Reactions to Atomic Structureby: Pamela Galus

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Middle level students are in a concrete stage of psychosocial development and often have difficulty comprehending something as abstract as atomic structure. Students may simply memorize and "brain dump" information about atoms instead of truly internalizing and understanding the concepts. To help students grasp this abstract concept, the lesson described here engages them in an inquiry-based activity in which they build their own model of the atom.

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Reviews (3)
  • on Tue Jan 19, 2016 6:37 PM

I have been using this lesson for several years in my classroom. I agree, that building the model provides the hands-on opportunity students need to deepen their understanding of atoms. I also have them present their model to the class. I really like the rubric, it is very structured and detailed.

Donna H  (Glendora, CA)
Donna H (Glendora, CA)

  • on Sat Mar 19, 2011 4:54 PM

I also came to the conclusion that students needed to model the atom to remember the structure and I do a similar activity with my classes. In addition to creating the atom and presenting, students make a card to hang below the atom with its information (name, symbol, number of protons, neutrons, and electrons). They also make a card for our class periodic table with additional information. By allowing students to determine how to create their atom they gain ownership of their learning.

Tina Harris  (Fairmount, IN)
Tina Harris (Fairmount, IN)

  • on Wed Mar 09, 2011 8:38 PM

I have been experiencing the same concerns the author mentioned – the lack of student retention of the content material. This article presents a great lesson plan idea on how to give students ownership of their learning by having students create models of an atomic element. The article includes background information on atomic structure, an overview of common student misconceptions on the atom and atomic structure, a rubric for grading the atom model projects and very clear and well written student directions. Overall, this article gets right to the heart of the matter – students learn best that which they have a hands-on and minds-on connection to.

Susanne Hokkanen  (Orland Park, IL)
Susanne Hokkanen (Orland Park, IL)

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