Introduction to High School Chemistry: Prior Knowledge of Matter.

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TSWBAT summarize prior knowledge about matter based on middle school science standards.

Big Idea

Students perform a matter webquest recalling middle school chemistry concepts.


At the beginning of high school chemistry it is important that students summarize what they know about matter based on their previous physical science classes; in my classes this is accomplished by showing knowledge gained from MS-PS1-1, 1-3 and 1-4.  The student outcomes from these performance expectations can be view on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) website. 

In this lesson students’ should have prior knowledge that there are 3 basic states of matter,  that temperature changes cause matter to change from one state to another and that there are chemical and physical properties of matter.

Students should be able to explain the properties of matter in accordance to the NGSS Science Practice (SP) Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information.  In this lesson I have students start out by writing what they know about matter in an activity called First Word, Last Word.  This part of the lesson has them communicate with me and other students what they have learned about matter prior to this class.   I follow up the First Word activity with a web quest where students obtain information about the properties of matter.  This activity works well in getting the students to recall information from MS-PS1-1, 1-3 and 1-4.

As a supporting theme to this lesson, students should understand the NGSS CrossCutting Concepts (CCC): Scale, Proportion, and Quantity which states, “energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small (MS-PS1-1)”  and Structure and Function.  Structures and Function can be observed by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used (MS-PS1-3).  Both of these CCCs are evidenced during the web quest.


10 minutes

I start this lesson by having the statement, “PROPERTIES OF MATTER” (written in caps) on the board.  As students enter the room, I instruct them to take out their science journals and jot down as many things as they can about the statement in 1 minute.  I tell them anything that comes to mind needs to be written down, even if they think it doesn’t apply.  I don’t spend a lot of time on this because it is just brainstorming to get the mental juices flowing.  After a minute I have the students share a couple of their ideas.  I don’t make them justify their answers, it’s just to get some conversation started.

After several students share their ideas, I instruct them to write “PROPERTIES OF MATTER” in their journals going from top to bottom, with each letter on one line of the paper.  I illustrate this for them on the board.  I tell them that this activity is call First word, Last Word (this activity was from Page Keeley’s book, Science Formative Assessments) and they will write a statement or short sentence for each letter in “PROPERTIES OF MATTER” that demonstrates what they know about the properties of matter.  This takes a little illustrating, so I demonstrate what they need to do with the letter “P”.  A couple of examples could be:   “P”hase of matter can be a solid, or “P”hysical properties are a part of all matter.  I don’t like to give them too much information, so I keep the examples simple that way they can demonstrate their prior knowledge. 

This may take some students longer than others, but I try limit students to no longer than 10 minutes.  I also let my students know that it’s okay to skip a letter if they are stumped.  The main goal of this part of the lesson is to activate student thinking about the concept or topic.  It’s nice if students complete it, but if they don’t they will have an opportunity to do it again as part of the “Last Word” portion of the lesson found in the elaborate section.


30 minutes

After 10 minutes of working on the First Word portion of the First Word, Last Word activity I hand out the Matter Webquest (Matter Webquest key).  I find it important that this is not handed out early because I don’t want my students to use it as a reference when they are completing their First Word warm-up.  After handing this out I instruct them they will work in groups of two and will visit several different websites that will contain information about matter.  Some of the information will be new, but most should be familiar.

I finish the instructions by explaining there is a short Quia quiz at the end of the Webquest that needs to be completed.  They must show me there quiz grade before they complete the assignment.  I use this as a final assessment before they turn in the assignment.  I let them know that they have to complete it with an 80% or better.  This is usually not a problem, but if they are struggling they can have multiple attempts to complete it.

Overall the Webquest requires very little explanation and can be navigated with relative ease, so I don’t get into much detail.  However, one problem that surfaces is that students don’t type in the web address correctly and need a little assistance.  One way that I solve this problem is posting the assignment on my website class page and students can click on the hyperlink where they get directed to the website without having to type.  This saves a lot of time, so I encourage my students to use this option.  And since I show my students my website on the first day, they know exactly where to find it.

If you do not have access to a computer this activity can easily be modified into a textbook scavenger hunt. The only portion that would have to be omitted is the quiz the students take at the end of the Webquest.



5 minutes

With 5 to 10 minutes left in class I introduce the last part of the lesson where students complete the “Last Word” portion of the First Word, Last Word assignment that was started at the beginning of the class.  This part takes very little instruction and really is just a reiteration of the engage portion of the lesson, except instead of creating statements based on prior knowledge they complete the statements having gained a deeper understanding of matter from the Webquest.  Even if they have not completed the first one, I instruct them they need to complete this portion with all letters having a statement.  I let them know that it is homework and needs to be turned in first thing the following day.


5 minutes

This part of the lesson is the Quia quiz that is completed at the end of the Webquest.  I find this is easy to assess because as I walk around monitoring students’ progress during the Webquest, I can see how they are doing on the quiz.  To encourage them to work diligently on the Webquest, I tell them the quiz grade is going to be a grade and if they don’t complete it by the end of the class they will get a zero.  I have no intention of giving anyone a zero, but it does create a sense of urgency to complete the assignment in class.  A little carrot in front of the horse, if you will.

Post-lesson Reflection/Students Work

The “first word, last word” is very difficult for the students, but really gets them to think.  I found that to make it easier and less frustrating for them, it is best to use the word “MATTER” instead of “PROPERTIES OF MATTER” (see student work). This allows more time for the web quest and gets the point across. I also used the last word as a class warm-up the following day because many of my students do not do homework and it’s a good summary that takes only a few minutes.

The only minor difficulty students have with the web quest is completing task #2. This section requires students to read a lot of information to answer the questions, with some of the questions not being in the order the information is presented.  This is because the website has a lot of links and students can navigate the site in many different ways.  My solution to the problem was giving my students some latitude when it comes to answer all of the questions.  This goes over well with them and gets them through the task without stressing.  It also gets the web quest completed in one 50 min period.

At the end of the web quest the students take a Qaia quiz that I have them score an 80% or better.  This is a great benchmark for them to achieve.  Most completed it in one try, but they can take as many tries as possible.  If the web quest was not completed in class, I had them finish it at home and print out their score and attach it to the worksheet.  Overall, 95% completed and turned in the assignment which is an outstanding number.