I’ll bet you teach your students the layout of the periodic table by having them color code the group names, right?
It is an effortless lesson to teach and grade. Students love it because they remember the content easier. But, why stop there?
There is so much more you can teach students through color coding the periodic table besides the alkali, alkaline, and transition metal groups?
Let me show you deep concepts that you can teach your students about chemistry buried in the periodic table. You can use color-coding to teach bonding principles, electron behavior, and many other foundational chemical principles.
The periodic table was laid out with careful consideration for trends, behaviors, and characteristics. Bring those properties to a vibrant, 3D life with these lessons.
Some of these lessons require specific colors. Others are open to your interpretation. Instruct your students to color-code however you see fit.
#1 Color Code to Learn the General Layout
Have students color alkali, alkaline, transition metals, halogens, nobel gases, metaloids, lanthanides, actinides, all different colors.
Make sure they color AND label the metals. I find that the remember more that way.
Pick up my fun periodic tables for free here to use with this lesson.
#2 Color Code to Learn Cations and Anions
In the CoScine Chemistry World, happy, positive things are sunshine yellow, and since protons are positive, they are obviously yellow.
The opposite is also true.
Sad things are blue, and since anions are negative, they are definitely blue.
Based on that color scheme, have your students color code a periodic table blue and yellow based on each element’s tendency to form a cation or anion.
The best part about this activity is that it subconsciously lays the foundation for writing chemical formulas correctly. For students, subconscious learning is the next best thing to learning by osmosis!
#3 Color Code to Learn Electron Configuration
Students get confused on what to write down for an electron configuration. Have them color code a periodic table for electron configuration and use it as a cheat sheet to simplify the process for them.
Color all checkpoints (aka. filled subshells like 1s2, 2p6, etc) checkered because it tells the students to keep reading the periodic table. Color all locations red because it means stop and write the complete electron configuration.
Color code an electron configuration sample so that students know how to use this electron configuration periodic table.
For example, in this picture we would have 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2 3d10 4p6 5s2 4d10 5p6 6s2 5d10 6p3. The last space would be a location and it is colored red. The other spaces would be colored checkered.
#4 Color Code to Learn spdf Blocks
Have students color the s block, p block, d block, and f block. Anytime my students and I color, I also have them label as well. Explain to the students that the reason we color is to trigger memory recall later of the labels and information. We aren't coloring for the sake of coloring. That really helps them see the purpose of these activities.
For the orbitals, I have them draw the associated orbital shape, how many electrons each orbital can hold, and label each color with an orbital letter.
Just because you are coloring doesn't mean you can't raise the bar.
#5 Color Code to Learn Bonding
Once students have color coded metals, metalloids, and non metals, they can use the color coding system to quickly decide if a compound has an ionic or covalent bond(<---Great blog post on hacking this).
Have students draw a gray square next to a gray square and label it a metallic bond. A red square next to a gold square and label that a covalent bond. Draw two red squares and label it a covalent bond. Last, I have them draw a gray square next to a red square and write ionic bond.
They love to use this as a cheat sheet throughout the year.
#6 Color Code to Learn Periodic Trends
This one is really fun and very visual. Students pick one color per trend and color the periodic table according to that trend.
I like this because one corner will be very dark and the opposing corner much lighter. You can differentiate this and make it more challenging by requiring students to color in exceptions.
#7 Color Code to Learn Charges
When beginning to learn the periodic table, students need a visual reminder on which groups have which charge.
Here I've given positive and negative 1, the color red. Positive and negative 2, the color orange. Positive and negative 3, the color yellow. Positive and negative 4, the color green.
So as long as you have your students label the left side of the periodic table positive, and the right side negative, your students will be good to go.
Now that is a lot of periodic table coloring ideas! Try them out.
Imagine how much fun your students will have coloring the periodic table these different ways. Not only are these lessons very memorable, but they are very low prep and easy to assess. They will make learning these lessons so much easier for your students and we all know when learning is easy on students, it is easy on us teachers!
Plus, now your students will have a whole booklet of periodic table references they can use at any time.
Go sign up for my free resource library and get those periodic tables for free. Of course, these lessons work with any periodic table so feel free to use your own.
Hi! I'm CoScine. I write chemistry worksheets for visual learners. They are fun, easy to follow, and most of them are quick to grade. Since I started my teaching career at the college level, these are just simple chemistry. These worksheets are hard core science.