ALEX Lesson Plan


Big Science of the Small World of Atom

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:shoieb shaik
System: Tuscaloosa City
School: Tuscaloosa City Board Of Education
Author:Dawen Li
System: Tuscaloosa City
School: Tuscaloosa City Board Of Education
Author:Scott Wehby
System: Birmingham City
School: Birmingham City Board Of Education
Author:Debbie Payne
Organization:ResultSearch Consulting
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34175


Big Science of the Small World of Atom


This module provides 8th grade middle school students a basic understanding of the atomic structure. With the knowledge evolution of the atom structure, modern sciences and technologies, particularly nanoscience and nanotechnology, have been revolutionarily advanced. In this module development the structure of an atom and its constituents will be demonstrated with the help of the 3D visualization and hands-on activities.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 8
Physical Science
1 ) Analyze patterns within the periodic table to construct models (e.g., molecular-level models, including drawings; computer representations) that illustrate the structure, composition, and characteristics of atoms and molecules.

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
P12.2: Electrons, protons, and neutrons are parts of the atom and have measurable properties, including mass and, in the case of protons and electrons, charge. The nuclei of atoms are composed of protons and neutrons. A kind of force that is only evident at nuclear distances holds the particles of the nucleus together against the electrical repulsion between the protons.

NAEP Statement::
P12.3: In the Periodic Table, elements are arranged according to the number of protons (called the atomic number). This organization illustrates commonality and patterns of physical and chemical properties among the elements.

NAEP Statement::
P8.3a: All substances are composed of 1 or more of approximately 100 elements.

NAEP Statement::
P8.3b: The periodic table organizes the elements into families of elements with similar properties.

NAEP Statement::
P8.4a: Elements are a class of substances composed of a single kind of atom.

NAEP Statement::
P8.4b: Compounds are composed of two or more different elements.

NAEP Statement::
P8.5b: Metals and acids are examples of such classes.

NAEP Statement::
P8.5c: Metals are a class of elements that exhibit common physical properties such as conductivity and common chemical properties such as reacting with nonmetals to produce salts.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Developing and Using Models
Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns
Disciplinary Core Idea: Matter and Its Interactions
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Analyze patterns within the periodic table.
  • Construct models that illustrate the structure, composition, and characteristics of atoms.
  • Construct models that illustrate the structure, composition, and characteristics of molecules.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Element
  • Atom
  • Protons
  • Nucleus
  • Electrons
  • Neutrons
  • Atomic number
  • Periodic table
  • Array
  • Atomic mass
  • Period
  • Group
  • Chemical properties
  • Physical properties
  • Molecule
  • Bond
  • Chemical bond
  • Valence electron
  • Ion
  • Ionic bond
  • Nonmetal
  • Metal
  • Covalent bond
  • Metallic bond
  • Conductivity
Students know:
  • Elements are substances composed of only one type of atom each having an identical number of protons in each nucleus.
  • Atoms are the basic units of matter and the defining structure of elements.
  • Atoms are made up of three particles: protons, neutrons and electrons.
  • The number of protons in an atom's nucleus is equal to the atomic number.
  • The periodic table arranges all the known elements in an informative array.
  • Elements are arranged left to right and top to bottom in order of increasing atomic number. Order generally coincides with increasing atomic mass.
  • Rows in the periodic table are called periods. As one moves from left to right in a given period, the chemical properties of the elements slowly change.
  • Columns in the periodic table are called groups. Elements in a given group in the periodic table share many similar chemical and physical properties.
  • The period number of an element signifies the highest energy level an electron in that element occupies (in the unexcited state). The number of electrons in a period increases as one traverses down the periodic table; therefore, as the energy level of the atom increases, the number of energy sub-levels per energy level increases.
  • A molecule is formed when two or more atoms bond together chemically.
  • A chemical bond is the result of different behaviors of the outermost or valence electrons of atoms.
  • Ionic bonds are the result of an attraction between ions that have opposite charges. Ionic bonds usually form between metals and nonmetals; elements that participate in ionic bonds are often from opposite ends of the periodic table. One example of a molecule that contains an ionic bond is table salt, NaCl.
  • Covalent bonds form when electrons are shared between atoms rather than transferred from one atom to another. The two bonds in a molecule of carbon dioxide, CO2, are covalent bonds.
  • Metallic bonds exist only in metals, such as aluminum, gold, copper, and iron. In metals, each atom is bonded to several other metal atoms, and their electrons are free to move throughout the metal structure. This special situation is responsible for the unique properties of metals, such as their high conductivity.
Students are able to:
  • Analyze patterns within the periodic table to construct models of atomic and molecular structure, composition, and characteristics.
  • Identify the relevant components of the atomic and molecular models.
  • Describe relationships between components of the atomic and molecular models.
Students understand that:
  • Patterns in the periodic table predict characteristic properties of elements. These trends exist because of the similar atomic structure of the elements within their respective group families or periods, and because of the periodic nature of the elements.
  • The structure, composition, and characteristics of atoms and molecules are dependent upon their position in the periodic table.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Experimenting with Mixtures, Compounds, and Elements

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.8.1- Identify parts of an atom (i.e. protons, neutrons, electrons); recognize that the periodic table is organized to show patterns of common traits of elements; locate metals and nonmetals on the periodic table.

Local/National Standards:


MS-PS1-1: Develop models to describe the atomic compostion of simple molecules and extended structures.

MS-PS1-2: Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.

Primary Learning Objective(s):

  • Students will be able to write down a list of the various parts an atom.
  • For each given element with atomic number in periodic table, students will be able to demonstrate atomic structure using atomic model kit. 
  • Students will be able to design with the help of the interactive atomic model, a model to represent a particular element. 
  • By presenting unbalanced number of electrons and protons in atomic model kit, students will be able to write down the element symbol with corresponding ion charges.
  • Using discovering strategy, students will be able to recognize the problem, form the hypothesis, test and analyze the data and draw conclusions.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

61 to 90 Minutes

Materials and Resources:


  • Plastic atomic model with snap on electrons, protons and neutrons, periodic table.

Technology Resources Needed:

Computer, projector


1)    UNITY

2)    Google Sketchup 


  1. Elements: The presence of number of protons in an element defines the element. Elements can have different number of neutrons (isotopes) and hence end up having different mass numbers.
  2. Atom: An atom is a smallest particle of the element that retains the characteristics of that particular element. Basically all the available elements in the nature are made up of tiny particles called atoms.
  3. Protons:  Proton is a fundamental constituent of atomic nuclei and comprises of one unite positive charge. In a neutral atom, the number of protons is equal to the number of electrons.
  4. Electrons: Electrons are part of an atom that are negatively charged and moves around the nucleus of an atom in orbits. An electron is much smaller than the proton and neutron in size and mass. The presence of number of valence electrons determines how they interact with other atoms.
  5. Neutrons:  Neutrons are elementary particles in the nucleus of an atom and essentially have no charge. A neutron roughly holds the same mass as the proton in the nucleus.
  6. Isotopes:  Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have different number of neutrons.  The isotope of an atom is denoted by writing the element's name followed by the sum of the number of protons and neutrons.
  7. Valence electrons:  Valence electrons are the electrons that are present in the outer most shell of an atom and are responsible for the chemical bonding.
  8. Core electrons:  Core electrons are the electrons in the inner shells of an atom and do not participate in the chemical reaction. Core electrons can be used to generate X-rays and identify elements.  
  9. Electronic configuration: The arrangement of the electrons at different shells (energy level) and sublevels (orbits). 

First do a survey in the classroom: “Everything in the universe is made of particles so small that we cannot even see them. This particle is the smallest piece of matter that still retains the property of one element. Can anyone tell me the name of this extremely small particle?" After students come up with the answer, “Atom,” students will be asked to write down a list of the various parts of which an atom is comprised. “What’s inside an atom? What are atoms made up of?”

Following the engagement questions, the attached PowerPoint presentation will be used to explain the evolution of human understanding of the atomic structure and impart the basic knowledge about the atomic structure, the particles an atom is made up of, valence electrons and core electrons, atomic number, atomic mass, and concepts of isotopes.  The interactive periodic table is on slide #10.

Divide students into groups based on the available number of atomic model kits.  If only one kit is available, rotate students through the activity while other groups work on other activities. Each group of students will be provided with a periodic table and an interactive atomic model kit, including snap-on particles representing electron, proton, neutron, and box with shells based on Bohr model. Each snap-on will have the respective charge representation on it. Electrons will have a negative (-) sign on it, a proton has (+) and a neutron has a blank top. For each given element with atomic number in the periodic table, students will be asked to demonstrate atomic structure using atomic model kit. For instance, oxygen atom has atomic number 8, which means it has 8 protons, 8 neutrons, and 8 electrons. Students will make an oxygen atom by placing 8 snap-on protons and 8 neutrons in the center of the atom representing nucleus and aligning 8 electrons in shells outside the nucleus based on the periodic table.  Students will also be asked to show atomic structure for a few other elements, and calculate the number of valence electrons and core electrons.

In another instance, a design with the help of the interactive atomic model will be made to represent a particular element. Based on the presence of a number of electrons, protons, and neutrons, students will be asked to find out the element it represents from the periodic table. 

The atom is either positively or negatively charged, creating an ion. By presenting an unbalanced number of electrons and protons in the atomic model kit, students will be asked to write down the element symbol with corresponding ion charges. 

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Assessment Strategies

Students’ understanding about the atomic structure will be assessed by following questions:

  1. What are different parts of an atom and draw its structure?
  2. Where is the majority of the mass of atom located?
  3. What are the particles that make up protons and neutrons?
  4. Discuss the charge from an atom? How about charge from a proton, an electron and a neutron?
  5. Which element is an atom with 14 protons in the nucleus? What is the number of valence and core electrons?
  6. Why do elements in the same group undergo similar chemical properties?  
  7. How isotopes are defined? How to calculate number of neutrons?
  8. What are the properties (metal or nonmetal, solid or gas phase) of the elements located on the left side of the periodic table?
  9. Why are the noble gases in group VIII chemically stable?  
  10. Give a couple of examples on how electron beams are used in modern nanotechnology? 


This section aims to help students to further understand the hands-on activities conducted in the explore part and element properties with the help of 3D visualizations of periodic table. On clicking a particular element in the alive periodic table, the atomic structure of the element, including the number of protons, neutrons and electrons, atomic mass, electron occupation in the different shells (energy levels) so that the number of core electrons and the valence electrons can be counted. Students will learn how elements are arranged in the periodic table, how the number of valence electrons is correlated with group number in the periodic table. Valence electrons are responsible for chemical bonding (chemical reaction), while core electrons can be used to identify elements. With 3D visualization of X-ray generation, students will be demonstrated how modern sciences and nanotechnology use information from electrons to benefit mankind. Once a student picks up or clicks a specific element, he should be able to give the atom structure information, such as atomic number, number of protons, electrons (both core and valence electrons), mass number, etc. 

Another elaborate activity is designed to help students build a methodology for scientific research, which is employed in discovering atomic structure.  In 1900s, scientists are not able to see the atom, but they can find clues to infer what the atomic structure looks like. Their discovering strategy includes recognize the problem, form the hypothesis, test and analyze the data and draw conclusions. To practice this discovering strategy, each group of students will be provided with cents, quarters, stones and match sticks in zip-lock bags.  Students place two of four items in the envelope and seal it. After trading envelope with another group, students will try to figure out what items are put inside the envelope without opening it. Record hypothesis 



View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.