Types of Elements Activities for Middle School

Instructor: Rachel Tustin

Dr. Rachel Tustin has a PhD in Education focusing on Educational Technology, a Masters in English, and a BS in Marine Science. She has taught in K-12 for more than 15 years, and higher education for ten years.

Teaching students about the types of elements on the periodic table doesn't have to be dull. You can use it as an opportunity for students to apply their inquiry skills and creativity.

Teaching the Types of Elements

Are you searching for a new way to teach the periodic table's three types of elements: metals, non-metals and metalloids? While you can lecture students on the elements' properties, that is not really the most engaging way to help students understand their differences. Instead, why not have students put their inquiry skills to work analyzing samples and arriving at those properties themselves?

Using Conductivity to Differentiate Types of Elements

To students, all the elements on the periodic table can look overwhelming. So when you are trying to teach them to differentiate elements on the periodic table, an easy way to do it is to use conductivity. Students can use simple circuits to test their samples if you don't want to invest in conductivity meters.

Have students work together in small groups on this activity.


  • Samples of various metals, non-metals and metalloids on the periodic table (label the samples A, B, C, etc.) The more samples the better.
  • Gator clips
  • Small Christmas lights cut apart and the wires striped at the end
  • D-batteries
  • D-battery holders


Begin by explaining to students that they will be testing each sample for conductivity, and they will later use the data to classify their samples. Then model for students how to set up a simple circuit and test a sample.


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