Atomic Structure History Lesson Plan

Instructor: Josh Corbat

Josh has taught Earth Science and Physical Science at the High School level and holds a Master of Education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Use this lesson plan to introduce your students to the atom and the history of the theorization of its structure. Students will read a text lesson, discuss the structure of atoms, and complete a comparative activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define atom.
  • describe the structure of the atom, as well as the history of the theorization of this structure.


30 - 60 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.


Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).



  • Begin the lesson by placing an object in the front of the room that has been constructed out of Legos (or similar construction material; popsicle sticks or toothpicks will work as well). Ask students to describe the object. Then, ask them what it is made of. Focus on the idea of 'building blocks.' To finish up the introduction, ask students to describe each individual Lego compared to the overall object.
  • Distribute the text lesson Atomic Structure: Definition, History & Timeline. Ask students to read the introduction and the 'Philosophical Beginning' section .
  • Write the word 'atom' on the board. Ask students to write a definition on a piece of paper. Then, have students pair up and discuss their definitions. Ask for a volunteer group to share their definition with the class, then ask for critiques of the definition to come up with a class consensus definition.
  • Have students continue reading the text lesson. When they have finished reading the next two sections, 'Dalton's Atomic Theory' and 'Basic Structure of the Atom', discuss the following questions as a class:
    • What are the main properties of every atom?
    • What does an atom look like?
    • Are atoms made up of smaller parts? What are they?
  • Next, have students draw a quick sketch of an atom, paying attention to the subatomic particles.
  • Have students finish reading the text lesson. When they are finished, ask them to revisit their drawing and make any changes they think should be made. Ask them to label each subatomic particle and add the name of the scientist that discovered it, as well as the date of the discovery.

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