This is part 2 of our intro to chemistry unit. We’ve already talked a little about the periodic table and atomic structure. Today we are moving on to atoms, ions, and isotopes. If you are looking for resources, this is a simple addition to the previous atomic structure plates. We are adding at atom worksheet for middle school students. If you are ready to move on, balancing chemical equations, would be a great next step.
Why atoms, ions, isotopes?
I tend to teach from my biologist lens. Which means that for me, the ions and isotopes are incredibly important. Our bodies communicate using ions and branches of medicine rely on isotopes.
My background is mostly college level Anatomy & Physiology so those are hooks for my students. A little hint if you can connect to the human body and basic human existence you will get people’s attention. Make it all about them and they will be hooked. Need a primer? Check out this general chemistry refresher.
I use the term atom (or sometimes neutral atom) to describe an atom of an element that looks like the periodic table suggests it will look. It has the “correct’ number of protons, neutrons, and electrons. If it is a hydrogen atom it has 1 proton, 1 electron, and 0 neutrons. We worked on the atomic structure of basic atoms last week.
I spend the most time on ions for a couple of reasons. The first is that students STRUGGLE with balancing charges. Secondly, ionic reactions create ions. Ionic reactions are one of only two basic types of reactions.
Ions are created when an atom loses or gains electrons in order to create a more stable outer shell (typically 8 electrons). If it gains an electron, there are now more negative charges than positive and the overall charge of the atom has shifted from neutral (0) to negative. If it gains a proton, the opposite is true. The atom now has more postive charges than negative charges and becomes positively charged.
Na+ and Cl– are the components that make us NaCl or table salt.
Isotopes have a different number of atomic mass units than predicted by the periodic table. The AMU is based on the percentages of different isotopes of an element. It calculates an average AMU which we indicate by a subscript. Medicine, radioactive dating, and atomic bombs use isotopes.
Practice Practice Practice
Applying this correctly take a lot of practice, I highly suggest pulling out candy or paper punches to help make it more hands one. Enter your name and email below to have the atoms practice worksheet delivered to your inbox.