Inquiry–based Learning
for Introduction to the
Periodic Table Lesson

Creative pre–Periodic Table Inquiry Teaching:
....Flat Element Table to 3D – Not Only For Fun

Inquiry–based lesson plans are often referred to as "facilitation plans," to help teachers remember their role as facilitator of learning, rather than fount of all wisdom.

Inquiry is important in the generation and transmission of knowledge. It is also an essential for modern education, because the fund of knowledge is constantly increasing. Trying to transmit "what we know," even if it were possible, is counterproductive in the long run. This method changes "what we know" to "how we come to know."

Drawing on prior knowledge, one of the primary strategies of instructional scaffolding, has good and bad features in regard to the periodic table. It is common knowledge that “Learning the Periodic Table” has become an icon of hardship for students. The teacher is starting from behind with students who have preconceived notions of the difficulties of learning the periodic table, an unnecessary obstacle to the already difficult job educating those who are free of any preconception.

For fundamentally good, solid teaching to progress effectively in the introduction of the usefulness of a tabular chemical element arrangement, several scaffolding techniques can be very valuable;
1. Piqueing student interest and curiosity by offering a motivational activity, that of building a dimensional and colorful device which requires identification and physical manipulation of element groupings and their interrelationships.
2. Facilitating student achievement by the several procedures necessary in the construction of the model, providing a series of motivational successes framing the upcoming lesson material into a familiar context.
3. Easing understanding of the icon of difficulty by breaking the task down into "doable" steps that can both incorporate prior knowledge (but not require it) and simply present complex concepts rationally and correctly.
4. Learning is Tiered by this step–by–step approach, in that every part has its own story, and reasons made clear for why they must ultimately end up attached to certain others.
5. Facilitating Student Achievement by following procedures in the construction of the model provides a series of motivational successes while framing the upcoming lesson material into a familiar context.

“Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.”

Providing students with an opportunity for physical and intellectual participation in the examination and creation an example of the desired outcome, a teaching and learning opportunity not afforded by viewing a flat table.

Unique to the construction of the Alexander Arrangement is the capability of defining a historical timeline, as the first periodic table, of de Chancourtois’ spiral (1847) is formed by making a tube in which the p–block and s–block alone are visible – without, first, and then with the later discovered Noble gases.

Following that, the d–block can be revealed, then Mendeleev's table, and lastly, the f–block shown – both Seaborg removed, and then in proper relationship to the others.

As instruction continues in subsequent lessons, the AAE scaffold should be gradually withdrawn so that students will eventually be able to independently demonstrate comprehension of other representations of element relationships.