Properties of Elements – A Vocabulary Scavenger Hunt (with Foldable)

This is the follow up lesson for the Introduction to the Periodic Table. Students know that elements are arranged based on their similar properties, so now we need to know exactly what some of those “properties” are. In other words, we are expanding on the TEKS objective

6.6A compare metals, nonmetals, and metalloids using physical properties such as luster, conductivity, or malleability

and building up preparation for chemical reaction identification in the Next Generation Science Standards with

MS-PS1 Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred

To start off with a little warm up activity, I ask the students to think of and/or write down three words that they would use to describe themselves.

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I have them get up and find a partner and share their words, then find another partner and describe the first partner, etc….mix them up a little bit!

Once the students are back in their seats I re-introduce the word “property.” The students discuss with their shoulder partners, “What is a property?”

English is a funny language and there are many different meanings of the word “property.” A “property” can be something you own (i.e. my house is my property, your pencil bag is your property). In science, a “property” is an attribute or characteristic of a thing. Scientists use “properties” to describe objects.

The descriptive words that the students shared at the beginning of class were their properties. Now we are going to use properties to describe some different things (you can use the word “elements” at this point, but be mindful of your students’ level of vocabulary about what “elements” are).

I give each student group a few metal objects – usually something along the lines of a piece of aluminum foil, a paper clip, a coin of some type, a bit of wire – really, whatever I find in the science closet. I also throw in something non-metal just to make them think. The students work as a group to come up with a list of properties that the objects all have in common.

To reduce prep time you can even have students describe objects in their pencil bags or backpacks.

We then discuss that the students have identified the “properties” of these objects.

One important part of being a scientist is using fancy science words so you can sound smart (or so students think), so the next step is to introduce the fancy science words that we will be using from now on to describe the properties of objects. These words (as decided by the State of Texas objectives) include:

  • ductility
  • malleability
  • electrical conductivity
  • luster
  • brittleness
  • electrical resistivity
  • translucency

I assign each student group one property and then send them on a scavenger hunt through the school to find objects exemplifying that property. The students use the definition and record the examples that they find in this handy dandy properties of matter foldable:

Depending on your level of technology and classroom management, there are several ways you can implement the scavenger hunt:

  • have students use their phones or other technology to take pictures of example of objects with their assigned property
  • have students take pictures AND then upload those pictures into a class slide show GoogleSlide
  • have students bring back examples of an object with the property from within the classroom
  • have students write down and describe examples.
  • (NOTE: I have also had students look through magazines and cut out pictures to make posters of examples for each property – a nice thing to have up as the unit progresses…or if parent night is soon and you need something on the walls!)

When students have finished their scavenger hunt, have groups meet together and share information to mutually fill out the foldable. By the end of class, all students should have at least 1-2 examples of objects with each property and be familiar with the basic definition of each property.

Finally, we wrap up by connecting back to yesterday’s lesson. Students go back to the top of the foldable, define “property” in their own words and give some examples of properties of foods from the Snack Periodic Table. Note that students will try to use “malleability” etc. from their new vocabulary, but going back to the food examples reminds them that there are other properties besides the special ones we just learned and that any word used to describe the characteristics of an object is a property.

You can also introduce the word “classify” here in that yesterday we “classified” the foods based on their properties. The lesson is already vocabulary heavy, so I usually hold off on “classify” until another day.

Now students know that properties are used to describe things and that there are some special science-y words that we use. Next we put those things back together with the periodic table, elements, and matter!

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