Matter Matters! ABC Brainstorm

Learning Resource Type

Learning Activity

Subject Area





During this before activity, the students' prior knowledge will be assessed and activated by completing an ABC brainstorm of matter using the Alphabet Organizer tool. The digital tool allows the student to create an alphabet chart or book using words and pictures. The students can have voice and choice by choosing to create an alphabet chart with five words per letter or with a word, note, and picture for each letter. When the project is complete, the students can save their work, print their work, or share their work through an e-mail link. This web tool requires a computer with internet access and Adobe Flash Player.  

This activity was created as a result of the GAP Resource Summit.


Science (2015) Grade(s): 8


Analyze patterns within the periodic table to construct models (e.g., molecular-level models, including drawings; computer representations) that illustrate the structure, composition, and characteristics of atoms and molecules.



  • Element
  • Atom
  • Protons
  • Nucleus
  • Electrons
  • Neutrons
  • Atomic number
  • Periodic table
  • Array
  • Atomic mass
  • Period
  • Group
  • Chemical properties
  • Physical properties
  • Molecule
  • Bond
  • Chemical bond
  • Valence electron
  • Ion
  • Ionic bond
  • Nonmetal
  • Metal
  • Covalent bond
  • Metallic bond
  • Conductivity


Students know:
  • Elements are substances composed of only one type of atom each having an identical number of protons in each nucleus.
  • Atoms are the basic units of matter and the defining structure of elements.
  • Atoms are made up of three particles: protons, neutrons and electrons.
  • The number of protons in an atom's nucleus is equal to the atomic number.
  • The periodic table arranges all the known elements in an informative array.
  • Elements are arranged left to right and top to bottom in order of increasing atomic number. Order generally coincides with increasing atomic mass.
  • Rows in the periodic table are called periods. As one moves from left to right in a given period, the chemical properties of the elements slowly change.
  • Columns in the periodic table are called groups. Elements in a given group in the periodic table share many similar chemical and physical properties.
  • The period number of an element signifies the highest energy level an electron in that element occupies (in the unexcited state). The number of electrons in a period increases as one traverses down the periodic table; therefore, as the energy level of the atom increases, the number of energy sub-levels per energy level increases.
  • A molecule is formed when two or more atoms bond together chemically.
  • A chemical bond is the result of different behaviors of the outermost or valence electrons of atoms.
  • Ionic bonds are the result of an attraction between ions that have opposite charges. Ionic bonds usually form between metals and nonmetals; elements that participate in ionic bonds are often from opposite ends of the periodic table. One example of a molecule that contains an ionic bond is table salt, NaCl.
  • Covalent bonds form when electrons are shared between atoms rather than transferred from one atom to another. The two bonds in a molecule of carbon dioxide, CO2, are covalent bonds.
  • Metallic bonds exist only in metals, such as aluminum, gold, copper, and iron. In metals, each atom is bonded to several other metal atoms, and their electrons are free to move throughout the metal structure. This special situation is responsible for the unique properties of metals, such as their high conductivity.


Students are able to:
  • Analyze patterns within the periodic table to construct models of atomic and molecular structure, composition, and characteristics.
  • Identify the relevant components of the atomic and molecular models.
  • Describe relationships between components of the atomic and molecular models.


Students understand that:
  • Patterns in the periodic table predict characteristic properties of elements. These trends exist because of the similar atomic structure of the elements within their respective group families or periods, and because of the periodic nature of the elements.
  • The structure, composition, and characteristics of atoms and molecules are dependent upon their position in the periodic table.

Scientific and Engineering Practices

Developing and Using Models

Crosscutting Concepts


Learning Objectives

Essential Question:  Why do we need to study matter?

The students will brainstorm terms and pictures that are essential to their understanding of the structure, properties, organization, trends, and nomenclature of matter. The students will justify their selection of terms by presenting their assigned letter to the class upon completion of the activity.  

Activity Details

Essential Question: Why do we need to study matter?

To activate and assess prior knowledge, the students will divide into pairs to create an ABC brainstorm digital booklet using scientific terms that are associated with matter. The teacher will assign each pair of students their own letter(s) of the alphabet. They may use terms describing the structure, properties, organization, trends, and nomenclature.  Depending on the desired outcome of the lesson, the teacher can guide students by giving limitations on topics that the students can use. For example, the teacher could limit the ABC brainstorm to intrinsic and extrinsic properties of matter or atomic structure and chemical bonding. Because an ABC brainstorm includes words that start with each letter of the alphabet, keeping the topic broad may give a teacher more of an idea of how much their students really know about matter and elicit a faster response from each pair of students. A class ABC brainstorm will be created using the alphabet organizer to compile each student's contribution to the activity. After entering the word and picture for their assigned letter, the students will briefly present and justify their ideas to the class. During presentations, the students should take notes that they can later use after the during activity of the lesson to answer the essential question and describe why matter matters. 

**Since the alphabet organizer tool requires Flash Player, it will not play on a Chromebook. The teacher can use a laptop to connect to an interactive board or projection screen and have the students input their work into the tool there for the presentation.

Assessment Strategies

During this activity, the teacher will use student responses to formatively (informally) assess student understanding and any possible misconceptions about matter that the students may have. Then, the teacher can use this information to redirect these misconceptions in the lesson.

This checklist can be used to judge their brainstorm responses:

1. Does your word describe a structure, property, organization, trend, or nomenclature of matter? 

2. Does your word and picture help answer the essential question: Why do we need to study matter? 

3. Did you complete the ABC Brainstorm for your letter of the alphabet? 


As an additional challenge, advanced students can develop more than one letter entry.


Students who need additional support can use classroom resources (books, computers, etc.) to find words to use for the brainstorm.

Variation Tips

This activity could also be used as an after activity to review students on terms used during a particular lesson or group of lessons under the broad topic of matter and its interactions. 

Background / Preparation

The teacher will need to ensure that a laptop with internet access and Adobe Flash Player is connected to a smart screen or projector so that the whole class can view student responses. 

If the teacher wants to purposely pair students for the activity, student pairs will need to be created in advance. 

The teacher may want to make a slide to explain the activity or a checklist to the students to communicate guidelines/expectations. 

The teacher should be familiar with the digital tool before the start of the lesson. 

Materials and Resources

Laptop with internet access and Adobe Flash Player connected to a smart screen or projector