Worksheets and lesson ideas to challenge students aged 11 to 16 to think hard about reactivity of metals (GCSE and Key Stage 3)
Where to start?
Ask students to list as many different metals in the classroom as they can see. Then pose the question, why do we wear jewellery made from silver and gold but not magnesium?
Exploring the reactivity of different metals through observation
This demonstration is a powerful way for students to see that different metals react in very different ways. This then leads onto a more quantitative study below where students measure the temperature changes involved when different metals are placed in dilute HCl.
Exploring the reactivity of different metals through measurement
This activity asks students to measure the temperature change when pieces of magnesium are added to acid. Students plot a simple graph of their repeated measurements to help them visualise exactly what is meant by reliable data. This investigation could be easily adapted to investigate the reactivity of different metals (e.g. zinc, copper, iron and magnesium) by comparing temperature changes. This would make an excellent inquiry.
Exploring the reactivity of metals thinking about loss of electrons
We sometimes give students a reactivity series to learn, without explaining what it really means. Metals react by losing electrons so a reactive metal is really good at losing electrons to form ions. Some metals have a greater tendency to lose electrons than others. If you place two different metals in a solution of NaCl and connect them together using wires, you can measure a potential difference – this is because one metal (the more reactive one) will lose electrons and these will travel through the circuit to the less reactive metal. Check out this activity from Learn Chemistry to explore how electricity can be made when different metals are dipped into a solution of NaCl, and then joined by wires. You can link the movement of electrons to the bonding in metals and atomic structure if students have covered this.