Minerals and Their Properties

34 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT define mineral and use properties to distinguish between various minerals.

Big Idea

Students will investigate properties of minerals by conducting different tests to identify and describe them.

Lesson Overview

5e Lesson Plan Model

Many of my science lessons are based upon and taught using the 5E lesson plan model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. This lesson plan model allows me to incorporate a variety of learning opportunities and strategies for students.  With multiple learning experiences, students can gain new ideas, demonstrate thinking, draw conclusions, develop critical thinking skills, and interact with peers through discussions and hands-on activities.  With each stage in this lesson model, I select strategies that will serve students best for the concepts and content being delivered to them.  These strategies were selected for this lesson to facilitate peer discussions, participation in a group activity, reflective learning practices, and accountability for learning.

Unit Focus

The Earth's Changing Surface unit focuses on some processes that change Earth's surface slowly, over a long period of time, or abruptly. In order for students to develop an understanding that the surface is constantly changing, they take part in a variety of guided inquiries geared towards scaffolding this understanding.  In the first part of the unit, students explore the structure of the Earth and processes that cause changes to it. These lessons include earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, physical and chemical weathering, erosion and deposition. They need to develop an understanding of these processes and how they change the Earth's surface for the second part of the unit which focuses primarily on minerals, rocks, and the rock cycle. Students apply their understanding of these processes as they investigate the formation of rocks and the cycle of changes they go through in a lifetime.

Lesson Synopsis 

The Minerals and Their Properties lesson provides students opportunity to develop an understanding of how scientists use certain properties to identify unknown minerals. I begin with a story and use a variety of unknown minerals to capture their interest. Then I move onto a reading that is about specific properties used to identify certain minerals. Students use these properties to observe a variety of unknown minerals by rotating through a series of stations and performing common tests like the hardness test, scratch test, and streak.  They use what they have discovered to develop an understanding of how and why minerals are part of our lives.  The lesson wraps up with an exit ticket which is used as a formative assessment.

Next Generation Science Standards  

This lesson will address the following NGSS Standard(s): 

ESS2 Earth's Systems

Earth’s major systems are the geosphere (solid and molten rock, soil, and sediments), the hydrosphere (water and ice), the atmosphere (air), and the biosphere (living things, including humans). These systems interact in multiple ways to affect Earth’s surface materials and processes. The ocean supports a variety of ecosystems and organisms, shapes land forms, and influences climate. Winds and clouds in the atmosphere interact with the land forms to determine patterns of weather.

I address this standard with my fifth grade because the elementary school's within my district do not formally teach science; therefore my students enter middle school (fifth grade) with a limited science background.  By engaging students with activities to support this NGSS standard, I am providing with them experiences that will provide them a foundation  for later lessons involving rocks, soil, and plants.

Scientific & Engineering Practices

Students are engaged in the following scientific and engineering practices

 2.) Developing and Using Models- Students use properties to examine a variety of minerals. They learn how these properties are used to classify minerals and describe them.

Crosscutting Concepts

The Minerals and Their Properties lesson correlates to other interdisciplinary areas. This Crosscutting Concepts includes:

1.) Patterns- Students use properties to describe similarities between certain minerals.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas within this lesson include:

ESS2.A Earth Materials and Systems


Importance of Modeling to Develop Student Responsibility, Accountability, and Independence 

Depending upon the time of year, this lesson is taught, teachers should consider modeling how groups should work together; establish group norms for activities, class discussions, and partner talks.  In addition, it is important to model think aloud strategies.  This will set up students to be more expressive and develop thinking skills during the activity.  The first half of the year, I model what group work and/or talks “look like and sound like.”  I intervene the moment students are off task with reminders and redirecting.  By the second and last half of the year, I am able to ask students, “Who can give of three reminders for group activities to be successful?” Who can tell us two reminders for partner talks?”  Students take responsibility for becoming successful learners.  Again before teaching this lesson, consider the time of year, it may be necessary to do a lot of front loading to get students to eventually become more independent and transition through the lessons in a timely manner.


For time management purposes, I use “lab rats ” where each student has a number on the back of his or her chair, 1,2,3,4 (students sit in groups of 4)and displayed on the board.  For each activity I use lab rats, I switch up the roles randomly so students are experiencing different task responsibilities which include:  Director, Materials Manager, Reporter, and Technician.  It makes for smooth transitions and efficiency for set up, work, and clean-up.  


15 minutes

Eliciting Curiosity

I start off the lesson with a fictional narrative about my walk home from work. 

"Yesterday, I decided to walk home because it was a beautiful day. As I was walking home, I stopped several times because I noticed some things on the ground.  First I came across this (fluorite.)


I was drawn to its glassy green color so I picked it up.

Then, a little further down the road, I came across this a yellow, dull looking item.


As I continued my walk home, I kept finding more and more interesting things (now i pull out a bucket containing a variety of different minerals).  When I got home, I realized I had a large collection of minerals and thought it was best to group (classify) them so I could keep track of them. The problem was, I had so many of them, I didn't know where to begin so I am going to ask you to help me. "

Applying Prior Knowledge

At this time, I hand out a bucket containing a variety of minerals to each group.


I don't tell them the kind of minerals that are in it because I want them to focus on they way they look, feel, smell, etc.  I instruct the students to work together and sort them into groups.  As they are organizing them, I walk around the room observing, monitoring, and checking in. 

They are familiar with making observations based on properties and grouping items in certain ways based on past lessons.

After some time, I reconvene as a whole class. I have each group share how they arranged their minerals and what made them think to do it that way.  I noticed students created groups based on color, texture, shape, and appearance-some had shiny and others had dull.

Explain / Explore

20 minutes

Defining a Mineral

I begin by defining the term mineral on the board.

  • mineral-a naturally made solid particle that has a regular arrangement of particles.


I break down the meaning of this definition because it can be complex for some students to understand.  I explain that minerals are not man-made substances nor plant or animal, meaning they have never been alive. Each mineral is a mix of different chemicals and arranged in certain ways and found in rocks and soil.

I continue explaining, "Scientists identify minerals by their physical properties, the way it looks, tastes, feels, or smells.  Specific properties used to identify minerals include luster, streak, cleavage, shape, texture, and hardness."

Identifying the Properties of Minerals-Guided Reading

I handout the mini-booklet Rocks and Minerals by Caitlyn Scott and a highlighter to each student. I tell the students we are reading chapter 1 only today to learn about the properties used to identify minerals. Then I handout premade foldable flip booklets (upload samples). I tell the students that as we are reading, we are highlighting the details of each property and noting the information in the foldable.  

For these booklets, I take the full sized booklet and cut it vertically to have two booklets. It is in decent size for keep track of the properties of minerals.

Properties of Minerals booklet      Properties of Minerals booklet

I have student volunteers read aloud. I stop along the way to check for comprehension and write details in the foldable.  This continues until we have recorded information about each property.  The properties of minerals I have my students focus on are...

Luster- the way light is reflected by the mineral’s surface.  Words to describe luster include metallic, which is shiny like a metal, dull, glassy, or pearly.

Streak- the color of a mineral in a powder form; to see this color, you drag the rock across a hard, rough surface like a porcelain tile. A mineral makes a streakof a certain color. This color may be different than the color of the mineral itself.

Cleavage- fractures or breaks along the smooth, flat side of the mineral. If it fractures, or breaks it leaves rough, jagged, or curved lines. Breaks appear like blocks, sheets, cubes, etc

Hardness- minerals durability; vary in how hard or soft they are compared to others.  To determine the hardness of a mineral, the Mohs’ Scale of Hardness is used.  It was developed by a German scientist named Friedrich Mohs to compare the hardness between minerals by using a scale of 1-10; one being the softest, ten being the hardest.

I display this scale on the board and briefly explain how it is used.

mohs scale 

Once we finish the reading, I tell the students three more properties and have them record them in their booklet.  I add these because they could appear on state and/or district assessments.

Shape- a mineral’s shape will cause it to break in certain patterns

Texture- the way a mineral feels when touched: gritty or sandy, waxy, smooth, sticky powdery, sharp etc.

Smell- the odor of a mineral: Earthy, sour, sweet, rotten egg, etc


20 minutes

Applying the Properties to Minerals

I instruct students to use their properties of minerals flap booklet through our next task.  I tell the students they are rotating through stations and applying what they have learned about the properties to describe unknown minerals. I explain, "This is what scientists do. They come across unknown minerals, then use the properties to identify different features and characteristics."  I have a reference sheet at each table as an added resource for them. 

I hand out a task card and data table, which they paste in their interactive notebook.  I review their task at each station and parts of the data table by identifying the spaces they are recording in. I point out that they are drawing the mineral, writing a word to describe the texture, finding the streak by dragging it across tile, smell it to determine an odor, hold it up to the light to figure out its luster, describe its shape, identify the cleavage, and perform a scratch test using their fingernail, penny, piece of glass, and nail.  They use Mohs Scale to determine the hardness and record the number.

Mohs Scale


After reviewing the task, I have students begin rotating through stations and record observations they make at each one. While students work at stations, I circulate the room and check in with groups to note what they have observed and recorded.

Guided Discussion to Make Real World Connections

Once stations are completed on using properties to identify minerals, I engage students in a discussion through some examples on a powerpoint of how minerals are used in everyday life and ask questions along the way to help them reflect and deepen their understanding on minerals.

  • How can we classify minerals?
  • Why do you think it is important to classify minerals?
  • What would life be like with no minerals?
  • Describe things you know are made from minerals. 


I do this so they can see the importance of minerals and necessity in making things work in our everyday lives.

Evaluate / Exit

5 minutes

Checking for Understanding

Before leaving class, I have students complete an exit ticket. The questions from this ticket are from the Massachusetts MCAS questions data base.  I selected these particular questions because they are relevant to concepts taught in today's lesson on the properties of minerals and these questions are similar to questions that appear on the state standardized test.

student sample responses student sample response

Overall I found students did well with these questions. I noticed some student boxed or underlined key words to help them determine answers. It shows their understanding of the mineral properties and how they are applied in identifying minerals.