Accessible Chemistry: Atoms and Elements Worksheet

Image of a portion of the periodic table of elements and and atomic model. Text reads - Accessible Chemistry Atoms and Elements Worksheet. Subtitle reads: Free worksheet included.

Learning about physical science is important for several reasons. Understanding physical science helps us understand our world, and develops critical and abstract thinking and problem-solving skills. 

Mastery of physical science concepts is required for many professionals, such as engineers, pharmacists, and astronomers. Physical science is in the cars we drive, the products we use, and the foods we eat. 

While teaching physical science has the potential to be engaging, in chemistry, students tend to get stuck on its abstract nature. Customized worksheets can help to facilitate your instruction and make abstract chemistry concepts accessible to all students. 

This post explores an Atoms and Elements Worksheet that has been customized and scaffolded for accessibility.

What is a Customized Worksheet?

When I hear the term worksheet, I think of busy work. Because we at Lit Science believe in rigorous, grade-level science for all students, we are not interested in busy work.

Instead, the term worksheet here means student-facing resources that are created to allow all students to engage in a lesson from beginning to end. This is especially important for students learning English.

Image of two Lit Science atoms and elements worksheets. Text reads - Customized Worksheets NOT busy work. Lit science worksheets are student-facing resources that have been created to allow all students to engage in a lesson from beginning to end.

By creating worksheets customized to the lesson and scaffolded for access to grade-level content, English learners can focus on the lesson’s content, rather than being overwhelmed by trying to listen, write and understand the English simultaneously. 

Whether you teach middle school or high school physical science, customized worksheets can benefit students needing additional support.

Teaching Atoms and Elements

State standards and the NGSS require students to understand atoms and elements to master performance expectations. MS-PS1-1 requires students to develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures. 

The corresponding Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI) PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter states: 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.  

Image of a beaker of clear liquid and a model of a compound made of different color balls. Text reads - NGSS Atoms and Elements. MS-PS-1 - Develop Models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures. PS1.A 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.

Therefore, for students to master the concepts of atomic compositions of simple molecules and extended structures, they must understand the basics of atoms and elements.

What are Atoms and Elements Lesson

Understanding the relationship between atoms and elements will form the foundation for comprehending simple and complex molecules. In Lit Science’s What are Atoms and Elements Worksheet, by the end of the lesson, students will be able to define and describe atoms, elements, and subatomic particles. 

What are Atoms and Elements? Images of customized atoms and elements worksheets.

The lesson begins by activating prior knowledge from the previous lesson about matter. Then, through a quick mini-lesson, students are taught the definition of atoms and the names, locations, and charges of the different subatomic particles. 

After the mini-lesson, students collaboratively engage in a card sort, practicing the names, locations, and charges of each subatomic particle. 

Once the card sort is complete, students are responsible for creating three sentences about the subatomic particles, their locations, and their charges. 

Next, students read and annotate a short text about elements. Following the text, students answer a series of text-dependent questions. The lesson concludes with a fun crossword activity based on the information learned throughout the lesson. 

Scaffolding and Differentiation

True to Lit Science’s mission of accessible grade-level middle school science lessons for English learners and developing readers and writers, the above resource is differentiated and scaffolded for access.

There is sometimes a misconception that for science to be accessible to English learners or students reading below grade level, it needs to be “watered down” or that students should receive content taught in previous grades so they can “catch up.”

Here at Lit Science, we believe that does students a huge disserve and further widens the disparities that exist in education for historically marginalized groups. 

So then, what is scaffolding? I like this description found in the English Learners Success Forum’s Professional Learning Framework. It states:

“A goal for scaffolding curriculum and instruction for ELs is to amplify and not simplify (Alvarez, Ananda, Walqui, Sato, &  Rabinowitz, 2014). The term amplification not only refers to the additional scaffolds (e.g., visuals, sentence frames, chunking, models) that ELs might need in order to access the same text and task as their more fluent English-speaking peers, but also to additional, low-stakes opportunities to interact with and process new content, academic language, and skills.” 

English Learners Success Forum’s Professional Learning Framework

Therefore, in the scaffolded version of this resource, students are given several scaffolds to access grade-level content and low-stakes opportunities to practice what they’ve learned about atoms and elements. 

Scaffolding & Amplification in What are Atoms and Elements

There are several ways in which the “What Are Atoms and Elements” resource has been scaffolded to provide access for English learners and developing readers and writers.

  1. Student-facing guided notes/activity guides: While it also includes a short, Google slide deck for the teacher to present to students, the “What are Atoms and Elements” resource contains two differentiated versions of a student-facing guided notes/activity guide. Instead of writing in notebooks, students follow along with their packets. These packets have space to write notes as the teacher gives the mini-lesson and all the materials students need for other parts of the lesson. This is crucial for English learners as it relieves some of the cognitive burden of learning content in a new language. 
  2. Sentence Frames: Students are given sentence frames for writing in the “write about it” section and the reflection questions. These sentence frames help English learners and developing writers focus on what to say instead of how to say it. And because not all students need support in the form of sentence frames, they are absent in the other version of the worksheet. 
  3. Opportunities for Collaboration and Use of Home Language: Students can collaborate and practice the new information they learned through the card sort activity. This is especially important for English learners as collaboration is beneficial in several ways. 1. It allows students to work with their peers in practicing the content and English through a low-stakes activity. 2. If grouped with peers who share the same home language, students can discuss the placement of the cards in whatever language they choose. 
  4. Visuals: The card sort is differentiated to include visuals for students learning English and words for students who do not need visuals to complete the sort. 
  5. Chunking of the text and questions: In one version of the resource, the questions appear directly after the chunk of the text.

What’s Next

Once students have a basic understanding of atoms and elements, they are ready to learn about more complex chemistry topics, such as how to read the periodic table of elements (including how to find the number of electrons, protons, and neutrons), bonding of atoms, and chemical formulas.

While it’s 100% possible to teach rigorous, grade-level science to English learners, creating the resources with the scaffolds described above takes a lot of time. 

Focus on teaching and save time Lit Science’s middle school chemistry resources. I create all resources to be accessible to all students, including English learners and students reading below grade level. 

Curious about how Lit Science resources can save you time AND serve your students’ needs? Try this FREE sample chemistry resource.

Images of thumbnails of Lit Science Chemistry Resources.

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