Check students’ understanding of how properties of substances depend on their structure and bonding using this lesson plan with activities for 16–18 year olds

In this activity, students match cards that describe properties, structures, bonding and particles with particular substances. The card matching allows students to evaluate their own understanding, before sharing, defending and modifying their views through peer assessment.

Learning objectives

Students will understand:

  • How the properties of substances depend upon their structure and bonding.

Sequence of activities

Introduction and demonstration

  1. Demonstrate how sodium chloride can be melted by heating it with two Bunsen burners or a Meker burner in a Pyrex glass tube.
  2. Relate this to the learning objective and the activities for the session.

Card matching: set-up

Arrange the students into groups of four and give each group a set of:

  • Substance cards.
  • Property cards.
  • Structure cards.
  • Bonding cards.
  • Particle cards.

Give each student a ‘Structure and bonding summary grid’.

Card matching

Circulate and support the groups as they:

  1. Discuss and choose Property, Structure, Bonding and Particle cards to match each Substance card.
  2. Write their choices in the summary grid.
  3. Ascribe a, b, c or d to each student in the group.

Card matching: peer assessment

Arrange the students in new groups so that all students labelled a are together etc. Support the new groups as they:

  • Compare the summary sheets from the original groups.
  • Identify and discuss any differences in summary sheets.

Explaining the properties of substances

Ask students to return to their original groups. Give a ‘Structure and bonding explanation sheet’ to each student.

Ask the groups to:

  1. Summarise the discussions from the groups they have been in.
  2. Modify the summary grid where appropriate.
  3. Describe the reasons for the properties of each substance in terms of its structure and bonding on the ‘Structure and bonding explanation sheet’.
  4. hand in their explanations.


Give written feedback on each individual ’Structure and bonding explanation sheet’. As well as crediting correct understanding, help students to take any further steps they may need.


The card matching is intrinsically evaluative. Students have to look at their own understanding for every attempted card match.

Students then review their own work with two groups of colleagues. This has the benefit of exposing them to additional views, and requires them to defend views. This increases confidence.

Where the teacher has not been able to form an assessment or offer support, while circulating during the group work, the written feedback gives another opportunity to do this.

Practical notes

Demonstration equipment

  • Sodium chloride
  • Pyrex tube
  • Bunsen burners, x2, or a Meker burner

Health, safety and technical notes

Other notes

Sets of cards can be copied onto different coloured card to help tell the difference between types of cards. To differentiate the task, students can be supplied with exactly the number of different cards they require or be given extra cards and told that they will not have to use all of them.