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Ionic Compound Identification Mark as Favorite (20 Favorites)

ACTIVITY in Observations, Naming Compounds. Last updated March 25, 2020.


In this activity, students will practice naming and writing formulas of ionic compounds by actually looking at some examples. They also observe the color and general appearance of each compound.

Grade Level

High School


By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Convert names of ionic compounds into their corresponding formulas and vice versa.
  • Record observations on the appearance of a variety of ionic compounds.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of:

  • Naming ionic compounds
  • Writing formulas for ionic compounds


Teacher Preparation: 30 minutes

Lesson: 30 minutes


Suggested ionic compounds for the activity

  • Calcium carbonate, CaCO3
  • Mercury(II) iodide, HgI2
  • Copper(II) sulfate, CuSO4
  • Sodium hydrogen carbonate, NaHCO3
  • Nickel(II) chloride, NiCl2
  • Potassium chromate, K2CrO4
  • Nickel(II) nitrate, Ni(NO3)2
  • Sodium carbonate, Na2CO3
  • Ammonium chloride, AlCl3
  • Cobalt(II) chloride, CoCl2
  • Chromium(III) nitrate, Cr(NO3)3
  • Sodium dihydrogen phosphate, NaH2PO4
  • Sodium phosphate, Na3PO4
  • Iron(II) sulfide, FeS
  • Potassium dichromate, K2Cr2O7
  • Potassium permanganate, KMnO4
  • Copper(I) oxide, Cu2O
  • Silver nitrate, AgNO3
  • Sodium acetate, NaC2H3O2
  • Zinc sulfate, ZnSO4
  • Manganese(IV) oxide, MnO2


  • Always wear safety goggles when working in the lab.
  • Students should wash their hands thoroughly before leaving the lab.
  • When students complete the lab, instruct them how to clean up their materials and dispose of any chemicals.

Teacher Notes

  • This gives students a chance to get out of their seats and to see actual compounds, rather than assigning names to meaningless substances.
  • This is a "prepare one time and you're set" activity and teachers can use whatever compounds they have in their lab to prepare the sets. If you use different compounds than the ones listed, be sure to substitute them out on the student activity sheet.
  • For the final question, students will probably vary in what they notice about the similarities between the compounds and less independent students might need some help starting the thought process. Asking them what things the compounds are not similar to (“Are they like water? Salt? Air? Your desk? Etc.) might help them start recognizing and articulating similarities and differences.
    • Some things students might notice are that they are all solids and powdery/crystalline in structure. Many of them are white, but some are brightly colored. (If you have talked about transition metals, they might know that the presence of a transition metal often results in brightly colored compounds.) Many of them have oxygen in them (in the form of oxyanions).

For the Student


At each lab table you will find a set of three ionic compounds. For each compound listed:

  1. Describe the compound’s color and form (ex: crystals, powder, pellets, flakes, etc.).
  2. If the name of the compound is given, give the formula; if the formula of the compound is given, give the name.

Ex: NaCl description: white crystals name: sodium chloride

Sodium chloride description: white crystals formula: NaCl

Set 1

Calcium carbonate

Mercury(II) iodide

Copper(II) sulfate

Set 2




Set 3

Nickel(II) nitrate

Sodium carbonate

Ammonium chloride

Set 4




Set 5

Sodium phosphate

Iron(II) sulfide

Potassium dichromate

Set 6




Set 7

Sodium acetate

Zinc sulfate

Manganese(IV) oxide

Describe any common characteristics you noticed between all of the substances in terms of their appearances, formulas, or names. Were there any characteristics shared between many (but not all) of the substances? If so, what were they and which substances had these characteristics?