Engage, Expand and Encompass through Technology

Macomb ISD's Universal Design for Learning Initiative

E3T Lesson Plan Creator   

Structure of an Atom

Last Updated: Feb-28-2013

View & Print Lesson Plan

Return to MISD Home | Return to E3T Home

Options - this lesson plan:

Options - other lesson plans:

Developed By

  Michael Klein
Maureen Staskowski

Lesson Title

  Structure of an Atom

Length of Lesson

  2-3 50 minute class periods

Lesson Unit


Michigan Content Expectations

  C4.8A; C4.8B; C4.8C; C4.10A; C4.10B


  Atom; Periodic Table


  1. Latop, projector and screen
  2. Sticky notes
  3. Chart paper
  4. Coins
  5. Magnets, circuits
  6. Classroom response system



The following lesson is an introduction to the larger chemistry unit on the atomic model and the periodic table of the elements. This lesson provides background knowledge on the structure of the periodic table, parts of an element and various charges of particles.


Big Idea(s)


All matter is made up of 3 universal particles.

If the building blocks of the universe are all the same, then it is simply the organization of these universal particles that makes all the difference?


Essential Questions

  • What is matter?
  • If the atom is mostly space, why can I sit on a chair?
  • If positive protons repel each other, why does the nucleus stay together?
  • How many different ways are there to organize subatomic particles?

Learning Objectives


Students will be able to:

  • Draw models of the elements
  • Determine charge on various atoms and ions
  • Analyze element data on the periodic table

Summative Assessment


Build a model of an atom with 6 or more protons. Show proper placement and labeling of the protons, neutrons, and electrons. Develop an explanation of the model that includes the parts and definitions, as well as

  • Examples of how this element appears in the real world and why you chose it.
  • The history of the element's discovery.
  • Natural source of the element.
  • Characteristics / physical properties
    • Temperature at which it melts (melting point)
    • Temperature at which it boils (boiling point)

The model may be made from the materials of your choice such as using:

  • Legos, K'nex, beads in wearable jewelry, digital model or clay/claymation.

The explanation may take the form of your choice such as:

  • Podcast, videocast, digital story, song/rap or a written paper.



Lesson Opening

  1. Coin exploration activity (5-10 min)
    1. Students explore various US and Canadian coins using magnets, eleectrical circuits and various liquids.
    2. Ask directed questions looking for similarities and differences between coins.
    3. All coins are metal and will conduct electricity, but Canadian coins are magnetic and US coins are not. The US Mint uses primarily zinc cores where Canada uses nickel. Zinc is not magnetic and nickel is magnetic.
  2. Tom Lehrer Elements Song (Online Resource)
    1. www.privatehand.com/flash/elements.html
    2. Play song and engage class in discussion: What is the song referring to?
    3. Pose questions to class, leading the discussion of elements



Lesson Opening Co-teaching Plan


Begin diagram of atom on the white board. Add notes to the diagram about the big ideas as they are covered in the lesson. Interject questions for clarification of big ideas or comment to highlight them within the discussion.





1)      Introduce Periodic Table of the Elements (Online Resource)

a.       Very brief exploration of how the elements are arranged.

b.      Possible leading questions

                                                               i.      What elements might the various symbols represent?

                                                             ii.      What is the number on the top?  Any pattern with that number?

                                                            iii.      Is water on the table?  Why or why not?


2)      Sticky Note Atom Activity

a.       Distribute three different colored post-it notes randomly to the students.  Each student should have at least one and the colors should be fairly evenly represented.  Colors represent protons, neutrons and electrons.

b.      Prepare a white board for the sticky notes (with a key for which colors are protons, neutrons and electrons) and ask them to come up and place their notes where they think they should be.

c.       Do sticky note atom for one element as whole group.

d.      Develop structure rules during class demo

                                                               i.      Protons and neutrons in center

                                                             ii.      Protons spaced by neutrons, protons as far as possible

                                                            iii.      As much space as possible to electrons

                                                           iv.      Same number of protons and electrons for neutral atom

                                                             v.      Electrons around outside with appropriate number of electrons in each energy level. (2, 8, 18)

e.       Break into groups of four and assign to various locations with two or more elements to build.

f.        Early finishers can come to challenge pile for more difficult atoms, ions, isotopes, etc…



Exploration Co-teaching Plan


Interject questions when it appears students need a slower pace. List vocabulary important to the lesson as the come up. Repeat definitions discussed conversationally. Ask about definitions not clearly defined. Add to class vocabulary list. Interject brief discussion


Check for Understanding


a.       Identify results,

                                                               i.      If 80% or more, move on (re-teaching for struggling 20% will occur in independent online time see co-teaching notes).

                                                             ii.      If less than 80% of class is ready to move on, introduce Human Atom Activity to the struggling students

b.      Human Atom Activity (for whole group or small groups based upon the above results)

                                                               i.      Create various atoms using students and chairs to represent subatomic particles.

                                                             ii.      One option is:  Girls – Protons, Boys – Electrons, Chairs – Neutrons.  This model is built on opposites (boy/girl, +/- charge)

                                                            iii.      Be sure that students address spacing, location, placement, charge of overall atom.

                                                           iv.      Look for strengths and weaknesses of this (and any) model.

                                                             v.      Show enormous spacing between electrons and the nucleus in hall if time

                                                           vi.      Repeat check for understanding



Check for Understanding Co-teaching Plan


As needed throughout class period, provide instruction for groups needing re-teaching. Repeat activity with slower pace and extra emphasis on big ideas or provide alternate activity. Note the types of difficulty by the students and accommodate accordingly.




1)      Return to Periodic Table (Online Resource)

a.       Discuss site on reading the periodic table

                                                               i.      Need to lead through atomic number, symbol and atomic weight

b.      Allow time to explore various interactive tables

c.       What are some similarities between elements? 

d.      What are some differences?

2)      Online Learning – Structure of the Atom Sites (Online Resource)

a.       The sites listed will continue developing student understanding of the structure of the atom. 

b.      Students can choose which level of understanding is appropriate, but must do one of the interactive sites

            with an asterisk. 

c.       Students will need time to look at various sites and attempt to cross over to higher levels of information.


Resource(s) available for this section

Explanation Co-teaching Plan


Circulate during independent work, monitoring all students’ understanding with teacher. Help students using various strategies or student pairings Throughout the class period increase opportunities for students on IEPs to practice their IEP objectives. This occurs during class discussions, group work, and/or individual work. (This may be facilitated by having students write their goals and objectives in their own words inside the cover of their folder.)


Check for Understanding (2)


1)      Clicker Check for Understanding

a.       Again, based on results of assessment, can re-teach or move on.

b.      Re-teaching could include returning to sticky model or the interactive sites with more direct teacher involvement.



Check for Understanding Co-teaching Plan (2)


When needed, provide instruction for groups who would benefit from re-teaching.


Extended Practice

  1. Classroom material posted on line
    1. PowerPoint slides posted
    2. Graphical organizer posted
    3. Outline of notes posted
    4. Studycast of material posted
    5. Links to all sites used in class posted
  2. Online Learning - Structure of the Atom Site



Students share their summative assessment projects and explanations.


Closing Co-teach Plan


Both teachers review the big ideas with the class