Lesson 12

Introduction to Matter: Plaid Pete & Seth Sort Out Their Homework

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SWBAT classify items from a list as matter or non-matter, and describe common properties of matter.

Big Idea

What is matter? Students help Plaid Pete and Seth with a homework assignment that has them sort items from a list into categories of matter and non-matter.

Setting Up the Investigation

Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards

In this investigation, students explore the  Disciplinary Core Idea of Structure and Properties of Matter -  that matter of any type can be subdivided into particles that are too small to see, but even then the matter still exists and can be detected by other means. (5-PS1-A); and use the Crosscutting Concept of Scale, Proportion, and Quantity  - natural objects exist from the very small to the immensely large (5-PS1-1).

Please Note:  The Lexile Level for What's The Matter Plaid Pete? - Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 12 is 930 (5th Grade Range is 740 - 1010).

The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 30 minutes.

This lesson is adapted from a lesson developed by the Science and Health Education Partnership at the University of California.

Materials Needed:

One copy of What's The Matter Plaid Pete-- Lab Scenario Lesson 12

I am also inserting a copy of What's The Matter Plaid Pete_ - Lab Scenario Lesson 12.pdf in Pdf form for those who have difficulty downloading the Word document.

And - this year I have a few students who have great difficulty taking notes so I have them already typed up.  Here are Plaid Pete's Notes on Matter for those who need this extra support.

One set of What's The Matter Plaid Pete? Sort Cards - Lesson 12 for each team of students

One copy of What's The Matter Plaid Pete? - Lab Sheet Lesson 12A for each student

One copy of What's The Matter Plaid Pete? - Lab Sheet Lesson 12B for each student

To prepare for this lesson, I copied the Sort Cards onto card stock on a color printer, laminated them, and placed each set in a plastic sandwich bag.

Focus & Motivation

5 minutes

Introduce the Big Idea

I write the following Big Idea for the remainder of the unit on the board:

Everything in the universe is made of matter, which is constructed of particles that are too small to be seen; the ways in which these particles interact are what give matter its structure and properties.

I tell my students to return to page #1 of their Science Notebooks, where we wrote the Big Idea for the first half of the unit, and for which they completed their pictures to illustrate their understanding.  I read this second Big Idea for the unit aloud, and ask them to copy it on the bottom half of the page.  We will return to this Big Idea again and again, as a touchstone for this half of the unit.

Introduce the Scenario

I hand out the What's The Matter Plaid Pete?- Lab Scenario Lesson 12 I tell my students, "I wonder what kind of problem Plaid Pete has now.  Let's read the scenario in our teams and find out."  We have to laugh a bit about Seth and the brownie, my students find that part highly engaging.  A wonderful bonus to using these scenarios is the boost in reading fluency and reading comprehension that it is giving my students.  In this Video Clip, one team is preparing to read the scenario by highlighting their parts, and are working to negotiate meaning in the text by determining who is speaking.

After students have had an opportunity to read the scenario, I ask my scientists, "Who has some background knowledge about the subject of matter that they think they could use to help Plaid Pete and Seth out with their homework?"  I call on students who raise their hands, noting their replies, but not commenting.  I am using this as a pre-assessment.  

Share Lesson Objective & Success Criteria

Note:  Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now including a language objective with each lesson.  These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.

I share the lesson objectives and success criteria:

Learning Objective:  I can correctly label items from a list as matter and non-matter, and list their properties.

Language Objective:  I can use academic language in speaking and in writing.  [ELP.4-5.7]

Success Criteria:  I have labeled items as matter with 80% accuracy and can list properties of different forms of matter.

Guided Exploration

15 minutes

Set Up the Task

I tell my scientists that I will hand out a set of cards to each team, and their task is to use the header cards in the pack to sort the cards into groups.  I display the header cards that read:  matter, not matter, and unsure.  I tell them to use the background knowledge they have and to talk about why they sorted the cards into groups.  I share with them that they will be writing this sort down, and they will have to give reasoning about why each item was included in a group.  I say, "When you are sorting these cards, it might be helpful to think about the properties of each of the items, and what they have in common.  And make sure you are talking with your partner - discussing your ideas and your reasoning will help your thinking."

Teams Sort

I pass out the sets of What's The Matter Plaid Pete? Sort Cards - Lesson 12 and teams begin working.  I circulate with a clipboard and pad, making notes of the students' comments and conversation.  I am particularly looking for comments that indicate misconceptions.  These are some common misconceptions that elementary students have:

  • Everything is matter.
  • Liquids are not matter.
  • Gases are not matter because you can't see them.
  • Mass and volume are the same property, because they both describe "amount."


I hear comments from my students such as, "Matter is a solid."  I also hear, "Rocks are matter because they are a solid.  Gases and liquids aren't matter because they are not solid."  Their incomplete understanding is reflected in Student Example 1 and Student Example 2.  This group has very definite ideas about what constitutes matter and what does not -

Team Discussion Video

I don't interact with my students just yet.  I know that in order for them to address these misconceptions they need time to talk about their ideas with their partner, to reason, and to reassess in light of new information.  It is my plan to have them do just that.  

Write The Sort

I tell my students that it is time to commit their sort to paper.  I hand out What's The Matter Plaid Pete? - Lab Sheet Lesson 12A  I read the directions with students, ensuring they understand they need to be very explicit about listing the common properties that each of the items have in a category, and that whatever they list must apply to all of the items in that category.  It isn't long before I see that they are having a difficult time finding a rule that will apply to all of the items in a category.  Although we discuss the meaning of the word, "properties" their understanding of what that really means is still quite limited, as seen in this Video Clip.  I elect to allow limited answers for this particular section of the lab sheet, and make a note to myself that before I teach this lesson next time - students need more work with understanding the properties of an object and classifying objects by common properties.

When all students have finished, I collect the Lab Sheets and ask my scientists to get ready for the next section of our lesson by opening up their Science Notebooks to the next clean page and, and writing today's date in the right hand corner.


15 minutes

Taking Notes from a Video

I tell my students that in order to help them meet this learning objective, I am going to give them some additional information,  I also tell them that one of the most important skills they will learn is how to listen and take notes.  

I show them how I listen, stop, take a note, and then continue on.  I show them how to use the button at the bottom of the video to go back if something is not clear so they can replay it.  Students copy the notes I write into their Science Notebooks.  Using a gradual release of responsibility, I first model my thinking for them showing how I determine importance, identifying the main ideas and supporting details.  Then, I play small sections of the video, and have them turn and talk to their partner, identifying the main ideas and supporting details that answer our questions.

Note:  Play the video to exactly the 9.00 minute point and then stop.  The remainder of the video gives information that students will need to explore in the next few lessons and giving them the visual picture too early will take away from these exploratory experiences.  Assure them that they will be watching the rest of the video.

Team Revisions

15 minutes

Revise Lab Sheet A

After we have finished watching the video and taking notes, I ask my students, "Scientists, have you learned any new information that you could use to revise your thinking?"  I hear any number of affirmative responses, and tell them that they are going to have an opportunity to do exactly that.

I hand out What's The Matter Plaid Pete? - Lab Sheet Lesson 12B, along with 12A that they completed earlier.  I tell my students, "I would like you to look carefully at the Lab Sheet you completed during the sort activity, and the notes that you just took during the video.  Please take this new information and see if you can revise and refine your thinking about what matter is and is not, and the properties that identify something as being matter.  This new Lab Sheet should reflect your changes in thinking.  Be prepared to share and defend your answers."  This is the sheet we will use to measure your mastery of today's objective.


As before, I allow my students to work in their teams and to discuss their ideas.  However, as I am circulating between teams, I am now interacting more with my students - questioning their ideas and referring to the video when they express a misconception.  When they do not revise their thinking, I make a note so that we can address it during the group share out.   

Reflection & Closure

15 minutes

Class Discussion

I call my students to the meeting area with Lab Sheets A & B.  They will sit with their partner and share out their revised thinking about which items on the list are matter, and which are not.  They will also share their notes about common properties.  I have a whole class chart that is similar to their Lab Sheet.  

To accomplish this process, we will engage in an Academic Conversation routine that we have been working on since the beginning of the year.  Students have been provided with Sentence Stems, and have been practicing their use in various situations.  Using these routines, students present an idea, and their peers do the following:  agree with the evidence providing additional support; add-on to information presented; respectfully challenge the information presented and provide evidence for their point.  This process ensures that as a group we negotiate meaning so that we come to common understandings about the content - the properties that define matter.