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ACTIVITY in Molecular Formula, Periodic Table, Covalent Bonding, Ionic Bonding. Last updated March 25, 2020.


In this activity, students play a game in which they use element cards to form compounds.

Grade Level

High school


By the end of this activity, students should be able to

  • Determine which elements will bond with each other.

Chemistry Topics

This activity supports students’ understanding of

  • Covalent bonding
  • Ionic bonding
  • Noble gases


Teacher Preparation: 20 minutes

Lesson: 40 minutes


For each group:

  • Set of instructions
  • One deck of element cards.


There are no special safety considerations for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • Make enough decks of element cards for each group before the activity begins.
  • A set of cards are available for download. Copying on card stock or laminating is suggested for reuse of the cards.
  • Each deck of cards includes four of each of the first 18 elements on the periodic table (hydrogen to argon), making a total of 72 cards in each deck.

For the Student


  1. You will play individually against one, two, or three others (making a group of two, three, or four total students).
  2. To start, the dealer will deal one card to each player moving clockwise until each player has eight cards.
  3. The dealer will then place the remaining cards face down in the middle, and turn the top card over and set it next to the pile.
  4. Each player will look at their cards and see if they can make any bonds. If you can make bonds, you need to place those cards face up on the table in front of you. For example, if you have Na and Cl, you would place those two down to make NaCl. If you have two Na and one O, you would place all three down to make Na2O. You may only make bonds between two elements. You may not make NaOH for example. Because noble gases are not reactive, if you get a noble gas, it does not need to bond and can be placed down by itself. Once you have played cards on the table, you cannot pick them up and use them again.
  5. After each person has laid down their bonded elements, the person to the left of the dealer will go first. You can either pick up the card faced up or the faced down card on the top of the stack. If you can make a new bond from the card you draw, place it on the table. When finished, you will discard one of your cards onto the faced up pile. The next person can then take the top card off either the faced up or faced down stack.
  6. The game will continue until a player has used all their cards. If nobody has gone out by the time all the cards on the stack are gone, the game ends.
  7. When the game is over, each player adds up the cards they were able to make bonds with. If you made a bond with two elements, you get two points. If you made a bond with three elements, you get three points.
  8. For the next game, the person to the left of the first dealer will deal. Continue playing until one person gets to 15 points.