In this activity, students solve a series of clues about elements in order to uncover a message that has been hidden in the periodic table. Using the clues, students draw lines between identified elements on the table, which then connect to form the message. Two versions of this activity are available, varying the difficulty level of the clues.
Middle School and High School
By the end of this activity, students should be able to
- Navigate the periodic table.
- Increase their familiarity with the location of elements on the periodic table.
- Easily locate and identify elements on the periodic table given basic information, such as symbol, atomic number and atomic mass.
This activity supports students’ understanding of
- Periodic Table
- Element Symbols
- Atomic Number
- Average Atomic Mass
- Subatomic Particles
Teacher Preparation: 5 minutes
Student Activity: 15 minutes
Optional Follow-up Activity: 15-30 minutes
- Student Handout
- 1 per student with clue list for the appropriate level and periodic table coloring sheet
- Periodic Tables (available for download)
- Have extra copies of the periodic table available for students who need more than one attempt at coloring the message
- Optional: The follow-up activity will require 2 additional copies of the periodic table per student
- Colored pencils, markers, crayons, or pens
- Set of six (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple)
- Students can share a set of six colors with nearby classmates
- No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.
- There are two possible clue lists to use. Please read over both possible clue lists to determine the best fit for your class. The basic clues ask students to find element names, atomic numbers, and average atomic masses directly on the periodic table, and connect the dots. The advanced clue list requires students to interpret the information on the periodic table. To complete the advanced clues, students should be familiar with the following terms and concepts:
- Families/groups and periods
- Protons, neutrons, electrons
- Isotopes and mass number
- Number of electrons of neutral atoms and ions
- Chemistry trivia
- The Answer Key is provided below and is the same for both the basic and advanced clue lists. Both clue lists spell:
“I(heart symbol) C H E M”
- As a follow-up activity, instruct students to create clues for their own periodic table message. Students should first form their characters on a periodic table, and then write out clues for each character. After the clues are complete, they can exchange them with a classmate who has not yet seen their work.
For the Student
Each square of the periodic table contains the following information:
Atomic Number - number of protons
Element Symbol – code for an element
Average Atomic Mass – weighted average of the
- A secret message has been created out of the information in the periodic table.
- You will be given six sets of clues. Each set of clues creates a separate character of the secret message. Each character is in a different color.
- When you successfully solve all six sets of clues, you will see the entire six character message in six colors.
- For each character of the message:
- Read the first clue.
- With the matching colored pen/pencil/marker, put a dot in the center of the element square that solves the clue.
- Read the second clue of the same color.
- Put a dot in the center of the element square that goes with the second clue.
- Connect the first two dots. You may move diagonally if necessary to connect dots.
- Continue this procedure until you have finished all clues of that color.
- Some sets of clues ask you to lift your pen up in the middle of the character. Do not connect the points that come before and after this instruction.
- When you finish all clues of one color, start the next character of the message. Use the same procedure as above, but with the new color. Do not connect the different characters/colors to each other
Create clues for your own periodic table message:
- Test potential characters for your message on a periodic table, making sure they fit.
- Write out clues for each character. Choose your own color scheme.
- Exchange clues with a classmate. Challenge them solve the clues and uncover your message.