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Identifying Elements
Administration Procedures
Grades 5-8 Performance Task
Contributed by: Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)


Using diffraction glasses, students find similarities and differences between observed spectrum of fluorescent light and an incandescent light.

Overall Task Content Area:

Physical Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Transfer of Energy

Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • using equipment
  • gathering, organizing, and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data

National Science Education Standards

8 B PS 1: Properties and changes of properties in matter: Grades 5-8

1.1 A substance has characteristic properties, such as density, a boiling point, and solubility, all of which are independent of the amount of the sample. A mixture of substances often can be separated into the original substances using one or more of the characteristic properties.

8 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades 5-8

1.4 Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. Students should base their explanation on what they observed, and as they develop cognitive skills, they should be able to differentiate explanation from description providing causes for effects and establishing relationships based on evidence and logical argument. This standards requires a subject knowledge base so the students can effectively conduct investigations, because developing explanations establishes connections between the content of science and the contexts within which students develop new knowledge.

(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

PS2: Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts:
Grades 6-8

General Instructions to the Teacher :

Students will be working in groups of 4 - 6 for the experiment/activity part of this exercise. The following suggestions are offered to facilitate administration of the exercise.

  • Students need to be ready to work as soon as the period begins.

  • Group assignments should be made in advance.

  • The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible.

  • A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible.

  • The supply area should have any supplies from the kit that were prepared by the teacher as well as all of the school-supplied materials necessary for the experiment.

  • All the supplies should be clearly labeled.

Materials for "Identifying Elements":

  • 5 pair of diffraction glasses
  • 1 2-ounce bottle of each of the following solutions (approximate concentration 5%-10%)
    • sodium nitrate or chloride
    • potassium nitrate or chloride
    • calcium nitrate or chloride
    • barium nitrate or chloride
    • copper nitrate, chloride, or sulfate
    • unknown solution: sodium nitrate or chloride
  • 6 inoculating loops
  • 1 set per group of colored pencils or markers (red, orange, yellow, green blue, violet)
  • 1 Bunsen burner/group
  • matches or striker per group
  • access to incandescent light
  • access to fluorescent light
  • safety protocol
  • 1 pen or pencil per student

Advance Preparation:

Students should be advised not to get the solutions on themselves or in their eyes. Safety goggles and gloves should be used throughout the event. Barium and copper compounds are toxic. Students should wash their hands when they have completed the event.

Bottles of solutions and inoculating loops can be passed from group to group, with each group using one or two solutions at a time. The inoculating loops will be dipped into the solutions and then the loops placed in the burner flames. Make sure that each solution has its own loop! se each loop for only one solution. Otherwise, the loop will be contaminated by another solution, thereby affecting the results.


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