« Return to AACT homepage

AACT Member-Only Content

You have to be an AACT member to access this content, but good news: anyone can join!

Need Help?

The Periodic Table Turns 150 Emergency Lesson Mark as Favorite (3 Favorites)

LESSON PLAN in Elements, History, Periodic Table, Model of the Atom, Valence Electrons, Subatomic Particles, Chemical Properties, ChemMatters Teaching Resources. Last updated March 05, 2024.


In this lesson, students will learn about elements, the history and organization of the periodic table, as well as the scientists who contributed to the development of the periodic table through reading the highly rated ChemMatters article, The Periodic Table Turns 150. The lesson includes several activities to help promote literacy in the science classroom related to the reading. This lesson could be easily used as an emergency lesson plan 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.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


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

  • Explain how the modern periodic table is organized, as well as how it changed over time.
  • Describe some of the historical theories related to the organization of the periodic table.
  • Use examples to explain why Mendeleev’s work was so valuable to the development of the periodic table.
  • List several scientists who contributed to the periodic table.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of:

  • The Periodic Table
  • Elements
  • History
  • Chemical Properties
  • Atomic Structure
  • Model of the Atom
  • Subatomic Particles


Teacher Preparation: 5 minutes
Lesson: 60-90 minutes



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

Teacher Notes

  • This lesson was originally designed by the ChemMatters Teacher Guide team as a meaningful resource for teachers to use as an emergency lesson plan for a substitute teacher.
  • The lesson includes multiple components, as outlined individually below. The ChemMatters article 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:
    • Anticipation Guide: Anticipation guides help engage students by activating prior knowledge and stimulating student interest before reading. Students should read and respond to each statement before reading the article, then, while they read, students should look for evidence supporting or refuting their initial responses and again respond to each statement.
    • Graphic Organizer: This helps students locate and analyze information from the article. Students should use their own words and not copy entire sentences from the article. Encourage the use of bullet points.
    • Reading Comprehension Questions: These questions are designed to help students read the article (and graphics) carefully. They can help the teacher assess how well students understand the content and help direct the need for follow-up discussions and/or activities. You’ll find the questions ordered in increasing difficulty.
  • Teaching Strategies:
    • o Conversation Starters for “The Periodic Table Turns 150” before students dive into reading the article, it may be helpful to engage students with these questions/tasks:
      • Give the student 2 minutes to make a list of as many elements as they can without looking at the periodic table for help. Compare answers to see who has the most, or who has an element listed that no one else has written on their list.
      • Ask the class to share ideas about how the periodic table is organized. Students might offer suggestions such as protons, electrons, metals/non-metals, physical properties, groups/families, etc.
  • Further Exploration: After completing the provided activities, you can use the following activities with your students to complement the concepts introduced in the article:
    • Activity: Organizing the Periodic Table: Students are given a set of cards, each card representing an element, and containing five data points for consideration. They are challenged to organize elements into the shape of the periodic table based on trends in data.
    • Aliens Activity: Students organize alien cards into groups and periods following trends, similar to how the periodic table is put together. The teacher can remove two cards from each student’s deck, and after they organize the cards, the students can predict (draw) the missing aliens.
    • Video: History of the Periodic Table and corresponding video questions, from AACT and Sam Kean.
    • Activity: Periodic Table of Mistakes: Students will be tasked with comparing the Periodic Table of Mistakes to a real periodic table in order to determine what mistakes are present.
    • ACS Reactions Video: The Race to Invent the Periodic Table: Dig into the history of the periodic table with the help of a vanishing spoon, a man named after a rooster, and a bearded Russian.