Lesson: Movement through States of Matter

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Lesson Objective

Students will simulate the movement of atoms in 3 states of matter. And what happens when those atoms are heated or cooled.

Lesson Plan


  • Cut out (12) brown squares (2”x2”)
  • (6) blue squares (2”x2”)
  • (2) green squares (2”x2”)
  • Cut 1 strip of red paper and 1 strip of light blue paper.
  • Put squares in paper bag.
  • Have 3 songs prepared/ready to play. One at a regular tempo, One at a quick pace (Tchac
  • Suggested Normal: Such Great Heights (Postal Service)
  • Suggested Fast:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hMjxnwig0o&feature=related
  • Suggested Slow:
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8At8zfh_o3E
  • Have a rug-sized area marked off  (if you don’t have a rug)
  • Have a 3’x4’ square taped off (enough for 12 kids shoulder to shoulder)



  • Ask the students if they remember what you told them at the beginning of the unit, if we used a microscope and zoomed in really close objects, what would we see?
  • Tiny particles. They are called atoms.
  • Tell the students that today they will all be atoms moving around.
  • There are 3 groups. Brown, Green, and Blue.
  • The brown group will stand inside the taped square. They need to stand shoulder to shoulder, their feet should stay in the same place and when the music comes on they can wiggle in place for their dance.
  • The green group can stand anywhere in the entire room, but they need to spread out from the other greens. When they music comes on they can dance around the entire room, but should not keep their space away from the other greens.
  • The blue group can stand in the rug area. When they music comes on they can dance around that area. If they come close to another blue, they can shake hands and then separate and keep dancing around the rug.
When the music is on, students can dance/wiggle/move around. When the music stops, movement stops. Any questions? Have students pick a square from the bag and go to their starting positions.



  • Play the first song for ~30 seconds. Then stop.
  • Tell the students that for this next time, you will be coming around to each group and trade some people up. If they get tapped with the red strip, they should move to the next group up. Brown -> Blue or Blue -> green.
  • Review what each area is supposed to do.
  • Play the fast-paced music.
  • “Heat” up a few from solid, and a few from liquid.
  • Tell the students that for this next round, you will be stop at groups to trade some people down. If they get tapped with the light blue strip, they should move down one group. Green -> Blue or Blue -> Green.
Play the slow-paced music.
  • “Cool down” a few from the gas, and a few from the liquid.
For the last round, play the first song again, but this time use both the red and the light blue strip. Red moves the student to the higher group and light blue moves the student to the lower group.
  • Play the music and try make sure everyone gets to move into all the states, then start cooling everyone down one by one, until they are all supposed to be in the solid/brown group shoulder to shoulder.
  • Stop the music. Have students sit down on the carpet.



  • Ask: what were the 3 groups?          Solids, Liquids, Gases
  • Say: Each of you were atoms. You were tiny particles that made up each of these states of matter. Tell your neighbor about the movement in each of the states you were in.
Ask: What did the solids look like? Move like?
  • Packed together, slight wiggle or vibration.
  • If we looked at atoms under a microscope, they would be packed tightly together and they would vibrate in place.
  • This is why when if you try to move your hand through a solid (ex. Wood), it would be blocked, because of those tightly packed atoms.
Ask: What did the liquids look like? Move like?
  • Loosely in their “container”, a little movement.
  • If we looked at liquid atoms under a microscope, they would be loosely spread around.
  • When you try to move your hand through a liquid, the liquid flows around your hand and reforms behind it.
Ask: What did the gases look like? Move like?
  • They were very spread out and they moved quickly around the whole space.
  • If we looked at gas atoms under a microscope, they would be spread all around.
Ask: What happened when the red strip touched you?        You moved up into another state. What were those processes called, when a solid goes to a liquid? Melting  when a liquid goes to a gas? Evaporation 
  • What was the red strip?  Heat
Ask: What happened when the light blue strip touched you?        You moved down to another state. What were those processes called, when a liquid goes to a solid? Freezing  When a gas goes to a liquid?  Condensation Show student response sheet.
  • You will be writing an example of each type of matter (like you did for the collage you made).  Then you will draw what the atoms look like for each state of matter.



This activity gets the students up and moving around to illustrate a concept that takes place on another "invisible" level to the students. We bring the idea of atoms (and their movements) to the macro level for students to experience and form a concept around these tiny particles and how the particles behave in different states of matter. 

Lesson Resources



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