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Valence Electrons and Energy Levels of Atoms of Elements

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The Easy Way to Teach About Valence Electrons: Activities for Kinesthetic Learners

Give them a bag full of tennis balls or other small objects to represent protons, and tell students to place the correct number of protons for that element into the nucleus. Then have them repeat the process with an element that contains more electrons, such as iron. So much can be done with the periodic table - if only you could get your students to pay attention to it.

Just draw a life-sized Periodic Table with sidewalk chalk on a large paved area. Let each student choose a square of the Periodic table to stand on filling in the ones with fewer electrons first, if possible. Then ask them questions about the number of electrons they have, and let the appropriate students call out their answers.

For example, you might say "Who has exactly one electron in their outermost shell? Like other chemistry activities , these valence electron activities are the perfect way to make an abstract concept more engaging, especially for kinesthetic learners.

In fact, you may find that your most enthusiastic participants are those that have no patience for typical electron diagrams. Button Map Instead of merely drawing an electron dot diagram, let students use buttons to represent them. Electron Musical Chairs This easy way to teach about valence electrons is as hands-on as it gets!

Periodic Table Shout Out So much can be done with the periodic table - if only you could get your students to pay attention to it. Chemistry Lessons and Activities Are you teaching a class about valence electrons? It is so dangerous that you will likely never see it in its elemental, neutral form.

So where have you seen sodium? You may have sprinkled some on your food this afternoon! If you put salt or sodium chloride on your food, you would have experienced what sodium is like without that outer 3 s electron. Sodium in its silvery form easily loses that outer 3 s electron, turning it into sodium ion with a positive 1 charge. Sodium with one less electron than proton will have a positive 1 charge because protons are positively charged and electrons are negatively charged.

This sodium ion with only 10 electrons is completely different than neutral sodium metal with all 11 electrons. This was just a brief introduction into how the electronic structure will affect the function and reactivity and even taste of an atom.

As I mentioned before, the location and quantity of electrons are important factors in determining how an atom will react. However, the most important information about the electrons has to do with the outermost electrons, or the valence electrons. The outer electrons are the key players in all chemical reactions. That little 3 s electron in sodium is the most important electron in sodium.

It will be the one that is either present in explosive sodium metal or absent in the sodium ion in sodium chloride in your table salt. This lesson is going to focus on the two most important aspects of these valence electrons: As mentioned before, sodium has one valence electron that 3 s electron , which is one reason why it is so reactive and unstable. If sodium has one valence electron, then how many does potassium have? The answer is also one! However, it is a 4 s electron.

In fact, all the atoms in the first column on the periodic table have one valence electron, and all of the atoms in the first column on the periodic table are extremely reactive and will have a tendency to lose that outer electron and become more stable.

Because the number of valence electrons is so important as opposed to the inner ones , they are sometimes represented in Lewis dot diagrams as shown. Lewis dot diagrams show the symbols of atoms with their valence electrons. Sodium is represented by its symbol Na, and because it has one valence electron, that 3 s electron, that electron is represented by a dot next to the symbol.

Moving on to the second column, you will notice that magnesium has an electron configuration that ends in 3 s 2 , meaning that there are two valence electrons in magnesium.

Again, these two electrons are extremely important, so sometimes magnesium is represented as Mg with two dots around it.

Notice how the dots are represented on opposite sides of each other in the symbol. So, all elements in the second column will have two valence electrons. Next, we are going to skip the d -block. The reason we are skipping over it is twofold: Moving to the 13th column, which starts with boron, you will notice that there are three outer electrons: All atoms in this family will have three valence electrons. Are you starting to see a pattern forming? The elements in the carbon family all will have four valence electrons, the elements in the nitrogen family will have five, the elements in the oxygen family will have six, the halogens will have seven valence electrons and aside from helium, the elements in the last column - the noble gases - will all have eight valence electrons two s electrons and six p electrons.

Get access risk-free for 30 days, just create an account. As you can see, the number of valence electrons an atom has is related to the column it is found in on the periodic table. When an atom has eight valence electrons it is said to have an octet of electrons.

Atoms with a complete octet have s and p orbitals that are completely filled with electrons, so they are extremely stable. Notice that the Lewis dot diagrams fill the outer shells by first putting in four electrons alone on either side and then starting to pair them up with the addition of the fifth electron.

This representation will help us later on when we discuss chemical bonding. Aside from the number of valence electrons an atom has, the energy they have or the energy level that they are in is the last bit of information that helps predict how an atom will react. They all have one valence electron, but their valence electrons are located farther and farther away from the nucleus as you move down on the periodic table. For example, that one valence electron in lithium is in the 2 s orbital.

That number 2 is the principal quantum number that represents the size of the orbital. The 2 s orbital is going to be a lot smaller than the 4 s orbital in potassium that holds its valence electron.

What that means is the valence electron in potassium is going to have more energy and be farther away from the nucleus than the valence electron in lithium. What difference does that make? Well, as you may have noticed from the sodium example, those elements in the first column are going to get rid of their outer electrons as quickly as possible.

Having that one outer electron flying around alone out there makes that atom very chemically unstable. The ability of it to chemically react is directly dependent upon how easily it can get rid of that outer electron. Potassium is way more likely to get rid of its outer electron than lithium is because its outer electron is in the 4 s orbital, which is much farther away from the inner pull of the positively charged nucleus.

Lithium will hang on to its 2 s electron more tightly than potassium will hang on to its 4 s electron because the 2 s electron is closer to the inward pull of the positively charged nucleus. This makes potassium much more reactive than lithium. If you put a tiny chunk of lithium in water it may just fizz, but if you put the same amount of potassium in water it will probably pop or explode.

As you may have noticed, the row an element is in will represent the energy level the valence electrons will have. Elements in the first row hydrogen and helium will have outer electrons in the first energy level. Their principal quantum number is 1. Elements in the second row lithium through neon will have valence electrons in the second energy level with a principal quantum number of 2.

The trend continues all the way down to the seventh row. Remember, those last two rows really belong squeezed into the sixth and seventh rows. The most important feature of an atom that helps predict its chemical properties is the location and quantity of its electrons - more specifically, its valence electrons or outer electrons.

The outer electrons are the ones that participate in the chemical reactions, changing the properties of an atom or molecule. The column an element is in on the periodic table will indicate how many valence electrons it has, and for now, when we count across columns, we will skip over the d -block.

The row an element is in will indicate the energy level of the outer electrons. Finally, because valence electrons are so important, they can be represented symbolically in Lewis dot diagrams. To unlock this lesson you must be a Study. Did you know… We have over college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1, colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

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