Atomic Structure Interactive Activity

Introduction/Background: Matthew Chenoweth created an interactive activity for students to understand the concepts of atomic structure in a more comprehensive manner. 

Goal/s: To make the concepts of atomic structure and bonding more hands-on.

Class: Biol 1107K: Principals of Biology I


  1. Students should have read the relevant material from the text. They also discussed the material in class prior to beginning the exercise.
  2. Students split into groups of 2-3
  3. The activity was on atomic structure leading into the different types of chemical bonds. They began by diagramming atoms, particularly focusing on electron orbitals. We stopped to check answers, then moved on to determine the number of electrons needed in each case for a full valence shell.
  4. The students answered a question dealing with the different ways of filling valence shells (give, take, or share electrons). Then they brought various atom pairs together to see what would have to happen to allow for the atoms to interact in such a way as to help fill both atoms' valence shell.
  5. Finally, they identified the different bond types based on the interaction. We then discussed different types of covalent bonds (polar vs. nonpolar) and the concept of electronegativity. The handout had a periodic table that included the relative electronegativities of the different elements. Students were asked to determine which bond partners would form polar or nonpolar bonds.

Follow-up: We discussed the answers to make sure that everyone was on the right track. They also produced a filled out worksheet to use for their own studying.

Comments: I feel that it made the concepts less abstract and more understandable. Additionally, the class that performed the exercise scored much better than usual on the relevant exam material.

Materials/Resources: Hand out (attached), pen, and paper