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ZingPath: Atomic Structure

Electron Energy Levels

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Atomic Structure

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Lesson Focus

Electron Energy Levels

Physical Science

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You will place electrons in the appropriate energy levels outside of an atom.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Explain that an atom’s outermost electrons are responsible for an element’s reactivity.
  • Identify the electron arrangement within atomic energy levels.
  • Explain that an electron’s energy is related to its distance from the nucleus.

Everything You'll Have Covered

An atom has three subatomic particles: the proton, the neutron, and the electron. The proton has a positive charge, is located in the nucleus and is responsible for an atom's identity. The number of protons does not change in an element, and is equal to the atomic number on the periodic table. Neutrons are also located in the nucleus, but have no charge.

The electrons are located outside the nucleus, and have a negative charge. The electrons will arrange themselves into specific energy levels, starting with the level closest to the nucleus. Each energy level has a maximum number of electrons it can hold: two in the first, eight in the second, 18 in the third and 32 in the fourth. As the distance of the energy level from the nucleus increases, so does the energy the electrons contain.

The arrangement of the electrons in their energy levels is called the "electron configuration." In a neutral atom, the number of electrons will be the same as the atomic number, or number of protons. For learners to place the electrons in the appropriate energy level, they should identify the atomic number, and start placing the electrons in energy levels, the closest to the nucleus first. Once the energy level has its maximum number of electrons, they should move to the next energy level until all electrons are placed correctly.

Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 25 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts Students should be familiar with the Atomic model and subatomic particles.
Course Physical Science
Type of Tutorial Concept Development
Key Vocabulary atom, atomic model, electron