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Valence electrons and personification.

When I teach basic chemistry, everything eventually comes back to valence electrons. Those are the electrons of an atom that do all the interesting things, like sharing and moving around and leaving, and ultimately determine how an atom will behave (what kind of ion it might form, who it might bond with, etc.) And when teaching about valence electrons, I find it helpful to personify them.

Technically electrons don't "like" or "dislike" anything, nor do atoms "want" things, but it's much more memorable to say that high-energy electrons are "totally cool with leaving, and their metal atom didn't want them anyways, so off they go!" than it is to talk about tendencies and probability areas right off the bat. Naturally I also include the more correct and precise description, but what always seems to stick best is the personified and vivid images -- I find it easiest to remember the relationships between atomic particles when I can treat them like actual human relationships, because chemistry quickly becomes quite human and dramatic!