Nomenclature Showdown: A Cooperative Learning Structure Used as a Review Exercise

calciumBy Varsha Patel


This is a fun and engaging way for students to review nomenclature prior to quizzing them. Through this kind of cooperative learning activity, students are able to assess their own understanding of the rules of nomenclature for all types of chemical compounds.

Teacher Notes

  • In a class comprised of 30 students, count students off from numbers 1 to 10. Have students identified by number 1 assemble in a designated workstation in the classroom. Do the same for students identified by number 2, 3, etc.
  • Each group of three students is a single team and will receive a set of three uniquely, colour-coded problem sheets according to the type(s) of chemical compounds represented. For example, a pink sheet might include simple binary compounds, a blue sheet might include polyatomic and acid salts, and a green sheet might contain acids (oxyacids, their derivatives and binary acids). Be sure that each sheet requires students to write a chemical formula based on chemical name and vice versa. The purpose of providing a different set of questions on each sheet is to ensure that all types of problems are addressed after three rounds of the game and all types of problems are equally represented and tested throughout the game.
  • Instruct students to identify themselves as either person A, B or C. Each person will receive one of the uniquely-coloured nomenclature sheets (i.e., pink, blue or green). Model the rules of the game using students situated at the front and yourself before students are instructed to go to their designated tables.
    [insert bullet here] Once students assemble at their designated location in the classroom, instruct one student from each group
    to come and get a set of three colour-coded sheets and a white instruction card (see below) that summarizes the rules of the game.

Click here for printer-ready  game instructions 

Other Suggestions

1. You can change the types of chemical compounds you represent on each nomenclature practice sheet depending on the nature of the review you wish to accomplish. For example, your focus may only be on binary compounds, in which case you may consider 3 classes of compounds, namely univalent binary ionic compounds, multivalent binary ionic compounds, and binary molecular compounds. Alternatively, you may wish to include polyatomic compounds as well, in which case, the 3 classes of compounds you might consider might include binary ionic compounds (both univalent and multivalent, either separated or mixed up), binary molecular compounds, and polyatomic compounds.
2. Points can be awarded to any member of a group for having a correct answer or for correcting an incorrect answer. The member with the highest points earned (at the end of three rounds) will be the winner of the group. This can be compared against the highest points obtained from all groups. I did not make this game into a competition but, by doing so, students might be inclined to maintain a tempo that encourages all students in the class to earn the maximum possible number of points. You will know if the point system is appropriate for your own class or not.
3. Instead of having three nomenclature sheets per set per group, you could create a stack of review cards and place it in the centre of the table. The review cards would contain one question per card and represent all types of compounds. By having the cards scrambled, this ensures that all possible types of compounds have an equal probability of being drawn by the Showdown Captain. The Showdown Captain would draw the top card and then place it at the very bottom of the stack once it was used. Students can also be asked to respond by giving the classical and IUPAC names for various chemical formulas.

Sample Nomenclature Review Problems

Click here for printer-ready  game cards

Editorial comment: If this game is a competition with points, then refer to groups as teams. If not a competition, then refer to threesomes as groups, not teams.


Varsha Patel is a science teacher interested in co-operative learning. She is teaching at Georges Vanier Secondary School in the TDSB.

Curriculum Connection: Grade 11 University Chemistry (SCH3U). Unit: Matter, Chemical Trends, and Chemical Bonding

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B2 investigate physical and chemical properties of elements and compounds, and use various methods to visually represent them.

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