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Molecule and Atom Vocabulary Review

Context for this Lesson

Teaching Strategies: 

Topic: Biology, Molecule and atom vocabulary

Purpose: To review key vocabulary terms to help students identify the parts of an atom and molecule and understand each part's relationship with one another.

Prior Knowledge: Students must have already learned molecule and atom vocabulary words

Materials: periodic tables, 10-12 brown bags full of clues about molecules and compounds, vocab terms and artifacts


"Today we are going to review vocabulary that you’ve learned this week, and get you to show us the parts of a molecule and how these parts relate to one another."

Questions from a Hat
Have one vocab word written on each index card, and place these cards in a hat or bag. Invite students to sit in a circle and pass the bag around. When a student gets the bag, they pull out a card, read the word to the class, and give its definition. Make clear that the students should give the person with the bag a chance to answer, and only if they cannot answer and ask for help should the other students provide the answer. Do the first round to review terms (each term will be used twice), and a second speed round to really drill the vocabulary. See how fast you can go.
Vocabulary to review: atom, element, compound, molecule, ion, hydrogen bond, ionic bond, periodic table, atomic number, atomic mass, polar, non-polar, water, sodium chloride, hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide
Transition: "So now that we've reviewed our vocabulary, we are going to apply these concepts to an activity."


  1. Teacher has created 10-12 "molecule bags." Inside the bags, there are index cards with certain clues about molecules or compounds, information which the students can use the periodic chart to decipher.
  2. Divide students into groups (approximately 3-4 students/group). Each student in group will need a periodic table, pencil, and paper. On the paper, students should write out the numbers 1-10 (or 12, depending on the number of bags).
  3. STORY: "Something has gone wrong in the lab, and all the students’ carefully labeled work has been mixed up. Now there are all these numbered brown bags, but there’s no telling what molecule or compound is inside them. All we have left are the clues about the atoms, which the students will have to sort out." 
  4. Acting as detectives, the groups will move around from bag to bag. Based on the information in each bag, students will have to figure out what molecule or compound corresponds to each bag. Once they have figured out what is in each bag, the students fill out the information on their sheets, and go to the next bag. In total, each group should have looked at all 10-12 bags.
  5. Facilitators will walk around helping the students figure out what is in each bag. Once each group has all the bags complete, we’ll try and re-label all the bags correctly.

Describe: What did we do?

Analyze: What did you find challenging? What did you find easy? Did this activity help you understand molecules better? If so, how?

Relate: How do you think this activity will help you understand biology better?