You know when you are faced with a challenge that makes your brain work in a way that is both frustrating and intriguing? This introductory activity for the Periodic Table was just that for my students and I’ve included a free printable below so that you can give it a try.

We are partway through our Chemistry unit and I was looking for an activity to introduce the Periodic Table of the Elements to the grade 9s. I wanted something fun, challenging, and linked to the idea that the Table includes loads of trends – its structure is of importance!

After talking to colleagues and putting Google to work, I found this summary of a game by Tom Huett. He seemed to have nailed the idea I had in my head, so I went to work making my own version from his description.

Here’s the rundown of the game:

- There are 24 cards in a set, which can be arranged to form a 6 x 4 rectangle
- Each card has two numbers, one symbol, and one colour
- There are four different colours, and four different symbols
- Each group receives a set of cards, with one card missing. Each group has a different card missing.
- The goal of the game is for a group to determine the four elements of the card that is missing: the colour, the top number, the bottom number, and the symbol.

I used visibly random grouping to assign students in groups of 4. I then gave them the basic instructions above and let them go.

The activity managed to find that perfect balance between being challenging & achievable. Students were curious, frustrated, and completely enthralled with being the first group to correctly identify their missing card.

One team thought they were finished, but they had missed the patterning around the numbers. As they raced to rethink their strategy, another team managed to correctly guess their card. Many jubilant & disappointed shouts ensued – though groups were given additional time to finish.

We followed up with a discussion of the Periodic Table and the significance of its structure & organization.

Give it a try yourself and let me know how it goes. This printable includes two versions of the game, one for printing in colour (page 1) and one for printing on coloured sheets of paper (pages 2 – 5).