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Atom Lesson Plan for Elementary School

Instructor: Joanne Abramson

Joanne has taught middle school and high school science for more than ten years and has a master's degree in education.

Get your elementary students excited about atoms with a hands-on lesson. This lesson plan introduces young students to protons, electrons and neutrons with a text lesson, pair and group discussion, a demonstration and a kinesthetic activity.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explain that everything is made up of much tinier objects that we cannot see
  • Define the terms 'atom,' 'proton,' 'neutron,' and 'electron'
  • Describe the structure of an atom

Length

1 - 1.5 hours

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.1

Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.4

Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.4.1

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Key Terms

  • Atom
  • Proton
  • Neutron
  • Electron
  • Nucleus

Materials

  • Copies of the text lesson What is an Atom? - Lesson for Kids, one per student
  • Copies of the lesson quiz, one per student
  • Colored pencils or highlighters, 3 colors per student
  • Microscope images of plants, human hairs, feathers, insect eyes, etc.
  • Medium-sized, clear, plastic storage box with lid, 1
  • Small balls, such as ping pong balls or racquet balls, enough to completely fill the plastic box
  • Food coloring, 1 bottle
  • Ice cube tray, 1
  • Hot plate, 1
  • Beakers, 2
  • Erlenmeyer flask, 1
  • Balloon, 1
  • Index cards
  • Marker
  • Modeling clay or dough in three colors, 3 colors per pair of students
  • Toothpicks
  • Scissors, 1

Instructions

Preparation

  • The day before, add food coloring to some water and freeze the water into ice cubes. You will need at least 6 ice cubes for the demonstration.
  • Use the index cards and marker to create a stack of low-numbered elements from the periodic table. Note the number of protons, neutrons and electrons for each atom. You will need at least 1 element per pair of students.
  • Cut some of the toothpicks in half so you have some long toothpicks and some short.
  • At the start of class, write the Key Terms on the board.
  • Fill the plastic box with balls and shut the lid.

Warm-up

  • Begin the lesson by placing 2 ice cubes in a beaker and placing the beaker on the hot plate. Turn on the hot plate. Have students predict what will happen. Ask students to keep an eye on the ice and to let you know when it melts.
  • Show students the microscope images. Ask them to share their thoughts on what they see. Lead the conversation until students understand that objects that appear to be one piece are actually made up of many, much smaller objects.
  • Explain that in today's lesson they will be learning about the tiny objects that make up everything around us, atoms. These objects are so tiny, they are even too small to be seen with a microscope!
  • Once the ice has melted, but before it starts to boil, pour the colored water into the Erlenmeyer flask and stretch a balloon over the mouth of the flask. Set the flask aside for now.
  • Place another 2 ice cubes in the beaker and place them on the hot plate to melt.
  • Continue on to the text lesson. However, once the ice in the beaker melts, remove the beaker from the hot plate. Place the Erlenmeyer flask with the balloon onto the hot plate and allow it to boil.

Text Lesson

  • Distribute copies of the lesson What is an Atom? - Lesson for Kids and colored pencils to each student.
  • Ask students to color-code the lesson as they read:
    • Use the first color to underline or highlight the definition of the Key Terms written on the board.
    • Use the second color to underline or highlight words or phrases that they recognize or think they know, but aren't sure.
    • Use the third color to underline or highlight words or phrases that are brand new to them or that they don't know at all.
  • Ask a student to read aloud the first section, 'Building Blocks.'
    • Allow students a few moments to share and discuss what they underlined with a partner.
    • Ask students to share what they underlined and discuss with the class.
    • See if anyone in the class can answer the questions that came up in the reading.
  • Ask a couple of students to take turns reading the second section, 'The Structure of an Atom.'
    • Allow students a few moments to share and discuss what they underlined with a partner.
    • Ask students to share what they underlined and discuss with the class.
    • See if anyone in the class can answer the questions that came up in the reading.
  • Ask several students to take turns reading the final two sections, 'Atomic Bonding' and 'Lesson Summary.'
    • Allow students a few moments to share and discuss what they underlined with a partner.
    • Ask students to share what they underlined and discuss with the class.
    • See if anyone in the class can answer the questions that came up in the reading.
  • To check for understanding, distribute the lesson quiz. Have students complete the quiz with a partner.

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