Particles of Matter

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Students will be able to model the 3 states of matter and identify properties of each.

Big Idea

This lesson integrates movement, reading, categorizing, and group conversation to help students understand how to organize objects.


4 minutes

To begin our lesson, I ask the students to consider what they have learned about the 3 states of matter. I then ask them, "How are particles arranged in order to make a state of matter?"

I remind the students to recall the information from the song lyrics that they interpreted and to discuss with a partner what they remembered.

Mini Lesson

10 minutes

(Please note, this lesson is heavy on video clips.  I think they tell the story of the session well.)

Before assigning the task to the students, I want to give them a visual of what happens with particles in each state of matter and how temperature can effect their change. I will explain to the students that they were going to be particles and make states of matter as a class.  

We began as a solid, close together and as still as we could be.  However, just like particles, third graders are never really still! I then gave the students instructions. In this clip, I asked the particles in the solid to move towards me, which they did.  As soon as one started to move, they all had to move. I then "added heat" to them. 

As the particles were heated, they needed more space. When I stopped the students, they were spread apart, but still close enough that they could "flow" and move together. They were then heated to a gas and cooled off into a solid.  

During this review of the role play, I was able to discuss the importance of particle placement, volume, and temperature being a change agent. This is important for the activity the students will complete. 

Following the student review, I introduce a states of matter foldable, which was found on Pinterest, to the students. I will show them how to cut the flaps and will read the characteristics aloud to them. Their task will be to read and categorize the statements and use small stickers to build a model of each state of matter. Both the acting out and the placement of facts and stickers are important for kinesthetic and visual learners. Each learning style must be thought of in each lesson in order to give each child a chance to be successful and to make sense of the concepts in their way.


Active Engagement

20 minutes

As the students are categorizing the statements, I will circulate and engage in conversation with them. I will also listen for correct usage of science terms and ask students to defend their thinking while they work. This type of discussion is so important in helping students learn to communicate their knowledge and how to ask questions when they are unsure. 

This student was struggling with where to place a statement. Once she figured it out, she had to revise her thinking of the category, as each state would receive 3 statements. We worked through a process of elimination and looked at each statement one sentence at a time. 

As this student built her model, I asked her to justify her sticker placement. I also began to ask her deeper questions, like "How do the particle placements help the object stay in a defined shape? Why can liquids flow?"  Even if she couldn't answer the questions exactly, I put the thought in her mind and she began to try to make sense of the information in a new way.

Closing and Sharing

10 minutes

To close the lesson, I will call the students back to the community center to share what they remembered or learned today during our session.