Games are fun! They are competitive and engaging and provide a safe environment to take a risk without the fear of getting an answer wrong

These three games involving transition metals provide a great opportunity to develop understanding, vocabulary and thinking skills. Familiarise learners with keywords for the transition metals topic by exploring definitions in a variety of ways: writing questions, using key terminology in different sentences and avoiding ‘taboo words’. Use this resource alongside the Education in Chemistry article Catalyst for change, when teaching about transition metals as catalysts.

Download the games

The instructions for all three games, plus game cards, are available as MS Word or pdf.

Use the Transition metal taboo PowerPoint to involve the whole class.


Game 1: Jeopardy on transition metals

This game is inspired by the American television gameshow, Jeopardy!

Game instructions

Print out or display the table of keywords in the instructions. For each keyword or phrase in the table, learners need to make up a question that will give that word or phrase as the answer.


The keywords and phrases included in this game are:

  • coloured compound
  • H2O ligand
  • variable oxidation state
  • coordination number 6
  • complex ion
  • reduce the activation energy
  • catalyst
  • d sub-shell
  • homogenous
  • zinc

Game 2: Words in the bag

This game is inspired by the board game Articulate!

You will need

  • a set of keywords (print out page 4 of the instructions)
  • a bag or envelope (one per team)

Cut out each of the words separately. The words could be printed on card or laminated to ensure that they can be used multiple times. Place the words in the bag or envelope.

Game instructions

This is a team game. It works best when teams have a minimum of three players. The aim of the game is to correctly describe as many words as possible in the shortest amount of time. Each team needs their own bag of words. The words are differentiated by colour with the easiest words in blue, the hardest in purple and the rest in orange. Remove the more difficult words to scaffold the task according to ability or progression through the course.

One player on each team is the ‘describer’, the other team members are the ‘guessers’. The describer pulls a keyword from the bag, ensuring that the guessers cannot see the printed word. The describer must use chemistry definitions to describe the word to their team. They must not use charades (actions) or ‘sounds like’ clues in their descriptions. The guessers can have as many tries at guessing as they need for each word. Once the correct word has been guessed, the describer may pull another word from the bag.


The game can be played with one describer for the whole bag, or with the role of describer passing to another team member after each word.

Introduce a competitive element either against the clock or against other teams. The winners are the team who can guess the most words correctly in 45 seconds or the first team to complete the whole bag of words.

Follow-up activities

Extension 1

Challenge learners to create a transition metal related sentence using the words from the bag. Learners can either choose the word themselves, be given a word by the teacher or pick a word from the bag depending on the level of challenge or differentiation needed. Alternatively, see who can create a sentence that correctly includes as many of the words as possible.

Extension 2

Learners choose some of the words to create a ‘mind map’. Join the words with a linking sentence which shows how the terms are related. The more words that are chosen the more difficult the task. Learners should aim to link at least five words.


The keywords and phrases included in this game are:






 oxidation state



 d sub-shell

 activation energy

 coordination number


 (II) roman numeral

 complex ions


 5 orbitals







 partially filled d sub-shell

 square planar

Game 3: Transition metal taboo

This game is inspired by the board game Taboo.

You will need

Game instructions

This game is played in pairs.

Display the presentation ‘Transition metal taboo’. One player stands with their back to the presentation and the other faces it. The player facing the presentation describes the large word at the top of the slide without using any of the ‘taboo words’ below. The player with their back to the presentation, without looking, should guess the word at the top of the slide. They can guess as many times as they like.

Follow-up activities

Extension 1

Once you have completed all the words in the presentation, ask learners to come up with other words they could add to the game along with the ‘taboo words’ you are not allowed to say to describe it.

Extension 2

Rank the words in the presentation in order of difficulty. Explain why it is difficult to describe the word without using the taboo words.


KeywordTaboo words


Reaction, faster, energy, lower, not used up


One, single, ligand, attached, water, ammonia, chloride


Ion, atoms, charge, ligand, transition metal


Water, bonded, transition metal, complex, ion


Period 3, element, transition metal, ion, d sub-shell


Electrons, structure, p-block, s-block, orbitals


White, looks like, different, yellow, blue


Charge, Roman, number, +2, complex, ion


Catalyst, faster, reaction, same, state/phase, aqueous (aq)

Oxidation number

Different, varied, charge, ion, Roman numerals


Reduction, oxidation, charge, state, gain, loss, electrons

More resources

  • These Starters for 10 activities cover transition metals as catalysts, as well as a transition metals recap, transition metal complexes, colours of complex ions, colorimetry, redox titrations, redox chemistry of transition metals.
  • For a more general look at catalysis, read Catalysts get helping hands and use the associated resources containing exam-style questions and a demonstration with your 14–16 students, or as a recap with 16–18 students.
  • To introduce the topic of transition metals, try the demonstrations, Lighting up copper or Traffic lights, from our Exhibition chemistry series.
  • Link to a careers video of a chief executive officer developing catalysts and find more inspiration with our Innovating industry page.