Creating a “How To” Guide from Readings – Chemical Nomenclature

Designed for high school Chemistry

This exercise can be used to reinforce how to write formulas and names for ionic compounds, covalent compounds and acids. Students will already have learned about naming compounds through previous classes and through previous lessons in this course. However, nomenclature is very often a difficult concept for high school students. As they read the different sources they will be asked to take notes, to summarize the steps required for naming compounds and to write down any questions they may have about the reading. Once that work is completed the students will create a “how to” guide to share and demonstrate with their classmates. This activity would most likely be broken up over a few days in 20 – 30 minute reading/writing increments.

By changing the reading sources, this activity could be applied to many different topics.

Sample sources, activity handout and an example “how to” guide are shown below. The example is a flowchart but students would be free to create the guide in any form that they find helpful.

Sample Sources:

  • Brown, T.L., LeMay, H.E., Bursten, B.E. 2000. Chemistry The Central Science. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. [Pages 54 – 60]
  • Phillips, J.S., Strozak, V.S., Winstrom, C., Zike, D. 2009. Chemistry Concepts and Applications. Columbus, OH: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. [pages 153-163; 177-180 – not good for acids]
  • Zumdahl, S.S, Zumdahl, S.A. 2007. Chemistry. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. [Pages 57-67]


Classroom Worksheet


The Language of Chemistry

It is essential to have a universal system by which everyone can identify the names and formulas for chemicals. For our class, the ability to identify compounds is especially important when we are performing labs because you want to know that the correct materials are being used.

Can you think of some careers in which being able to name compounds may also be important?

We have just finished learning about how to write and name chemical formulas for ionic compounds, covalent compounds and acids. Today we are going to refresh our memories by reading different sources about writing chemical formulas and names for these compounds. We will then create our own “how to” guides.

Step 1: Read the provided sources about writing chemical names and formulas for ionic compounds, covalent compounds and acids. You do not have to read all of the sources – there is a variety to choose from – but you must read at least two.

Step 2: Using the sources (and what you already know) take notes and summarize the steps needed to name:
a.) Ionic compounds (including the transition metals and polyatomic ions)
b.) Covalent compounds
c.) Acids

Write down any questions you may have about the readings

Step 3: Begin to create a “how to” guide for naming and writing formulas for ionic, covalent compounds and acids. Be creative! Your guide may be designed however you think is best.

Step 4: You will share and explain your “how to” guide with your classmates (and me). I will share my guide with you before you begin.

Step 5: Choose a guide (it may be your own) to include in your notebook!

Example - Chemical Nomenclature Flow Chart

Created and posted by Cathlene Schreiner on January 21, 2013