Lesson Plan

Alien Periodic Table



Grade Levels

6th Grade

Big Ideas




Period: a horizontal row of elements on the periodic table.

Group:  elements in the same vertical column of the periodic table; also called a family.

Diatomic Molecule:  consists of two atoms, such as O2


The students will be able to…

  • Classify elements based on their properties.
  • Interpret data on the properties of elements.
  • Infer the position of the elements on the periodic table.
  • Sort items according to like characteristics.

Lesson Essential Question(s)

How do scientists identify and sort materials?


1 – 84 minute class period


  • Periodic table (reference)
  • Text book for information about element periods and groups and cross reference for lab
  • Blank Alien Periodic Table Template
  • Comparison Chart with Earth element names listed
  • Assortment of random objects: checkers, game tokens, marbles, paper circles, beads, etc.

  • Suggested Instructional Strategies

    W = The students will know where they are headed in the lesson through the use of a daily agenda on the board.  The unit big ideas will be posted so that students know why they are doing the activities of the day. 


    H = The students’ interest will be hooked immediately at the beginning of the lesson through the hands-on sorting activity that each individual must complete.  The lesson will hold the interest of the students by discussing aliens in the lab lesson.


    E = Students will be provided real experiences of giving rationale for their sorting of items at the beginning of the lesson.  Students will be equipped with notes that will help them place elements on the alien periodic table.  They will experience a similar decision-making process to that of real scientists when categorizing elements.


    R = Students will revisit and revise their categorizing theories at the beginning of the lesson through discussion.  Students will get to work together to rethink element choices that may not match the criteria of the group in which they were placed.  Students will reflect on the experiences of the lesson at the end through whole group discussion.


    E = Students will express their understandings of the lesson through their answers to the question at the end of the lab and through discussion/reflection at the end of the activity.


    T = The instruction will be tailored to different learners by providing experiences that accommodate different multiple intelligences, such as:  tactile, kinesthetic, audio, visual, and naturalist.


    O =  The learning experience is organized so that students proceed from concrete individual sorting activities, to group discussion and reflection, to whole group note-taking and discussion, to group demonstration of knowledge, and finally to reflection.

    Instructional Procedures

    Independent Activity


    (5-7 minutes)

    Students will enter the classroom and a box of random objects will be placed at each table.  The box will include:  checkers (both black and red), marbles, colored paper circles, various game tokens, and beads. (Any of these materials can be substituted out for other materials.  The assortment of materials will not change the activity.)  Students will be asked to individually reflect in their science notebook on the following questions:

    1. How would you put the different materials into groups?  Please specify what would go in each group.
    2. On what did you base your groupings?  For example, size of item, shape, color?
    3. What materials would be easiest to place in a group?  What materials would be hardest?


    Pair Share

    (15 minutes)

    Students will be asked to rejoin their tablemates (groups of 4) and each person at the table should discuss their answers to the independent activity above.  Students should identify other students who rationalized their groups similarly and differently.   Students should also discuss how they might do the activity differently if they were working as a group.  The groups will share answers in a brief class discussion.


    Whole Class, Mini Lesson


    (25 minutes)

    Students will review the text reading from the previous lesson on element groups and periods.  Students will put the following notes into their science notebooks.

    The Carbon Family (Group 14):

    • Each element in this family can gain, lose, or share 4 electrons when reacting with other elements. 
    • Only Carbon is a nonmetal in this family.
    • Carbon is essential for life.  Compounds made of molecules containing long chains of carbon atoms are found in all living things.

    The Nitrogen Family (Group 15):

    • Contains two nonmetals: nitrogen and phosphorus
    • These nonmetals usually gain or share three electrons when reacting with other elements.
    • The atmosphere is 78% nitrogen gas.
    • Nitrogen does not readily react with other elements.
    • Nitrogen is an example of an element that occurs in nature in the form of a diatomic molecule, N2.

    The Oxygen Family (Group 16):

    • Contains three nonmetals:  oxygen, sulfur, and selenium
    • These nonmetals usually gain or share two electrons when reacting with other elements.
    • Oxygen is highly reactive and can combine with almost every other element
    • Oxygen you breathe is diatomic molecule the  O2 and ozone is O3.

    The Halogen Family (Group 17):

    • These atoms typically gain or share one electron when reacting with other elements.
    • All elements in this group buy astatine are nonmetals.
    • This group is called halogen because it means “salt forming.”
    • All of the halogens are very reactive, and the uncombined elements are dangerous to humans.

    The Noble Gases (Group 18):

    • Atoms of noble gases do not usually gain, lose, or share electrons.
    • The noble gases are usually unreactive.


    Independent Activity, Small Group Activity


    (30 minutes)

    Students will work in table groups (of four students) to use their notes and knowledge of the periodic table of elements to complete the lab titled “The Alien Periodic Table.”  They will complete the lab by following the steps below.

    1.  Each table will receive a paper copy of the abbreviated “alien periodic table” that contains 30 elements. (A copy also found on page 107 of the student text.)
    2. Students will also receive a copy of the alien clues to the 30 elements on their periodic table.  (Also, found on page 107 of the student text.)
    3. Using the data on the physical properties of the “alien” elements, students will place them in the correct place on the periodic table and record their respective given name.  Example:  The Earth name of the element is hydrogen and its alien counterpart is pfsst.  (This can be deducted from the clues given.)
    4. Students will then answer the following questions:
    • a. Were you able to place some elements within the periodic table with just a single clue? Explain with examples.
    • b. Why did you need two or more clues to place other elements? Explain using examples.
    • c. Why could you use clues about atomic mass to place elements, even though the table is now based on atomic number?



    Whole Class Discussion, Reflection


    (5-7 minutes)

    Students will correct their chart by comparing it to the Promethean Board answer key.   

    Using the “random reporter” technique, the teacher will discuss the activity, any problems placing elements, and the questions at the end of the activity with the class group as a whole.


    Formative Assessment

    Students will engage in formative assessments in the following ways:

    • Teacher observation
    • Group discussion
    • Visual understanding indicators like “thumbs up and thumbs down”
    • “Random Reporter” reflection/discussion
    • Observed rationale for element placement during lab

    Related Materials & Resources

    Prentice Hall Science Explorer Series ©2007 – “Chemical Building Blocks”


    Grace Kizina

    Date Published

    April 30, 2012

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