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SWBAT identify the properties of liquid matter.

Big Idea

Through hands on exploration and a computer simulation, students will create their own understanding of liquid matter.


5 minutes

Teacher Tip: This lesson is for students to become more familiar with the properties of an behavior of liquid matter.  They will be using various samples which you will need to prepare ahead of time.  Total prep time for this lesson is about 15 minutes and should be done ahead of time.  

You will need to prepare the following for each small group of students (3-4 students is best):

  • 3 differently-shaped beakers or containers with different amounts of colored water inside and labeled A, B and C.
  • 3 differently-shaped containers labeled 1-3. 
  • Paper towel in case of accidental spills for each group 

Students will be working to address MS-PS1-1 within this lesson as they are creating drawings of liquid molecules. 

To start the lesson, students will begin by independently responding to the following prompt in their student notes sheet

Provide 3 examples of liquids and explain what they all have in common.




All of these are similar because...


20 minutes

Students use the prepared materials (liquid samples) to complete the next part of this lesson. They are guided throughout the investigation by questions and prompts in their notes sheet. The procedure is listed below:

Using the liquids on the table, complete the following steps in order to identify properties of liquid matter.

  1. Pour liquid A into container 1.

  2. What do you observe about the shape of the liquid?

  1. Pour liquid B into container 2.

  2. What do you observe about the shape of the liquid?

  1. Pour liquid C into container 3.

  2. What do you observe about the shape of the liquid?

Before students begin, I always explain the procedure prior to the entire class. This often eliminates a lot of initial confusion and gives them a chance to make sense of the procedure before reading it on their own. This is a balance between developing their independence and making sure they are clear on the procedure. At this point of the school year, after explaining the procedure when/if students ask questions I will suggest that they first go back and read through the notes sheet.


5 minutes

Based on their observational data, students now do a few minutes of independent reflection by answering the following question in their notes sheet: 

What can we conclude about liquids from this activity?

EXPLAIN student sample answers should include: 

  • Liquids can be poured from one container to another.
  • Liquids change shape based on the shape of the container they are poured into.
  • Liquids can move and so can their molecules.


10 minutes

Students next observe a website simulation to help them identify the motion and arrangement of liquid molecules.  This can be shown on the SMARTBoard to save time or students can access the demo on their own electronic devices. The questions to be answered can be found on their notes sheets, but also below: 

Use the PhET States of Matter Basics computer simulation to help you identify more specific properties of the molecules of liquid matter.

  1. Click on Screen shot 2014-11-23 at 10.40.22 AM.png

  2. Describe the motion of the liquid molecules in…

    1. Neon:

    2. Argon:

    3. Oxygen:

    4. Water:

  3. What happens when to the molecule motion when you add heat to the liquid?

  1. What happens to the molecule motion when you add cold (take away heat)?

See ELABORATE student sample for a more explicit examples of responses. 


5 minutes

On an index card, to serve as an exit ticket, students identify 3 properties of liquid molecules or samples based on their experiences from the day's lesson.