How to read the periodic table – How to Read the Periodic Table | Worksheet


How to Read the Periodic Table for Kids

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You may rarely think about it, but literally everything around you is made up of elements found on the periodic table of elements. From humans to trees to the unseen air, all matter is comprised of the elements found on that chart with all the letters. Understanding the periodic table is not difficult, if you understand why each element is in its place. It is important for kids to understand how to read it. There is a method to the arrangement and here is a good way to teach it.

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Ask the child to look at one of the squares on the periodic table. It will show a number at the top, two or three letters and a number at the bottom. The number at the top is the atomic number. It tells the number of protons in an element. The two letters are the atomic symbol. This is the abbreviated form of the element’s name or its Latin name. The bottom number is the atomic mass. It tells how much one atom of the elements weighs in atomic mass units.

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Ask the child to count the number of columns in the table. There are 18 columns. The columns are called groups . The groups are based on atomic structure of the elements; all elements in a group have similar atomic structure.

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Ask the child to count the number of rows in the table. There are 7 rows (9 counting the two separated rows). The rows are called periods. The periods are based on the chemical properties; elements belonging to the same period have similar properties, such as volatility and conductivity.

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Explain the categories of the elements. Some tables have the elements arranged in color-coded areas. This color coding distinguishes the categories of the elements. The first column is made up of elements known as alkali metals. The second column elements are called alkaline earth metals. The transition metals include 38 elements from columns three through 12. Seven metals from groups 13 through 15 are called simply other metals. The metalloids are eight elements from groups 13 through 16. The six remaining elements from groups 13 through 16 are the other nonmetals. Column 17 makes up the halogens. Column 18 is comprised of the noble gases.

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Explain the blocks. The periodic table of elements can also be separated into blocks. There are four major blocks of elements: s-block, d-block, p-block and f-block. These blocks represent how the elements differ in terms of the location of their last electron. Electrons of an atom are separated into orbitals. The s-block (first two groups) have electrons in the s-orbital. The d-block (groups 3 through 12) have electrons in the d-orbital. The p-block (groups 13 through 18) have electrons in the p-orbital. The f-block is made up of the two separate rows.

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Explain the two separate rows. Usually, a periodic table will show two rows separate from the main table. These are the rare earth metals. The top row elements are called lanthanides and the bottom row elements are called actinides. Most of these are either man-made or found in very small quantities on Earth.

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SparkNotes: The Periodic Table: Reading the Periodic Table

Reading the Periodic Table

Once again, here is a link to view a full-size periodic table:
To see the periodic table, click here.
Once the window appears, roll your mouse over the elements to see their
specific information. You can also access the periodic table by going into
the SparkNotes reference section that resides at the top of every SparkNotes

General Structure of the Periodic Table

As stated last
section, the periodic
table organizes the elements according to general patterns of similarity. Below is a very
small image of the periodic table. It is basically unreadable in terms of specific
information, but it allows us to easily look at the periodic tables structure general trends.

Figure %: A very small periodic table

The vertical columns of the periodic table (marked by yellow stripes in
the figure) are called groups. The horizontal rows are called
periods. There are 18 groups and 7 periods. In discussing the
periodic table from here on out we will use the terms group and period.
Down a group means moving from top to bottom; across a period means
moving from left to right.

Reading the Periodic Table: Carbon

To describe the information contained within each individual box we will use a specific example: carbon.

Figure %: Description of Carbon on the Periodic Table

Element Name

The purpose of the element name is obvious. However, many Periodic Tables do not include element names. For those situations you must memorize the symbols that accord to each element name.

Element Symbol

Each element has a specific one or two letter symbol that is used interchangeably with its name. These
should be memorized. Most of the time, symbols quite clearly accord to the name of the element they
represent, as C accords to carbon. Occasional, however, an element’s name and symbol have little
relation. For example, the symbol for mercury is Hg.


A Short History of the Periodic Table

How To Use a Periodic Table

If you know how to use a periodic table, you can get a lot of information about elements at a glance.

It’s important to know how to use a periodic table. The periodic table organizes the elements in a way that allows you to predict element properties and chemical reactions, even if you don’t know anything about an element except what you see on the table. Here’s a look at the information you can find on a standard periodic table of the elements and how to use these facts:

Periodic Table Organization

  • Elements are listed in order of increasing atomic number. (Note Mendeleev’s original table organized element by order of increasing atomic weight.)
  • Elements are grouped according to periodic properties or trends. On a colored periodic table, the element groups usually are different colors from each other. The main element groups are: alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, transition metals, basic metals, rare earth metals (lanthanides and actinides), metalloids (semimetals), nonmetals, halogens, and noble gases.
  • A row of the periodic table is called an element period.  A period indicates the highest energy level occupied by the electrons of that element at its ground state.
  • A column of the periodic table is called an element group. Members of an element group have the same number of valence electrons.
  • The two rows separated from the main body of the table are the rare earth elements, which consist of the lanthanides and actinides. These elements may be considered special transition metals.

How To Read an Element Cell

Bromine Element Cell

  • The one- or two-letter symbol is the element’s symbol. Usually, the symbol includes the first letter of an element’s name, although there are some exceptions. For example, H is the element symbol for hydrogen. Br is the element symbol for bromine. Yet, Hg is the symbol for mercury. Element symbols are recognized and used internationally, even though countries may use different names for elements.
  • Some periodic tables list each element’s full name.
  • The integer number is the element atomic number. This is the number of protons in each atom of that element. For example, each bromine atom has 35 protons. Atoms of different elements may have the same number of electrons and neutrons, but never the same number of protons.
  • The decimal number is the element’s atomic weight. The atomic weight is a weighted average of the mass of the isotopes of that element. Atomic weight is given in atomic mass units (amu). You can also consider the number as the grams per mole of each element. For example, one mole of bromine atoms would have a mass of 79.904 grams.

How To Use a Periodic Table To See Periodic Table Trends

The table is organized to display trends or periodicity of element properties:

Atomic Radius: one-half the distance between the nuclei of two atoms that are just touching each other.

Ionization Energy: energy needed to completely remove an electron from an atom or ion in the gas phase.

Electron Affinity: measure of an atom’s ability to accept an electron.

Electronegativity: measure of an atom’s ability to form a chemical bond

Summary of Periodic Table Trends

Moving Left → Right Across a Row of the Periodic Table

  • Atomic Radius Decreases
  • Ionization Energy Increases
  • Electron Affinity Generally Increases (except Noble Gas Electron Affinity Near Zero)
  • Electronegativity Increases

Moving Top → Bottom Down a Column of the Periodic Table

  • Atomic Radius Increases
  • Ionization Energy Decreases
  • Electron Affinity Generally Decreases
  • Electronegativity Decreases

Free Printable Periodic Tables (PDF and PNG)

Periodic Table ThumbnailPeriodic Table Description
118 Element Color Printable Periodic Table

Do you want all the latest element facts and figures? This printable periodic table cites the atomic mass significant figures in keeping with the most recent IUPAC values. This is the periodic table we recommend you use for calculations and homework. You can right-click the image to download it or grab the PDF file of the periodic table.

Periodic Table for Kids

This 118 element printable periodic table is perfect for kids or anyone who wants a clean-looking chart with atomic weights rounded to the usual two decimal points. It’s a lot less confusing for homework! This table is available in color, black/white, or as a PDF download.

Colorful Periodic Table

This periodic table has the names and symbols of all 118 elements. Oh, and it’s also gigantic so you could cover your wall with it, if you wanted. [PDF]

Colored Periodic Table

This color periodic table is brightly colored and optimized to fit on a single sheet of paper. It has, along with the usual information, a legend square and numbered columns, and family names recommended by the IUPAC. [PDF]

Carina Nebula Periodic Table

This table is available as a poster, with the Carina Nebula (a photograph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope) as a background. [JPG]

Black and White Periodic Table

This is your go-to free black and white printable periodic table for facts and figures. It’s a periodic table with names, element symbols, atomic numbers, atomic weights, and groups. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) significant figures are listed for atomic weights (accepted single value, not the range of atomic masses). This chart is ideal if you find colors distracting or can’t print them or you simply want to practice coloring in element groups yourself. [PDF]

Blank Periodic Table

Fill in the blanks of this printable periodic table with the element symbols, groups, or whatever you’re trying to learn. You can get the blank table as an image file or a PDF, so you can save it to print as many copies as you need. It re-sizes cleanly to meet your needs. The zig zag line separate the metals from the nonmetals. Numbers of groups and periods are provided for your convenience. Fill in the blanks of this printable periodic table with the element symbols, groups, or whatever you’re trying to learn. You can get the blank table as an image file or a PDF, so you can save it to print as many copies as you need. It re-sizes cleanly to meet your needs. The zig zag line separate the metals from the nonmetals. Numbers of groups and periods are provided for your convenience. [PDF]

Electronegativity Periodic Table

This free periodic table is color-coded to indicate the electronegativity of an atom of an element. Electronegativity is a trend naturally exhibited in the periodic table, but as you can see, it’s not a hard-and-fast trend. Use the table to write the names of compounds and to predict chemical reactions. It’s also interesting to see where the elements deviate from periodicity. This printable periodic table also contains the essential element facts needed for common calculations. [PDF]

Element Charges Periodic Table

This printable table lists the most common charges or oxidation states carried by atoms of each element. The table is available in either black/white or color in PDF file or PNG image format. It contains the essential element facts, so you can use it as a standard periodic table just fine. [black/white PDF][color PDF]

Atomic Radius Periodic Table

This color periodic table shows the relative sizes of each atom. The diameter of each atom is scaled relative to the largest element atom: cesium. This is a fun table to use when you’re considering periodic table trends because it shows how atomic radius actually decreases as you move across a period, even though the atoms gain more mass. The size trend goes along with the rainbow colors. [PDF]

Element Discovery Dates Periodic Table

Each element cell of this table cites the year in which that element was discovered. The coloring of the tiles groups elements according to the time periodic of their discovery. See if you can spot the first manmade element. Here’s a hint: the element symbol starts with a “T”. [PNG on black][PNG on white]

Oxidation States Periodic Table

Some elements stick with one oxidation state. For example, the alkali metals usually have a +1 oxidation, while the noble gases carry a 0 charge. Other elements, like the transition metals, exhibit many oxidation states. This printable periodic table displays the most common oxidation states or valences for the elements. This chart is colorful, but it’s transparent where there is data, so it’s easy to read. [PDF]

Periodic Table with Electron Shells

Tired of figuring out electron configurations or just want to check your work? This printable table shows element name, symbol, number, group, and also the filling of the electron shells. It’s one of the most comprehensive periodic tables on the site.

Density Periodic Table

Each element cell contains a bar that shows the element’s density relative to osmium, the most dense element. The state of matter, group, period, element name, element atomic number, and atomic mass are also given on this colorful table. [PDF]

Element Abundance in Seawater

This 118-element periodic table cites the average abundance of each chemical element in Earth’s seawater. [PDF]

Element Abundance in the Earth’s Crust

Look up the relative abundance of the elements with this 118-element printable periodic table. [PDF]

Melting Point Periodic Table

This brightly-colored periodic table contains the melting points of the elements. Usually, these values are cited at STP, so if you’re using a different temperature or pressure, expect some deviation from the value. It’s mostly a guide to help illustrate periodic table trends. [PDF]

Boiling Point Periodic Table

This colorful periodic table contains the boiling points of each element. Of course, the boiling point depends on atmospheric pressure. Notations indicate whether the value is at sea level or not. [PDF]

Electron Orbital Periodic Table

The printable periodic table is organized according to the outermost electron shell or electron orbitals. This table makes the trend obvious and highlights why the table has the shape we are familiar with. [PNG]

Metals, Metalloids, and Nonmetals Periodic Table

This is a collection of printable periodic tables that show the metals, metalloids (semimetals), and nonmetals as well as the properties of these important element groups. The properties of these element groups are listed, too.

Circle Tiles Periodic Table

Who says the element tiles have to be squares or rectangles? Here is a mod printable periodic table made using round tiles. Don’t worry — all the usual facts and figures are still there. The element tiles contain element symbol, name, atomic number, and atomic mass. Mix it up a little. Think outside the box. [PDF]

Periodic Table with Everything

This is our most comprehensive periodic table. This chart contains all the information you could want from a printable periodic table, including element symbols, names, atomic numbers, atomic masses, electron shells, periods, groups, state of matter, and more. It is available with either a white (transparent) background or a black background. There is also a PDF you can download. This table is particularly nice on a monitor because you can zoom in to view essential facts.

How To Use a Periodic Table

Learn how to read a periodic table. Now you have a periodic table, are you sure you know how to use it? Here’s a look at the type of information you’ll find on a typical periodic table and how to use it to answer questions about the elements.

Periodic Table Element Cells

This is a collection of individual element cells that you can save and print. Individual element cells are supplied as PNG files, You may also download the entire collection of elements as a PDF file. A few color variations are available, including a black and white set of tiles.

How Is the Periodic Table Organized?


The periodic table lists all the known elements by increasing atomic number, which is simply the number of protons in the nucleus. If that were the only consideration, the chart would be simply a line, but that is not the case. A cloud of electrons surrounds the nucleus of each element, typically one for each proton. Elements combine with other elements and with themselves to fill their outer electron shells according to the octet rule, which specifies that a full outer shell is one that has eight electrons. Although the octet rule does not apply as strictly to heavier elements as lighter ones, it still provides the basis for the organization of the periodic table.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

The periodic table lists the elements by increasing atomic number. The shape of the chart, with seven rows and eight columns, is based on the octet rule, which specifies that elements combine so as to achieve stable outer shells of eight electrons.

Groups and Periods

The most noticeable feature of the periodic table is that it is arranged as a chart with seven rows and eight columns, although the number of columns increases toward the bottom of the chart. Chemists refer to each row as a period and each column as a group. Each element in a period has the same ground state, and the elements become less metallic as you move from left to right. Elements in the same group have different ground states, but they have the same number of electrons in their outer shells, which gives them similar chemical properties.

The trend from left to right is toward higher electronegativity, which is a measure of an atom’s ability to attract electrons. For example, sodium (Na) is just under lithium (Li) in the first group, which is part of the alkali metals. Both have a single electron in the outer shell, and both are highly reactive, seeking to donate the electron to form a stable compound. Fluorine (F) and chlorine (Cl) are in the same periods as Li and Na respectively, but they are in group 7 on the opposite side of the chart. They are part of the halides. They are also very reactive, but they are electron acceptors.

The elements in group 8, such as helium (He) and neon (Ne), have complete outer shells and are virtually non-reactive. They form a special group, which chemists call the noble gases.

Metals and Non-Metals

The trend toward increasing electronegativity means that elements become increasingly non-metallic as you proceed from left to right on the periodic table. Metals lose their valence electrons easily while non-metals gain them easily. As a result, metals are good heat and electricity conductors while non-metals are insulators. Metals are malleable and solid at room temperature whereas non-metals are brittle and can exist in the solid, liquid or gaseous state.

Most of the elements are either metals or metalloids, which have properties somewhere between metals and non-metals. The elements having the most metallic nature are located in the lower left-hand portion of the chart. Those with the least metallic qualities are in the upper right-hand corner.

Transition Elements

The bulk of the elements do not fit comfortably into the neat group-and-period arrangement envisioned by Russian chemist Dmitri Ivanovitch Mendeleev (1834-1907), who was the first to develop the periodic table. These elements, known as the transition elements, occupy the middle of the table, from periods 4 through 7 and between groups II and III. Because they can share electrons in more than one shell, they are not clearly electron donors or acceptors. This group includes such common metals as gold, silver, iron and copper.

In addition, two groups of elements appear at the bottom of the periodic table. They are called the lanthanides and actinides respectively. They are there because there is not enough room for them in the chart. The lanthanides are part of group 6 and belong between lanthanum (La) and hafnium (Hf). The actinides belong in group 7 and go between Actinium (Ac) and Rutherfordium (Rf).

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Data in the Periodic Table Understanding the Periodic Table how to Read the Periodic Table

What is a Periodic Table? As a chemist, the Periodic Table is the most important basics you have to learn before you can start learning anything else within chemistry. It is like if you want to learn English, you must learn the alphabets. Periodic Table is just like the alphabet of chemistry. Every chemist must know and understand the Periodic Table inside out.

Periodic Table is rows and columns of elements put in sequence of various trends. They are very harmoniously synchronised that you can easily predict a lot about the element just by looking at the position it is placed on the Periodic Table.

Elements are naturally occurring chemicals and they contain atoms of only one kind. Periodic Table contains all the elements that have been discovered so far and are still being added on as more elements come to discovery. Each element has a symbol, atomic number and atomic mass. Symbol is displayed in the middle. On the top of the symbol, an atomic number is displayed and on the bottom it is the atomic mass. Atomic number shows how many protons and electrons make up one atom of this element and the Atomic mass show the mass of the nucleus of this element. The nucleus of an atom of element is made up of protons and neutrons. Elements are arranged in groups which are the columns. There are 8 groups of elements and group number tells us how reactive each element is. For example in group one the element are very reactive but in group 8 all elements are very unreactive. It is because elements of group one contain only one electron in the outer shell as they are meant to have 8 electrons. As they are 7 electrons short, they are considered to be highly reactive. Whereas in group 8, the elements contain 8 electrons in the outer shell and as they are meant to have 8, they are very much stable and therefore considered very unreactive. Group 4 elements can be reactive and unreactive equally.

There are rows of elements which tell us how many shells there are around the atoms of each element. These rows are called periods. In period one, all the elements have one shell around their atoms. For any atom to be stable it must have its shells complete of electron. Any atom with incomplete shells is likely to be reactive. The number of electron for stability is 8. If an atom has two electrons, it either must gain 6 more electrons or lose its two electrons in order to become stable. Losing two electrons are easier than gaining 6 so atom opts to lose two electrons. The number of shells determines how easily those outer electrons are lost or gained. For atoms that are looking to lose electron, having more shells means, the electrons can easily be lost as the nucleus is shielded with shells hence the element is more reactive. But for atoms that are looking to gain electron, more shells means it’s difficult to gain outer electrons therefore the element becomes less reactive.

With more shells, the atom also becomes bigger; we say that the atomic radius increases with number of shells. Across the Periodic Table, the atomic radii decreases and down the group the atomic radii increases. Group 1 and 2 are classed as Metals and are also called group-S elements. Group 3 – 8 are all non-metals and are also classed as group p elements. The elements in between these groups are called the transition metals or group d elements.

How to Figure Valence of Electrons in the Periodic Table


Electrons orbit around the nucleus of an atom at set energy levels known as principal energy levels, or electron shells. Each electron shell is composed of one or more subshells. By definition, valence electrons travel in the subshell farthest away from the nucleus of the atom. Atoms tend to accept or lose electrons if doing so will result in a full outer shell. Accordingly, valence electrons directly influence how elements behave in a chemical reaction.

Finding Valence Electrons for All Elements Except Transition Metals

Locate the desired element on the periodic table. Each square on the periodic table contains the letter symbol for an element printed directly below the atomic number of the element.

For example, locate the element oxygen on the table. Oxygen is represented by the symbol «O» and has an atomic number of 8.

Determine the group number and period number of the element. The vertical columns of the periodic table, counting left to right, 1 through 18, are called groups. In the periodic table, elements with similar chemical properties are in the same group. The horizontal rows of the periodic table, from 1 to 7, are called periods. Periods correspond to the number of electron shells possessed by atoms of the elements in that row.

Oxygen is found in Period 2, Group 16.

Apply the rule of the periodic table to your element. The rule is as follows: If an element is not a transition metal, then valence electrons increase in number as you count groups left to right, along a period. Each new period begins with one valence electron. Exclude groups 3 through 12. These are transitional metals, which have special circumstances.

Following this rule: Elements in group 1 have one valence electron; elements in group 2 have two valence electrons; elements in group 13 have three valence electrons; elements in group 14 have four valence electrons; and so forth up to group 18. elements in group 18 have eight valence electrons, except for helium, which has only two.

Oxygen is located in group 16 on the periodic table, so it has six valence electrons.

Finding Valence Electrons for Transition Metals


Be aware of the unique electron configuration of transition metals.

Valence electrons are generally what is left over after all the inner subshells of an atom have been filled. However, transitional metals may have subshells that are not completely filled. An atom may tend to accept or lose electrons from an incomplete subshell if doing so will result in a full subshell, so subshell electrons may behave like valence electrons. By strict definition, most transitional metals have two valence electrons, but may have a larger range of apparent valence electrons.

Locate the transition metal on the periodic table and make note of the group number. Use iron as an example, a transitional metal with the symbol Fe, atomic number 26 , located at period 4, group 8.


Determine the range of apparent valence consulting the following table:

Group 3: 3 valence electrons Group 4: 2-4 valence electrons Group 5: 2-5 valence electrons Group 6: 2-6 valence electrons Group 7: 2-7 valence electrons Group 8: 2-3 valence electrons Group 9: 2-3 valence electrons Group 10: 2-3 valence electrons Group 11: 1-2 valence electrons Group 12: 2 valence electrons

The element iron is in group 8, and therefore has two or three apparent valence electrons.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

Electron shells are labeled K, L, M, N, O, P, and Q or simply 1 to 7; starting with the shell closest to the nucleus and moving out. Each electron shell can hold a fixed, maximum number of electrons: the K shell holds a maximum of two electrons, the L shell holds eight electrons, the M shell holds eighteen electrons and the N shell holds a maximum of thirty-two electrons. Theoretically, the O Shell could contain fifty electrons and the P shell could contain seventy-two electrons, but no naturally occurring element has more than thirty-two electrons in any single shell.

The maximum number of valence electrons for an atom is eight.

There are two lines of elements listed below the main table on the periodic chart, the lanthanides and actinides. All lanthanides belong in Period 6, Group 3. Actinides belong in Period 7, Group 3. These elements are known as inner transition metals.

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