Periodic Table Introduction Using a Calendar

By Laura Hospitál on Oct 08, 2015

Students with visual impairment and blindness often struggle with the format of the Periodic Table.  This activity introduces the more complicated Periodic Table with a table that students are more comfortable with -  a calendar.


  • Prepare an APH Classroom Calendar  for each student (or at least one for every 2 students) See review here.
  • Prepare an APH Periodic Table for each student. See review here.
  • Adapt the Periodic Table as per instructions at the following link.  This adaptation using hot glue allows the student to more easily locate the labels for the groups and periods on the Periodic Table.  Please see adaptation for the Periodic Table here.


  • APH Periodic Tables for each student - See description in the Preparation section.
  • APH Classroom Calendar for each student or at least for each group of 2 students. See description in the Preparation section.


After instruction on atomic structure and atomic number   


Teach the difference between periods (rows) and groups (columns) on the Periodic Table  

Set Up

  • Set up an APH Classroom Calendar for each student.  
  • Ask:  "What are the columns on the calendar?"    Discuss - The columns are the days of the week. 
  • Have students find all of the dates for one of the days of the week as you describe a column as up and down on the table.
  • Ask:  "What are the rows on the Periodic Table?"  Discuss - the weeks of the month.  Discuss the fact that the days of the month go from left to right in ascending order. 
  • Say, "You may have been wondering why we have been looking at a calendar in science class.  Now we are going to discover the rows and columns on a science table."
  • Pass out the Periodic Tables.   Ask: "What similarities do you find between the calendar and this table?"   Discuss the ascending order on the Periodic Table, the presence of rows and columns and any other similarities discovered.
  • Explain that the number in each square represents the atomic number of the element.  Discuss and review atomic number.
  • What does this mean?  - Students should remember from earlier discussion that it is the number of protons and defines an element. 
  • Instruction on groups:
    • Say, "Just like our calendar had columns, the Periodic has columns.  They represent groups (or families)."
    • If you have adapted the Periodic Table as per this link,  have students find Group 1 by telling them that the label will be on top of the hot glue.
    • Ask: "What do we know about the members of a family?"  (Hopefully someone will mention that they look alike.)
    • Describe the members of a group on the Periodic  Table as having similar properties in the way that they bond with other atoms

Instruction on Periods 

  • Say, "Find Row 4 on the Periodic Table by coming to the left side of the hot glue gun line."  Trace across the row and notice what happens to the atomic number (It increases.) Remind the students of the calendar and the ascending order of days on the calendar as a comparison.
  • Describe the slowly changing nature of elements in a period as you cross from left to right.  Tell the students that the rows on the Periodic Table are called periods.  
  • Independent:  Define the vocabulary words below.


  • Periodic Table - an arrangement of the elements in order of increasing atomic number such that elements with similar properties are in the same column (called a group)
  • Group - a column on the Periodic Table 
  • Period - a row on the Periodic Table

Closure (or as a warm-up the next day)

  • Have student work in groups to answer the following simple questions:
    • What is a column called on the Periodic Table? - a group or family
    • What is a row called on the Periodic Table?  - a period


For more advanced students, the APH atom model can be used to discuss valence electrons as the reason for the similiarities among members of a group.  

NGSS Standards:

Middle School - STructure and Properties of Matter
PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
Substances are made from different types of atoms, which combine with one another in various ways. Atoms form molecules that range in size from two to thousands of atoms. (MS-PS1-1)
Each pure substance has characteristic physical and chemical properties (for any bulk quantity under given conditions) that can be used to identify it. (MS-PS1-3) (Note: This Disciplinary Core Idea is also addressed by MS-PS1-2.)
High School: Structure and Properties of Matter
PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
Each atom has a charged substructure consisting of a nucleus, which is made of protons and neutrons, surrounded by electrons. (HS-PS1-1)
The periodic table orders elements horizontally by the number of protons in the atom’s nucleus and places those with similar chemical properties in columns. The repeating patterns of this table reflect patterns of outer electron states. (HS-PS1-1)
The structure and interactions of matter at the bulk scale are determined by electrical forces within and between atoms. (HS-PS1-3),(secondary to HS-PS2-6)
periodic table introduction using a calendar collage


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