Matter Foldable and Modeling Matter

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SWBAT identify the three states of matter, and model how the particles that are too small to be seen are arranged in each.

Big Idea

Students will use items such as buttons and pom poms to create 3D models of the particles in each state of matter.

Rationale and Preparation

The Why Behind Teaching This: 

Unit 2 addresses standards related to matter and it's interactions.  The unit begins with identifying types of matter and the particles that make it up.  This is covered in standard 5-PS1-1: Developing a model to describe that matter is made of particles too small to be seen.  We will be changing matter by melting, evaporating, and dissolving to prove that although the physical appearance has changed, the same amount of matter  still exists.  This is covered in standard 5-PS1-2: Measure and graph quantities to provide evidence that regardless of the type of change that occurs when heating, cooling, or mixing substances, the total weight of matter is conserved.  We will also be using a variety of properties to identify matter through standard 5-PS!-3: Make observations and measurements to identify materials based on their properties.  The investigations and experiments during this unit will focus on physical and chemical changes that occur when mixing matter which addressed in standard 5-PS1-4: Conduct an investigation to determine whether the mixing of two or more substances results in a new substance.   

This specific lesson addresses standard 5-PS1-1 because students will be creating 3D models to demonstrate understanding of particle arrangement in each state of matter.  

Lesson Goal: 

The goal of this lesson is for students to be able to demonstrate an understanding of the particle arrangement for particles too small to be seen, in all three states of matter and describe how their arrangement affects their properties.   

Success Criteria:

Students will demonstrate their understanding of particle arrangement by creating a 3D model of how the particles are arranged differently in a solid, liquid, and gas.   

Preparing for Lesson:

Warm Up:

  • You will need a computer and overhead display to show the video for this section.  

Guided Practice: 


  • Cardstock or other heavy paper for each student. 
  • A lot of Items that can be used for 3D models.  I use buttons, pompoms, beads, and tokens.  
  • Craft Glue for each group to share. 

Wrap Up: 

Warm Up

5 minutes

To provide some background knowledge on states of matter, I begin the lesson with a short video about the three states of matter.  I chose this video because it is short, explains details about each of the states of matter in a kid friendly way, and compares the three states to each other when summarizing at the end.  


After showing the video, I question students on some of the key information to make sure they were able to pull these concepts from the video.  I ask them why a liquid, such as water, can flow, but solid water, ice, cannot.  Several hands go up and they tell me because there is more space between the particles allowing them to move more freely.  I ask them what holds the particles in place and they are able to tell me the force pulling them together.  I refer to this as the bond between the particles as this is a word students are more familiar with.  We have not yet learned about forces.  I ask what happens to that bond as matter changes from solid, to a liquid, and to a gas.  They do struggle with this a little so I need to draw out the particles on the whiteboard demonstrating the solid tightly packed in an arranged pattern, then liquid randomly spaced out, and a gas with even more space between them.  Then the students are able to tell me the particles have more space because the bonds holding them together are weaker.   


Guided Practice

15 minutes

Completing the Foldable: 

I pass out a States of matter foldable to each student and have them glue it into their notebook.  The foldable can be completed in two different ways.  I have one class keep the foldable all together and create a circular, one piece foldable.  I have the other class cut each rectangle piece out and glue in three separate pieces.  Both worked well, however I did find that the second way (having them in three separate pieces) worked better for adding the changes of state as we completed the second lesson of this unit: Investigating Changes of State. The arrows you see in the second photo are added during that lesson and having them separated and glued in a line made adding this information easier.  


Click here for a more close up view of the second States of Matter Foldable Example


We begin discussing solids.  I ask students to give me some examples of solids, they name things such as the desk, car, clothes, pencil, etc.  I ask them to describe the particles that make up solids.  They tell me that they are tightly packed.  We open the foldable and on the top flap we write a definition: solids have a definite shape and volume, they cannot flow or change shape. We also list a few examples below the definition: Examples: Desk, pencil, car.  After writing the examples, we draw a box in the bottom portion of this foldable section and draw a model of the particles.  We draw them tightly packed and arranged in rows.  Below the drawing we write particles are tightly packed, held together by a strong bond, vibrating in place.


Next, we move on to the liquid.  I again ask students for examples and they tell me juice, water, soda, etc.  I ask students to describe how are they different from solids?  Students tell me that liquids can flow and change shape.  I ask them to describe the particle arrangement that allows them to flow.  They tell me that the particles are more spread out.  We record the following definition on the top of the foldable: Liquids do not have a definite shape but do have a definite volume, they can flow easily and change shape based on the container they are in.  Examples: juice, water, soda. We draw a model with the particles more spread out, and below the drawing write particles are not as tightly packed as a solid, they can move around due to a weaker bond. 


Our last flap is labeled with gas, students give examples such as helium and oxygen for this state.  I ask students to compare the particles of a gas to those of a solid and liquid.  They tell me that the particles are more spread out and move around freely.  On the foldable, we record the definition: Gases do not have a definite shape or volume, they can be compressed into small spaces.  Examples: Helium, Oxygen, Air.  We draw a model of the particles showing lots of space between particles and little lines behind the particles to show they are moving quickly.  Below the drawing we write particles are very spread out and moving quickly, they have a weak bond.   


30 minutes

Building an Understanding of Particles Remaining the Same in Various States:

I provide each student with a piece of cardstock that already has three boxes drawn on it.  As I am passing them out, I ask students to tell me what water is made up of.  This is usually already known by 5th grade but my students were not able to tell me.  I tell them that water is made up of 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom.  When we are discussing the particles in water, those particles would be oxygen and hydrogen.  I ask them what the solid form of water is, and they tell me ice.  I ask them what ice is made up of.  Students are able to tell me the same as water, hydrogen and oxygen.  I tell them that is correct, that the particles themselves do not change, only the arrangement and motion of particles which causes it to be in a different state.  I tell them the gas form of water is water vapor, and ask them what water vapor is made up of, they tell me hydrogen and oxygen.  This concept is important because students need to understand the particles in each state do not change, only the arrangement and motion of them.  This discussion is not to teach them about elements and compounds or to get into the atomic theory, it is simply to explain that the particles in matter do not change as the change state.  

Creating 3D Models of Matter: 

I have 5 containers of craft items such as buttons, pompoms, beads, plastic tokens, etc.  I tell students they will be using items from the container to create a 3D model of the particle arrangement in each state of matter.  I model my expectation by giving an example if I were to complete the task.  I tell them I want to use buttons, so I take out the buttons and act like I glue them onto one square to illustrate my solid (I only take out a few and lay them on the paper, I do not want to show them how they are arranged).  I then say I am going to get out pompoms to illustrate my liquid and take out a few pompoms.  I ask students to tell me what is wrong with my model.  I want to reinforce that the particles remain the same so I would have to use buttons for all three, or pompoms for all three, I can’t use both.  After a student tells me this, I have three more students repeat this so that I am clear everyone understands. 

I provide each group with a bucket of craft items which also has liquid craft glue as stick glue does not hold the items well.  I circulate while students work independently to create their models.   


 Both models above demonstrate a clear understanding of how the particles are arranged in each state.  The solids are arranged in orderly rows and columns with no space between them.  The liquids have a little space between particles and are arranged randomly.  The gases show even more space, and are still arranged randomly.    

Wrap Up

10 minutes

Identifying Their States of Matter: 

As students begin finishing, I give them the last set of directions to complete their model.  They must label each square as either solid, liquid, or gas, based on the particle arrangement they have illustrated.  As they finish, take them to the counter to set them out to dry and get a States of Matter Exit Slip from me.  I use the exit slips to check for understanding.   I will be calling on those who cannot demonstrate understanding on this during our review in the following 2 lessons.