States of Matter

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SWBAT use observable properties to classify matter.

Big Idea

Students will create visual models of particles in each state of matter based on the particle theory.

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.

Lesson Synopsis

The States of Matter lesson begins with a states of matter characteristic card sort. Each card displays a word or phrase related to a solid, liquid, and gas. Students discuss with their groups and arrange them on a sorting mat. The lesson continues with a visual card sort (images of solids, liquids, and gases). Students discuss characteristics from the previous activity to sort them into categories. Combining the two activities, students use a frayer model graphic organizer to define solid, liquid, and gas. We enter a discussion about the particle theory and students create a visual model of the particles in a solid, liquid, and gas in their interactive notebook. I collect notebooks at the end of class and use their models as a formative assessment to check for student understanding.

Next Generation Science Standards  

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

PS 1.3 Make observations and measurements to identify materials based on their properties. 

PS 1.1 Develop a model to describe that matter is made of particles too small to be seen.

Scientific & Engineering Practices

Students are engaged in the following Scientific and Engineering Practices

2.) Developing and using models: Students diagram a model of the particles in a solid, liquid, and gas to describe how each one is made up.

8.) Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information:  Using characteristics of the states of matters and the particle theory, students communicate their understanding of each one by describing the particle arrangement in each . 

Crosscutting Concepts

The States of Matter lesson will correlate to other interdisciplinary areas.  These Crosscutting Concepts include:

3.) Scale, Proportion, and Quantity: Students recognize natural objects exist from the very small to very large.  

4.) Structure and Function: Students learn that solids, liquids, and gases have different structures which determine its properties and define their functions.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas within this lesson include:

PS1.A Structure of Matter:  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.  A model showing that gases are made from the matter of particles that are too small to see and are moving freely around in space can explain many observations.


Classroom Management

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 sets up students to be more expressive and develop thinking skills during an 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.




15 minutes

I bring students attention to the statement: Everything is made of matterKnowing this, I ask my students, "If everything is made of matter, how do we know matter exists?" Through a few shares, we determine matter exists in the forms such as solids, liquids, and gases.  

After determining that matter exists in the forms of solids, liquids, and gases, I inform students they are doing a characteristic sort to identify characteristics that distinguish solids, liquids, and gases.  I hand out a three column sorting mat and a pack of characteristic cards and direct students to take out all the cards and spread them out. I ask them to work with their group to arrange the characteristics under titles solid, liquid, gas on their sorting mat.

I selected this activity because it is an effective visual for students to access and display their prior knowledge on solids, liquids, and gases.  And for me as the teacher, it provides a quick visual insight of students previous knowledge on the states of matter.

As I walk around, I notice most students are making connections with the characteristics and the state of matter. I overhear relevant discussions about the characteristics as they determine where to place the card on the mat.

At the end of the sort, I direct the students to the front board where I use the document camera to display characteristic cards for students to evaluate and check their arrangement.  I move on to a whole class share and use the quick pick bucket to select students to share aloud the arrangement their group made.

Once we have some student shares, I tell the students they are using the characteristics during the next activity as we examine images of solids, liquids, and gases. 


15 minutes

After identifying characteristics of solids, liquids, and gases, I hand out a pack with variety of images on cards  to each group. This time I ask students to arrange the cards into solids, liquids, and gases categories.  I do tell them it is ok if they do not know and if so, to place that card in an I Don't Know category.

I continued with the sort activity because it is an effective visual for me and the students in how they use the characteristics they discovered at the beginning of the lesson.

I remind them to think back to the characteristics we determined at the start of the lesson. As I walk around, I notice most students make many connections with the images in relation to solid, liquid, gas categories, however, they seem to struggle with a few that don't quite fit one of the categories.

Once most cards are sorted, I move on to a whole class share and use the quick pick bucket to select students to share aloud their group arrangement. We identify a few cards that don't seem to fit the characteristics. I share with the students that there are forms of matter that are not exactly a solid, liquid, or gas and that there is actually a fourth form known as plasma.  I tell them we are not studying plasma, but knowing their is a fourth state of matter is valuable information as we explore matter. In addition, through our conversation, we discuss some images could be considered all three forms.



15 minutes

Once we determine the the differences between the states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas states, I show a quick summary (using parts 2, 3 and 6 in the video) of characteristics on each one. I selected these clips to present a visual snapshot of solids, liquids, and gases to prepare them for the next task of creating a frayer model for each term.

After the animated clips on solids, liquids, and gases, I hand out a a packet of 3 frayer models graphic organizer to each student.  I direct students to each square and explain the purpose of each one. In the first square (upper left corner), we are writing a definition for that particular state of matter (solid, liquid, gas) and in the second square (upper right corner), we are writing characteristics for each one.  Pointing to the bottom left corner, "here you are writing a minimum of five examples of the state of matter from your own life."  I want them to make connections and see how matter is relevant to their daily lives.  Finally, I go over the last box, non-examples, starting with the prefix non and its meaning. By having students identify parts of words, they can use these parts  to figure out meanings of new words.  Once we determine the meaning of non, meaning not, I go on and explain to students that in this section, they are writing examples from their own life that are not considered that state of matter.

As a class, we discuss what we have learned from our earlier activities. Through our discussion, we define each word and identify characteristics together.  While students work on writing examples and non-examples independently, I walk around and check in with students and their work. We come back together as a class for a discussion and create class frayer models on solid, liquid, and gas.


15 minutes

Once we define and identify characteristics of a solid, liquid, and gas. I engage students in a discussion on the particle theory of matter by bring their attention to the statement I have written on the board: All matter is made up of particles which are in constant motion. ask them to write this statement in their interactive notebook. I point out to the class that the way particles are arranged is what distinguishes solids, liquids, and gases.  I continue by displaying a model of these particles in a solid, liquid, gas  from the Concord Consortium website. Students view how the particles are always moving and attracted to each other in each state of matter. Then, I summarize our discussion and view of particle models by writing the three main points of the particle theory on the board.

  1. All matter is made up of particles.
  2. Particles are in constant motion.
  3. Particles are attracted towards on another.


Keeping the particle theory displayed on the board, I explain the next task to the class: "Now that we have examined and understand how particles are arranged in the three states or forms of matter, you are going to create a model for each one in your interactive notebook."  We set up a our notebook page by creating a 6-squared chart.  I explain that on the left side, they are to write a brief description of the particle arrangement for a solid, liquid, and gas and on the right side, next to the description, they are creating a model to illustrate particles in the form of a solid, liquid, and gas. When they are set up, they begin describing and illustrating their models.

While students are working on their particles model, I walk around monitoring working habits and accuracies of models.  If students struggle, I engage them in conversations by prompting them with questions like, "Let's think about a solid. How is it different from a liquid and gas? How can we display the tiny particles to represent a solid since we know it keeps it shape. Let's think how we can create these particles in a way to show how they are packed tightly together."  I use similar questions with liquids and gases.  I pull out particle cards from our sort activity should students need a more explicit visual for each one.

I collect notebooks at the end of class and use their models as a formative assessment to check for student understanding.