Using anthropomorphism is a really useful technique when it comes to teaching the more challenging concepts in chemistry.

After all, atoms behave just like people in a lot of ways, including matters of love.


If you need evidence, take a look at how elements behave at a party:

Googling some ideas for a valentine’s day chemistry lesson, I came across a really great idea from a wiki set up by a school in the USA and have decided to use the idea and adapt it slightly so it addresses what students need to know about atomic structure and ionic bonding for GCSE.

I present…chemistry speed dating.

Assign each student an element, whose role they take during the lesson. I would stick to group 1, 2, 6 and 7 elements and avoid high atomic numbers (as the students will be drawing the structures). You can throw in a few group 3 if you want to make bonding diagrams a little more tricky but best to avoid group 8s as they do not enjoy any form of social activity. If you have a mixed sex class you may wish to make one sex metals and the other non-metals but be aware of the high probability of sexual innuendos involving bonding and filling shells (I will let you use your imagination here).

Each student then does some initial research on their element and fills in a ‘dating profile’. This involves them finding out about appearance and uses, as well as drawing atomic structure to show electron shells.

Now in the usual speed dating format, ask metals (or non-metals) to sit at desks whilst the others circulate round with their profiles. They have 5 minutes with each other before a bell is rung and they move on. You only need to do two or three rounds of this. During each ‘date’ each element should inspect each other’s profile and fill in a compatibility sheet. They have to think about how they would bond, name the compound they would form and draw a dot cross diagram. This gives an opportunity for paired work, plus the students could check each other’s completed sheet.

After the dating each element should fill in the ‘rate your dates’ section where they think about which element they are most compatible with and why. If you want to push the embarrassment factor a little more you could ask metals to announce which non-metal they would most like to bond with before impersonating Cilla Black and cooing about having to buy a hat (to blank faces most probably).


The chemistry speed dating document can be downloaded by clicking on the link below.  This contains all the worksheets for the lesson plus an example which you can use to show the students how to fill them in.


Interactive periodic table – useful for research

Element research project – the document I used as inspiration for this post.  From the wiki of HenryStreet School.

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