The Periodic Table

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12417

Do you go shopping? Is it easy to find what you're looking for, be it shoes, toys, or seafood? That's because items are grouped according to a system, with similar things together. Same with elements!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


How do you organize your study materials? How do chemists organize their study materials?

It can be hard to keep track of all of your work, so we develop organizational techniques to help us.

In the previous Related Lesson of The Periodic Table series, found in the right-hand sidebar, you learned that there are, as of 2017, 118 elements in our world. Scientists have developed a tool to help them organize all of these substances, and it is called the "periodic table of the elements."


The periodic table holds all known elements, even those created in a lab setting. It organizes elements based on the atomic number, or number of protons. The first element is hydrogen, because it only has one proton.

We read the periodic table from left to right, reading each row completely. So, while helium is not directly beside hydrogen, it is the next element with only two protons. The rows on the periodic table are called "periods," while the columns are called "groups."


Notice how hydrogen is in period one, group one. Helium is in period one, but group 18.

The placement of elements into groups and periods is important because it can tell us about similar properties. We know that the atomic structure impacts the behavior of the element, so elements can be grouped based on recurring properties.

Another way we group elements on the periodic table is by the metallic nature of the atom. Elements can be divided into three groups: metals, non-metals, and metalloids. Each group is easily identifiable on the periodic table shown below:

periodic table of metals

Image by Cepheus and TheSmuel, via Wikimedia Commons, released into the public domain.

Metals are solid at room temperature (except for Mercury), are able to conduct heat and electricity, and generally have a shiny surface called "luster." Metals are also ductile, which means they can be pulled into thin pieces. They are also malleable, or able to be hammered into sheets. The atomic structure of metals allows for electrons to easily transfer to other atoms, creating chemical bonds.


Nonmetals, the yellow section in the image, are very different from metals. Nonmetals are poor conductors for heat and electricity, can be liquid or gas at room temperature, and usually accept electrons during a bond.

liquid nitrogen

Finally, the pink section shows metalloids. Metalloids have some metallic characteristics and some nonmetallic characteristics. They are able to conduct electricity, but are not as flexible as true metals. We use many metalloids in our computers and cell phones as semi-conductors.

silicone chip

As you can see, each element has a location on the periodic table that provides valuable information.


Study the image above. Write down all the information you are given about silicon in the orange box, and answer the following questions (before clicking on them for the answers!):

The periodic table provides us with organized information for each element on our planet. Chemists use information provided by the periodic table daily. Elements in groups and periods have similar properties, and that helps us predict chemical behavior. In order to understand the information provided in the periodic table, we have to be able to read it.

In the Got It? section, you will use an interactive to review how to read the periodic table.

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