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Nomenclature and Bonding Basics of Ionic Compounds

By Shuana Jordan
Product Developer

Ionic Compound

Students often struggle to identify types of compounds and name them appropriately. Here are 2 simple activities that help.

In 1 activity, students work in small groups to combine ion cards and to name the resulting ionic compounds. Then, for a real-world connection to their card practice, students research the main ingredient in each of several common household products and identify the compound as binary or ternary. These activities are appropriate for a class of 30 high school students working in 5 groups of 6 students and later in pairs.

National Science Education Standards

Grades 9–12

Physical Science

  • Structure and Properties of Matter


  • 30 Index Cards
  • Pen
  • Timer

Preparation and procedure

  1. Gather the materials needed.
  2. On each of 10 index cards, write the symbol and charge for a different metal. Likewise, create 10 nonmetal cards, and 10 polyatomic ion cards. If you decide to include any transition metals, make sure that students are familiar with the rule of using Roman numerals as a part of the compound name to indicate the charge of the cation formed by the transition metal, e.g., copper(II) sulfate.
  3. Set up 5 lab stations in your classroom so that the groups can rotate.
  4. At each station, place 6 cards: 2 metals, 2 nonmetals, and 2 polyatomic ions.
  5. Divide your class into 5 groups. The class rotates through the stations, spending about 10 min at each.
  6. While at a station, each student picks a card and pairs with another student in the group to create an ionic compound. The group creates as many compounds as possible using the cards available at the station.
  7. As they create ionic compounds, students fill in a data table like the one below. Some compounds will be binary, and some, ternary. (Binary compounds consist of 2 elements, and ternary compounds consist of 3.)
  8. Nomenclature and Bonding Basics of Ionic Compounds Data Table

    Cation Anion Name of Compound Chemical Fromula Binary or Ternary?
    Name Symbol with Charge Name Symbol With Charge
  9. For the second activity, divide the groups into pairs. Students then research and determine the main ingredient in each of the following common household products: caustic drain cleaner, antacid tablets, table salt, baking soda, and bleach. Afterwards, they should record these ingredients’ chemical names, write their chemical formulas, and identify them as binary or ternary.


Have students take several examples of the compounds from their list and draw Lewis structures to show how electrons are being transferred. They may then create 3-D models of the structures.

To get further practice with naming and writing chemical formulas of different types of compounds (including molecular compounds, acids, bases, polyatomic ions, organic functional groups, and hydrocarbons), students can use Carolina’s Chemistry Formula Practice app for the iPod® and iPad®. This app includes a feature whereby teachers can use a classroom code with a leaderboard to assess how well students are doing.

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