Bonding, structure and properties teaching resources

Worksheets and lesson ideas to challenge students aged 11 to 16 to think hard about bonding, structure and physical properties (GCSE and Key Stage 3)
Bonding and structure teacher brief

Overview: we can think of all substances in terms of bonding (how their atoms or ions are bonded together) and structure (how their atoms, ions or molecules are arranged). For example, in ionic compounds such as sodium chloride, the cations and anions are held in place by strong electrostatic forces of attraction between ions resulting in a giant lattice structure. Carbon dioxide, however, differs from sodium chloride because atoms (not ions) are held together by covalent bonds, and these atoms are arranged in small groups forming discrete molecules. Metals consist of giant structures of atoms arranged in a regular pattern. The point is that substances differ in their physical properties (melting point, ability to conduct electricity, solubility in water) because of both their bonding and their structure.

Key concept: the physical properties of a substance are determined by its bonding and structure

From big idea: all matter in the Universe is made of very small particles

Linked knowledge: elements and compounds , latent heat, particle model, ionic, covalent, metallic

Misconception [scientific idea]: when you melt a simple covalent substance you break covalent bonds [when you melt a simple covalent substance you break weak intermolecular forces]; ionic substances conduct electricity when molten because the electrons are free to move [ionic substances conduct electricity when molten because the ions are free to move and carry the charge]

Teaching resources

Where to start?

Help students appreciate that substances have different physical properties. This could involve giving students a range of substances to test for: conductivity, density, solubility in water and approximate melting point (high/low). Students then have to group the substances based on their similarities and differences.

What do they know already about bonding, structure and properties?

An infographic to summarise bonding and structure for GCSE. Students look at a photo of a beach scene and identify all the substances they can see imagining they were wearing ‘molecular glasses’. They then use the infographic to categorise these substances. This activity could be used to assess prior knowledge of bonding and structure, or to revise bonding and structure. (PDF)

Melting simple and giant covalent structures

GCSE activity to help students observe what happens when we heat giant and simple covalent substances. Students often cannot see the difference between what happens when you melt solid water and melt diamond. Here, students use the interactive white board to pull apart models of simple and giant compounds. This is a powerful technique to show the difference between breaking bonds and pulling apart intermolecular forces. (PDF)

Explaining melting temperatures

GCSE worksheet on explaining melting temperature using ideas of bonding. Students make predictions about the bonding within a substance based on its physical properties. They use a hierarchy of explanations to explain why substances have different melting temperatures. (PDF)

Explaining physical properties

GCSE worksheet to explain bonding, structure and properties. This activity, designed by Philippa Franks, supports students to write explanations of properties by describing bonding and structure. The table can be cut up and given to students to match up or left intact as a revision aid. (PDF)

Allotropes of sulfur

Sulfur is an amazing element that has many different allotropes. You can demonstrate these sulfur allotropes in the class by using this method. Beware that sulfur dioxide gas (TOXIC) is also produced so carry out your own risk assessment consulting CLEAPSS guidance. You will need access to a fume cupboard.

  1. Bonding and physical properties
  2. Covalent bonding
  3. Intermolecular forces
  4. Ionic bonding
  5. Metallic bonding

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