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Repurpose the Periodic Table Mark as Favorite (56 Favorites)

PROJECT in Interdisciplinary, Periodic Table. Last updated May 14, 2020.


In this project, students will take the principles governing the organization of the periodic table and apply them to a periodic table of their own creation. Students will choose a category of objects and organize them into a “periodic table,” establishing trends across a period and within a group and creating a poster to present their table to the class.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This project will help prepare your students to meet the following scientific and engineering practices:

  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Developing and Using Models
    • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


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

  • Create a “Periodic Table of…” based on a topic/category of their choice.
  • Explain the patterns and trends in their periodic table as they relate to the traditional periodic table of the elements.

Chemistry Topics

This project supports students’ understanding of:

  • Periodic trends


Teacher Preparation: 10 minutes

Lesson: 40-120 minutes in class, additional time to work on the project at home


  • Posterboard, cardboard, etc. to create periodic table poster
  • Art supplies – markers/crayons, magazine/newspaper cuttings and glue, if desired
  • Internet capable device for research


  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • This project is appropriate after students have learned about the periodic trends and the organization of the periodic table. Students may work individually, in pairs, or in groups.
  • After introducing the project, much of it can be done at home, so you can determine how many class periods to allow for working on the project and how much of it is to be done at home.
  • Some AACT resources that could be used to teach the periodic trends include:
  • Have students choose one category of interest to organize the “elements” in that category based on characteristics, like the trends of the periodic table.
  • Determine a minimum number of “elements” (e.g. 20) you want students to include in their periodic table and include that number in the background information for the student.
  • Students will have to put together a poster of their periodic table, so they will need to include the name and a symbol for each “element,” as well as the traits/qualities they used to organize them (like atomic numbers on the periodic table of elements). Group names should also be labeled.
  • The layout does not have to be exactly the same as the periodic table of elements.
    • Horizontally, “elements” should follow a pattern in a particular trait that gradually changes from element to element across a period. Have students identify opposing characteristics of their category as their primary organizational principle – ex: the left side of the periodic table is metals and the right side is nonmetals.
    • Vertically, “elements” that are similar should be included in the same group (like the Alkali metals, Noble gases, etc.). If there is a very large group of similar “elements,” they could be grouped together like the transition metals rather than as a long column.
    • Depending on the number of “elements” in a student’s table and how they fit the pattern students identify, the overall shape may be more rectangular/less irregular than the periodic table of elements – the shape should reflect the patterns and the elements should not necessarily be forced to the shape of the periodic table of elements.
    • Consider asking students to use a numerical value, similar to the atomic number, as part of their organizational scheme.
    • Ex: if the topic is beverages, the primary organizing characteristic could be caffeinated vs. non-caffeinated. The left-to-right progression could be the most caffeine per ounce on the left and the least on the right, ending with the non-caffeinated drinks. Groups could be similar types of beverages, such as coffees, teas, sodas, energy drinks, juices, etc.
  • Possible categories, if students need help thinking of an idea, include: types of drinks, digital apps, ice cream flavors, types of candy, vegetables, musical instruments, athletes, musicians, artists, actors, superheroes, books, movies, TV shows, video games, etc.
  • Students should be graded primarily on the clarity of their explanations (both on the planning guide and in their verbal presentation) of the patterns they used to organize their “elements.” Make sure this is clear to students.
  • Some student samples are included in the “Student Work Samples” document in the sidebar. The first example in particular has well-identified vertical and horizontal patterns.

For the Student



For this project, you will organize a category of objects into groups and periods to create your own periodic table according to patterns in select characteristics of your category.

Choose a category that you wish to organize into your periodic table. It should be a topic with which you are familiar, and you should be able to think of at least 20 individual “elements” to include on your table.

You will use credible resources (web-based and/or print) to gather information about each “element” to determine the patterns you will use to organize your periodic table. When making your table, include a square for each “element,” including the name, symbol, and the trait(s) you are using to organize them. To make the poster of your periodic table, you can use cuttings from magazines or newspapers, drawings, etc. to decorate your squares and express your “elements.”


  1. Brainstorm a list of three possible categories you could use for this project (in case your first choice is taken) and rank them in order of preference. Be sure you can come up with at least 20 “elements” in your category. Ask your teacher to approve one of your choices.
  2. Once you have gotten your teacher’s approval, make a list of the “elements” you will include on your periodic table. Determine a symbol for each one.
  3. Use reputable sources to research your “elements.” As you do so consider what your organizing principles will be horizontally and vertically, and see if you can make at least one of them numerical.
    1. Think about opposing characteristics of the items in your category and how this can be used to organize your “elements” horizontally. The periodic table, for example, places metals on the left side and nonmetals on the right and they increase in atomic number left to right.
    2. Consider how to sort your “elements” into vertical groups with similar characteristics, like how the elements are arranged into groups including the noble gases, halogens, alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, transition metals.
  1. Determine the placement/order of your “elements” and create your periodic table poster.
    1. Be sure to include the name, symbol, and characteristics used to sort each “element” on their respective squares.
    2. Decorate the squares with logos, pictures, cuttings, or drawings to represent each “element.”
    3. Label important features, such as group names, with verbal labels or color coding with a key/legend.
  1. Prepare a brief (1-2 minute) presentation explaining how your table is organized and any challenges you encountered while working on this project, and answer questions from your teacher and/or peers about your table.
  2. Submit the planning guide and reflection questions below along with your periodic table poster after you give your presentation.

Planning Guide

Three potential topics:

  1. _____________________________
  2. _____________________________
  3. _____________________________

Circle the topic approved by your teacher. Teacher’s initials: _____

Brainstorm “elements” and symbols:

Research and “element” data

In 2-3 sentences, explain your horizontal organizing trait/characteristic.

In 2-3 sentences, explain the relationship/similarities between the elements in your vertical groups.


“Element” name


Horizontal Trait

Vertical Group


  1. What was the most challenging part of designing your periodic table? Why?
  2. Which of your “elements” were most difficult to classify? Why?
  3. What might you do differently next time if you had to do this project again?