a molecule. Explain that ALL matter on earth is the combining of atoms into molecules to form the variety of matter types we see every day. Show the class the Periodic Table of Elements. Explain this table shows each kind of atom we know about in the world. Ask them, “What do you notice about this table?” “How many different Groups do you see?” [18] List table groups. Discuss defining characteristics of some groups.

Alkali metals Table group 1; silvery colored, soft, low density metals.
Alkaline Earth Metals Table group 1; the oxides of the alkaline earth metals are not affected by fire; silvery, soft, low density.
Lanthanide 14 rare earth elements; typically placed below the main body of the periodic table.
Actinides 14 chemical elements Alternative meanings: classical element with atomic numbers 89 and 102 inclusive; typically placed below the main body of the periodic table.
Transition metals A transition metal is any of the thirty chemical elements 21 through 30, 39 through 48, and 71 through 80. This name comes from their position in the periodic table of elements.
Poor metals Usually shiny, have a high density, usually have a high melting point, are usually hard, conduct electricity and heat well.
Metalloids Have properties between those of metals and nonmetals; usually semi-conductors rather than conductors.
Nonmetals Highly electro-negative; gain electrons more easily than they give them up.
Chalcogens Table group 16; common as ores and minerals.
Halogens Table group 17; require one more electron to fill their outer shell and have a tendency to form negatively charged ions.
Noble gases Table group 18; all have full outer electron shells, and so do not form chemical compounds easily.

b. Time permitting: Watch one of these films:

  • IDEALLY – Watch THIS video’s “Atoms” segment – Bill Nye the science guy The Magic Lantern Video CollectionAtoms & Motions. Disney Educational Productions; [distributed by] Magic Lantern Communications, c1999. 1 videocassette (52 min.)Atoms: What’s the big deal about atoms? They’re too small to see with our eyes, so what good are they? Bill Nye explains how atoms combine to form molecules in this fascinating episode. Grades 4-6 * Grades 7-9
  • How about atoms and molecules? [videorecording]. / by Quentin Durham. Huntsville, Tex.: Educational Video. 1990.
  • Bill Nye, The Science Guy’s: PHASES OF MATTER – how atoms form solids, liquids or gases depending on energy.

c. Tell the class they are now going outside to release energy in molecules by rearranging the structure of molecules into new substances. Go outside and release energy by creating “Film Can Poppers”.


  1. Measure and pour 1 teaspoon of vinegar into film canister.
  2. Carefully place an unfolded tissue over the top of the canister, taking care not to let it get any vinegar on it.
  3. Measure and place 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda on top of the Kleenex directly over the canister opening.
  4. Carefully snap the lid onto the film canister.
  5. Pick up the canister by the sides (do not hold the lid on) and gently shake.
  6. Chemical reaction inside should pop canister lid open with a nice “PoP!”

d. Explain the baking soda and vinegar shared their electrons and created CO2
(carbon dioxide) gas. “Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. Vinegar contains acetic acid dissolved in water. Sodium barcarbonate reacts with most acids.” The products of the baking soda and vinegar combined reaction are carbon dioxide gas, sodium acetate, and water.” [From Science Fun at http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/HOMEEXPTS/FIZZFOAM.html] The gas molecules required room to expand and popped the lid off the canister.

e. Explore Periodic Table of Elements as per “Guided Practice”

f. Assign homework as per “Independent Practice” and close.

7) Elements and Molecules Unit Study Guided Practice:

Have students explore the periodic tables on these websites. Tell students to look for an element that interests them because they will be writing a paper on a selected element.

WebElements – http://www.webelements.com/

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Chemistry Division’s Periodic Table of
Elements – http://periodic.lanl.gov/index.shtml

Corrosion Source – http://www.corrosionsource.com/handbook/periodic/

8) Elements and Molecules Unit Study Independent Practice:

– They will each write a First Person description of their element in regular ink (to turn in). They will write another one using invisible ink for the class. For example,

“I am the lightweight champion of the periodic table. My atomic weight is a fraction over one and I have one electron. I also make up 3/4ths of the mass of the universe, making me the most popular guy anywhere! I am an non-metal. My name is Hydrogen.”

Tell students to be creative and HAVE FUN!!

Invisible Ink : Dissolve 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 2 teaspoons of water. Use this ink to write an invisible message to the class on a piece of paper using a toothpick or cotton swab. The next day when students bring in their papers, have them hold their paper near a light bulb. When the writing becomes visible, have them post their message on a bulletin board. If they don’t have the ingredients, they can use lemon juice to write their message.

When class begins, ask students why they think the ink appeared when holding it near a heat source. [Answer: The “ink” we used is mildly acidic and acid weakens paper. The acid remains in the paper after the juice has dried. When the paper is held near heat the acidic parts of the paper burn or turn brown before the rest of the paper does. From Kidzworld.com “How Invisible Ink Works”.] Be SURE to have a copy written in regular ink to turn in.

9) Elements and Molecules Unit Study Assessment of Learning:

Student participation in “Popper” activity: 20 points
Student participation in research activity: 20 points
Student writing contains all facts: 20 points
Student writing is mechanically sound and first person: 20 points
Student writing is creative: 10 points
Student participate in class discussions: 10 points
100 points


10) Elements and Molecules Unit Study Subject connections:

Written Expression – creative writing; Grammar – usage and expression; Mathematics – measuring.

11) Elements and Molecules Unit Study Accommodations:

This activity is “Hands-On.” It should require few modifications.

  • For research, pair students with reading difficulties with excellent readers. Have them work in read-aloud pairs to read about elements and molecules.
  • Pair students with physical challenges with classmates to assist in research and popper activities.
  • Let students choose alternate creative ways to present their selected elements and molecules. Let them turn in a “Fact Sheet”.

12) Elements and Molecules Unit Study Modifications:

  • Let students “play” with different substances to feel texture differences [Suggestions: toothpaste, liquid soap, therapy putty, water].
  • Have students help build a “molecule model” out of tinker toys or similar manipulative.

13) Elements and Molecules Unit Study Extensions:

Let students write a complete story or develop a presentation for the class to convey the unique aspects of their chosen element.