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Is a Picture Worth 1000 Words? Mark as Favorite (2 Favorites)

ACTIVITY in Observations, Introduction, Elements, History, Periodic Table, Atoms, Model of the Atom, Culminating Project, Matter. Last updated March 12, 2019.


In this activity, students will learn about early chemistry discoveries through a textbook reading as well as from a cartoon. They will have to express which medium they learned new ideas from. They will then begin creating their own book that explains what they understand about chemical concepts. This book will be shared with elementary school students at the end of the unit.

Grade Level

Middle or high school


By the end of this lesson, students will know

  • Chemistry as we know it today was discovered by many contributors.
  • How the law of conservation of matter was discovered.
  • How some of the elements were identified and discovered.
  • That atoms are the smallest forms of matter that make up everything around us.
  • Scientists and engineers think critically and logically to make the relationship between evidence and explanation/solution.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of

  • Matter
  • Atoms
  • Molecules
  • Elements
  • Compounds
  • Chemical change
  • ObservationsI


Teacher Preparation: 10 minutes

Lesson: 90 minute class period


  • Physical science textbook, chapter about the early chemists’ discoveries of atoms and elements
  • The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry,” chapter 1 (by Larry Gonick & Craig Criddle)
  • Construction paper
  • Colored pencils
  • Markers
  • 8.5” x 11” white paper


Monitor students’ use of the stapler.

Teacher Notes

Introduction: 10 Minutes

  • I begin the lesson by assessing students’ prior knowledge about matter by discussion and/or by sharing with them the Meet the Elements video by They Might Be Giants.
  • After this quick review, I tell students that I have been thinking about a scientific question and ask them if they will experiment to find the answer for me. I then ask them whether they are familiar with the phrase, “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” We discuss the meaning of this phrase, and then I tell students they will test whether or not this statement is true.

Reading—40 minutes (20 minutes per reading)

  • Students read the section in their textbook that introduces them to chemistry (early discoverers of elements, how the periodic table is organized). When finished, students complete a Quick Write (a very brief timed journal entry) on what they understand and recall from the reading.
  • Next, students read Chapter 1: Hidden Ingredients in “The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry.” When finished, students complete another Quick Write on this reading stating what they understand and recall from the reading.
  • Students share their Quick Writes with the class. As a class, we discuss the conclusions to the initial question of whether or not a picture is worth 1,000 words. Students state whether or not the cartoon drawings helped them understand the content better than the textbook reading.
  • Students are told that throughout the upcoming unit they will write and illustrate their own book on chemistry, one chapter at a time. I tell them that they will share their books with elementary school students at the end of the unit. Students are instructed to keep their audience and the content in mind as they write and illustrate their books.

Possible Modifications & Adaptations

  • Students can read the selections aloud rather than silently. Students can discuss their impressions about each reading rather than completing the Quick Writes.

Begin book creation—40 minutes

  • Students choose a light colored piece of construction paper for the cover of their book. Give students 10 sheets of white paper to assemble their book. Instruct students how to fold and staple the book (fold the pages in half, so they have a book with a colored paper cover and 20 white pages).
  • Keeping in mind that the book will explain/illustrate what they learn about chemistry throughout the unit, students should design an illustration for the cover of their book on scratch paper. When they have a design they like, they should draw it on the cover of the book using the markers and colored pencils.
  • As the unit of matter progresses, students will add to their book pages. At the end of the unit, they will share their book with elementary school students.

Possible Modifications & Adaptations

  • Students can recreate one of the illustrations from “The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry” rather than create their own original drawing to illustrate a concept.

What does it look like when students have met expectations for this objective?

  • You know students are meeting the expectations when they are engaged in the reading and discussion to find the answer to the initial inquiry question.

How will students be evaluated?

  • I observe students’ reading behavior combined with their completed Quick Write entries. I also evaluate the quality of their illustrations and how well their drawings indicate they understand the scientific principles covered.

Connections to Standards

Next Generation Science Standards

This lesson supports the following Disciplinary Core Ideas:

PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

  • Different kinds of matter exist and many of them can be either solid or liquid, depending on temperature. Matter can be described and classified by its observable properties. (2-PS1-1)
  • Different properties are suited to different purposes. (2-PS1-2),(2-PS1-3)
  • A great variety of objects can be built up from a small set of pieces. (2-PS1-3)

PS1.B: Chemical Reactions

  • Heating or cooling a substance may cause changes that can be observed. Sometimes these changes are reversible, and sometimes they are not. (2-PS1-4)