Submitted by Keith Walters / Northern Kentucky University on Thu, 07/15/2010 - 11:44
My Notes

Like many inorganic faculty (especially those faced with trying to teach "all" of inorganic chemistry in a one-term junior/senior course), I have found it increasingly difficult over the years to include any significant descriptive chemistry content in my course. Moreover, I have a constant interest in trying to convey some of the "story behind the story" in chemistry, which in this area centers on the discovery of the elements. I was mulling this over at an ACS meeting one time and happened to be in an inorganic teaching session where Josh van Houten (St. Michael's College) gave a great presentation on using a Jeopardy activity to spend time every week in lecture on descriptive chemistry. The light bulb turned on, and I figured that I could combine both of the above concerns into a single activity (thanks, Josh!).

I've been using "Element Jeopardy!" in my lecture for the past three years, and every time it's a little different. Students seem to be very interested in participating (probably because the points they score turn into extra credit at the end of the term), and I regularly would see them looking for information on the elements online prior to lecture. I would typically devote 10-15 minutes in the last lecture period of every week to a new game. I rotate between students for each question (there's no buzzing in, because I want everyone to have a chance).

The games were broken down by group for the s and p block elements, plus one game just for hydrogen and one game for each of the three transition metal periods. This combination gave me one game every week for an academic term if we didn't play during test weeks. For the periodic group games, each element got its own category (with the more obscure elements grouped together, like Cs/Fr). For the other games, categories were created based on history, usage, properties, common ores (for the transition metal games), and "fun facts." I initially used different Powerpoint presentations to run the games, but I was never happy with the way things looked. Last year I stumbled across the BYOJeopardy freeware program, and it does a great job in writing and running game boards (including daily double questions!). I have included my games and a link to the software below (PC only, see below for Mac options).

The sources of information for the games have varied as I've created the games, and they change a little bit every year. Initially I used our current lecture textbook, which was fine for the physical properties and reactivity of the elements but left much to be desired in the other categories. I dug into some of my history of chemistry materials (particularly The Periodic Table by Eric Scerri, Oxford Press) to find some of the historical details. I have also resorted (horrors...) to using Wikipedia as a starting point for other material on the different elements, as well as some judicious web searching. The absolute best place for "I didn't know that" information, however, is the excellent Chemistry In Its Element podcast (, which is an excellent listen (and one that every chemistry educator should utilize). Many of the daily double questions come from these podcasts.

 You will notice as you look at the games that I ask some very easy questions (that hopefully students with a basic understanding of the periodic table can get) as well as some questions that I probably couldn't answer. The hard questions are there more to inform than to be a source of extra credit points, and I've picked them to surprise the students (and I'll provide additional information on the question slide where appropriate). Many times students will say "Is that really true?" or "I never imagined it could do that!" during the course of the game. This stimulation of curiosity and an increase in the appreciation of the diversity of the periodic table (and how we discovered the elements that fill its boxes) is the true heart of the exercise.

Attachment Size 42.18 KB
Learning Goals

A student should be able to understand basic properties of the groups of the periodic table as well as the history behind the discovery of the elements. Students should also gain an appreciation of the uniqueness of the elements that constitute the periodic table.

Equipment needs
Related activities
Implementation Notes

To use the software after installation: 1. Open the BYOJeopardy program, then open one of the unzipped game boards using File>Open 2. Select "Player must answer in the form of a question" in the Game Format popup, then click OK 3. The game board should be on the screen. Click the category/point value to see the answer, then the button at the bottom of the answer to see the question 4. If you want to change the gameboard, use File>Edit to open the editor The software listed is for PCs only, unfortunately. BYOJeopardy does have an online version that should work with any browser, but since games are accessible by anyone on the site with an account I'm a little hesitant to post the games there (my students can be very resourceful!). In the zip file I've provided .html files of all the games so that you can use the questions in whatever delivery system you choose.

Time Required
10-15 minutes weekly


Evaluation Methods

I typically include a quick question or two on each test that covers some of the content that's been presented in recent games.

Evaluation Results

Students typically do well on these questions. In addition, many have tried to fold content learned in the game into other answers on homework assignments and exams. The integration of this material into the core content of the course shows that they are seeing the connection of the science and the story. Of course, there are some students that don't "get it" and merely treat the exercise as an extra credit opportunity that they don't need. However, the majority of the students do enjoy the activity.

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Joanne Stewart / Hope College
Gosh, I wish I could see you do this. How do you tell students to prepare? How do you award the extra credit points? What do you mean when you say you "rotate between students for each question"? I really want to try this. The questions you provided are great.
Sat, 11/27/2010 - 17:24 Permalink
Randall Hicks / Wheaton College

There is another Jeopardy template resource that can be tailored to meet your needs:

Pros: free, web-based, saved online

Cons: only 5 categories (instead of the standard 6), only one round (you need to create a second game for double jeopardy), no daily doubles

At the website, you can browse through (and play) all the games that others have created (only you can edit your own game). I suppose that this sharing is the price you pay for the free use.  

Whichever version is used, it's still fun!

Sat, 11/27/2010 - 21:55 Permalink
Eric Scerri / UCLA

Thanks for mentioning my book on the periodic table.

Can I also suggest te more recent and more accessible,  "A Very Short Introduction to the Periodic Table, Oxford University Press, 2011.

please also see, my website for additional resources on elements and the periodic table



Sat, 07/14/2012 - 13:46 Permalink
Chantal Stieber / Cal Poly Pomona

Thanks for sharing! This is a great idea for incorporating some of the more descriptive inorganic chemistry! I'm flipping my class this semester, so I'm planning to try this out. Since I have a Mac, I made a powerpoint for the Group 1 questions using a jeopardy template (and will make more if we keep up with it during the semester). I'm happy to share the powerpoint by email for anyone interested.  

Thu, 01/12/2023 - 13:49 Permalink