The Periodic Table and Transuranium Elements Mark as Favorite (19 Favorites)

LESSON PLAN in Elements, History, Periodic Table, Isotopes, Atomic Theory, Atomic Mass, Subatomic Particles, Radioactive Isotopes, ACS National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program. Last updated August 31, 2022.


In this lesson, students will learn about the transuranium elements through reading about some of their discoveries. There are a series of activities to help promote literacy in the science classroom related to the reading. This lesson could be easily used as plans for a substitute teacher, as most of the activities are self-guided.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This lesson will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • HS-PS1-1: Use the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms.
  • HS-PS-6: Communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
    • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


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

  • Understand how the periodic table is organized.
  • Recognize the different origins of elements.
  • Identify the parts of an atom.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of:

  • The Periodic Table
  • History
  • Atomic Structure
  • Atomic Theory
  • Isotopes
  • Subatomic Particles
  • Nuclear Chemistry


Teacher Preparation: 10 minutes
Lesson: Approximate times for students to complete each activity in the lesson:

  • Anticipation Guide: 5-10 minutes
  • Reading: 20 minutes
  • Timeline: 10-15 minutes
  • Notable Chemists: 10-15 minutes
  • Chemical Elements: 10-15 minutes
    • Summary: 20 minutes
  • Jigsaw Video: 30 minutes


  • Computer connected to the internet for jigsaw video activity.


  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for these activities.

Teacher Notes


Lesson Overview:

The lesson includes multiple components as outlined individually below. The Reading is essential for all of the activities. Teachers can choose to do one or all of the included activities. Student handouts and corresponding answer keys are provided for each item described below:

  • Reading: The Periodic Table and Transuranium Elements
  • Activity: Anticipation Guide
    • Anticipation guides help engage students by activating prior knowledge and stimulating student interest before reading. If class time permits, discuss students’ responses to each statement before reading each article. Then, while they read, students should look for evidence supporting or refuting their initial responses.
    • Instead of using the Anticipation Guide, consider this idea to engage your students in reading:
      • Ask students to consider how the version of the periodic table we have today developed over time. Students can begin by thinking or writing their ideas, then sharing with a partner before having a class discussion.
      • After this discussion, invite students to read the article to find more details about the development of today’s periodic table, including some of the notable people and discoveries.
  • Activity: Timeline
    • While they read, students re-order the events correctly, then summarize the important 20th-century developments in a short paragraph.
    • Challenge students to put the events in chronological order prior to reading. Provide the events on strips of paper to make this easier.
  • Activity: Notable Chemists
    • Students will describe each scientist’s contribution to the periodic table and its chemical significance in a table.
  • Activity: Chemical Elements
    • Students are asked to categorize elements from the reading into three different classifications – known prior to 1940, transuranium elements discovered at Berkeley, and transuranium elements discovered elsewhere. They then answer some reading comprehension questions about the elements.
  • Activity: Jigsaw Video Summaries
    • In groups, have students watch one of the ACS Reactions videos listed below and share out what they learned to the other groups. The suggested videos tie into themes they learned about in the reading.
    • An alternative: Students choose one video and discuss using the following prompts: