A Lesson with The Disappearing Spoon

Grade Level: 9-12th Grade Chemistry/AP Chemistry  dirGGoAi9

Big Idea: Students are to explore the concept of periodicity and the modern table while learning the historical background behind the development of the periodic table and discovery of the elements. They will use pattern recognition and inquiry skills to discover periodic trends. They will additionally discover that models in science are tentative to change when new evidence is discovered. This reading will follow an inquiry lab called The Path to the Periodic Table where students constructed the periodic table as Mendeleev did. The purpose of using this text and the various activities to follow is to scaffold students understanding of how to use the periodic table and learn about the elements that will appear in every future chemistry unit. After this lesson students will begin learning about parts of an atom, compounds, and chemical reactions in which the text provides an appropriate introduction.

Reading Summary: The first chapter of this book highlights the periodic table from its most simple shape and begins to explain its construction piece by piece. The author chooses to proclaim this history in an easy to flow narrative that highlights key groups of the periodic table, the definition of an element, and how the arrangement came to be about. The book in general contains more information about the periodic table and the tales of how the elements came to be discovered. The use of Story Toolz displays this text as a grade level appropriate for grades 11-14. It is a nice tool to be used in AP chemistry courses or to challenge a general high school chemistry course. The text may be inaccessible for some students who may lack the prior knowledge or reading level. However, it reads as a narrative story that provides captivating language and intriguing word choices. Front loading or prior knowledge and focusing activities will be needed with this text. This text can be utilized in the classroom as an added piece to understanding and connecting with the foundation of chemistry. It provides upbeat text with interesting stories of the discovering of elements. The author also relates chemical terms and discoveries to real-life student experiences. With examples of something the students can connect with, they are more likely to be interested in the reading and want to know more about how the periodic table and chemistry applies to their everyday lives. It also provides students with a more personal connection to the history of chemistry.



Kean, S. (2010). Geography is Destiny. The disappearing spoon: and other true tales of madness, love, and the history of the world from the periodic table of the elements (). New York: Little, Brown and Co..             


Focusing Questions: What are the groups in the periodic table and how are the elements in them connected? How does this chapter correlate with Mendeelev’s creation of the periodic table? What can you conclude are the function of electron shells?


Introduce Focusing Questions Stated Above

KWL Chart

  • Students write what they know about the periodic table and the discovery/history of elements
  • Students then write down what they are interested in learning in the reading or what questions they would like answered. These will serve as guiding questions for the reading.

After completion of these two components the teacher facilitates a discussion and generate a class KWL chart on the overhead as a compilation of student ideas. The teacher can then fill in gaps and students can write down additional questions they are interested in investigating. Convey the L segment of what the students learned will be saved for after the reading.

Media Text- Video Nova Excerpt from “Hunting the Elements” on PBS

  • Students will view this short clip to reinforce the lab they just completed and concepts of the periodic table. (The whole video can be shown at the teacher’s discretion).
  • Clip Available from PBS for Free Download: http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/asset/nvhe_vid_periodic/
  • During the video students answer the questions on the NOVA “Hunting the Elements” Video Worksheet. The questions can then be discussed in class after the video in a think-pair-share format or as a large group.


Frayer Model

  • As the students are reading have them complete a Frayer Model with key concept words that appear throughout the chapter (Number of words completed is at discretion of teacher). They can be words they have previously been introduced to or new terms to be discussed when the word wall is created as a class.
  • Some Word Choices Can Include: Element, Metals, Noble Gases, Electrons, Outer Layer/Shell, Halogens, Alkali Metals, Protons, Etc.


  • Students should be seeking answers to their questions from the “What I Want to Know” column of their KWL chart.


Word Wall Creation

  • Generate a list of words the students used for Frayer on the board (ex. Elements, noble gases, electrons, octet, bonding). Facilitate a discussion with the students on the topics to establish definitions, understanding, and address misconceptions of the words. Lecture notes can be given at this time.
  • Have students write down one of the words on a note card and decorate it with markers with a picture depicting the definition. Display the words on the wall for the rest of the unit or even course since they establish the primary pieces of scaffolding for the entire study of chemistry.

KWL Completion

  • After completion of the word wall, the discussion of the text and course content should continue by completing the KWL chart. Students should be given about 10 minutes to compile their thoughts and write what they learned.
  • Facilitated discussion occurs and the class chart is completed as well. Important things to highlight are answering the questions in the W column as well as the focusing questions for the reading. Students then turn in their own charts for assessment points.

Infographic Visualization Activity

  • Students will be assigned to design an infographic on an element or periodic family of their choice using the software Piktochat. Provide students with the rubric for completion.
  • Demonstrate the Piktochart program and provide students with examples of infographics and explicit instructions. Answer any questions that may arise.
  • Have students sign up for a particular periodic table group or a specific element to make an infographic about. The infographic should pertain to the history of the element or group and describe any important characteristics or properties.

Some Resources for Students:

  1. The Disappearing Spoon Chapter 1
  2. Interactive Periodic Table- Click Here for Access!
  3. Textbook

Note: Infographics should be presented to the class (in digital form) and printed (via student or teacher) and displayed throughout the room or on a bulletin board for future reference.

Worksheets: Click Name of Activity Above To Access Link!!!


Daniels, H., Zemelman, S., & Steineke, N. (2007). Content-area writing: every teacher’s guide. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Davidson, Rosemary. (2014). Using infographics in the science classroom. The Science Teacher, pp. 35-39.

Greenleaf, Cynthia, Moje, Elizabeth, & Pearson, P. David. (2010). Literacy and science: each in the service of the other. Science, 328, pp. 459-463.

Hibbing, Anne Nielsen, & Rankin-Eriksin, Joan L. (2003). A picture is worth a thousand words: using visual images to improve comprehension for middle school readers. The Reading Teacher, 56(8), pp. 758-770.

Lattimer, H. (2010). Reading for learning: using discipline-based texts to build content knowledge. Urbana, Ill.: National Council of Teachers of English.

Mojie, Elizabeth. (2008). Foregrounding the disciplines in secondary literacy teaching and learning: A Call for Change. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(2), pp. 96-107.

Snow, Catherine. (2010). Academic language and the challenge of reading for learning about science. Science, 328, pp. 450-452.



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