Instructional Scaffolding
for Introduction of the
Periodic Table

A Creative Periodic Table Teaching Strategy:
Converting a Tabular Element Arrangement
into Three Dimensions

When students are first introduced to a new subject, certainly one as critical to Chemistry as the Periodic Table, they require a context, motivation, and foundation. As a preface to learning chemistry the periodic table has no peer in science. Early in first chemistry courses, therefore, is the introduction of the Periodic Law and the Periodic Table – based on the work of Mendeleev and others.

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, the Alexander Arrangement.

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.