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5 Engaging Activities for Teaching Atoms

Are you looking for new ways to make learning about atoms fun? Check out my favorite activities for teaching atoms that your students are sure to love!

1. Use an Analogy

I love to use analogies in class! I always begin with asking the class to tell me the smallest thing they can think of…. every year they list fruit flies, ants, and dust.

Then it’s time to break out the analogy!

Do you remember the movie “Honey I Shrunk the Kids?”

Here’s a helpful analogy I use every year to explain the size of an atom:

Imagine you were shrunk down to the size of an atom and are standing next to a grain of salt. The grain of salt next to you would be the height of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth.

It’s almost hard to wrap your head around!!

activities for teaching atoms
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2. How Small is an Atom?

Ted-Ed has an amazing video “Just How Small is an Atom?” It’s the perfect introduction!

At just over five minutes, the eye-catching animations and analogies really help to drive home the scale of the atom. My students absolutely love it!

3. Build a Model Atom

Building a model atom is a great hands-on activity to engage the students and help them understand how the parts of the atom are organized.

I like to use colored card stock because students can quickly and easily manipulate the atoms. They can even “scale” the atoms so they can see the difference in size.

You can find the entire ready-to use activity here!

4. Paper Cutting Activity

This is a great activity to help students visualize the size of an atom

Another great activity for teaching atoms is this paper cutting activity. It is a simple way to help students visualize the size of an atom.

Supplies needed: strip of paper (any size will work, I use 11″x1″), scissors

Challenge students to fold and cut the paper in half as many times as they can.

Note, students should always fold and cut the paper in the same direction.

It’s gets really difficult after about 5 cuts. You might see students flip their paper to begin cutting in another direction. Make sure you tell them to keep it in the same direction.

If they were able to keep cutting, they would need to do this about 31 times to be the size of an atom!

5. Atom Foldable

Atom foldable great for teaching the structure of atoms in middle school
This foldable is available for purchase in my matter and atoms unit.

I love foldables in the classroom!

A three-flap atoms foldable is perfect for helping students organize their notes about the structure of an atom.

*If you are looking for ideas to help students organize their notes, take a look at this post!


MATTER AND ATOM LESSON

Take a look at this ready to use Matter and Atoms Unit! It is no-prep and includes everything you need for distance learning or face-to-face learning!

Included in this product:

  • Presentation with 10 minute video lecture (great for flipped classrooms)
  • Foldable with additional practice
  • Answer key and directions for foldable
  • Atomic structure activity
  • Answer key and instructions for atomic structure activity
  • Extension Venn diagram included
  • Google Slides Activities
  • Google Slides Atom Project

Teachers like you said…

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I used this resource to help introduce atoms and molecules before we get into thinking about properties of water and the water cycle. It is clear and helpful and the students can use it to study from which is a double bonus.
Emily
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Great resource! I used this with my 7th graders. Nice graphics and an answer key. It’s a bargain!
Ann

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