Defining Properties of Solids, Liquids and Gases

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SWBAT make observations about the properties of solids, liquids and gases.

Big Idea

Students explore the 3 states of matter using balloons.

NGSS Connections and Class Preparation

30 minutes

NGSS Standards

PS1.A Structure and Properties of Matter

Students sort images to compare solids and liquids. Then discuss and write observations about solids, liquids and gases.

Science Practices

- Constructing Explanations Designing Solutions (SP 6)

Students make observations about solids, liquids and gases in order to explain the properties for the 3 states of matter.

- Analyzing and Interpreting Data (SP 4)

Students compare their hypotheses to what was observed in order to develop their schema for solids, liquids and gases. 


18 balloons; 3 balloon / team (6 teams total)

6 aluminum trays for balloons and to use to pop the balloons

6 push pins

6 baggies

Lesson Preparation

fill 12 balloons with water and place 6 of these in the freezer (freeze balloons at least 1-2 days before the lesson)

fill the last 6 balloons with air

copy the Three States of Matter observation form; one / student

copy the solid, liquid. and gas exit tickets; 8 tickets for each term; one ticket / per student

make teams of 4 students

label baggies 1 - 6

place one push pin in each baggie

place one frozen, liquid and gas balloon in an aluminum tray

project the images for the solid, liquid sort

I use a smartboard program for the solid and liquid sort, but the images could be printed and sorted too. I have the column titles under the purple rectangles, which I remove after the sort.




Question for the Day

15 minutes

Science starts with a question, usually written on the board. This provides an opportunity for students to consider today's topic before the lesson has officially begun. 

Students know when they return from lunch, we meet on the rug to read our 'science question for the day'. I have established this routine with the kiddos to keep transition time short and effective and redirect student's attention back to content while allowing time for focused peer interaction.

Question for the Day: How could the pictures be sorted into these 2 columns?

I am using the question to get an idea of what my students already know about the concepts of matter.

Students share their ideas on how they would sort the pictures with their shoulder partner. I write their ideas under the question. 

Next I show a t-chart with a picture of a solid in the first column and a liquid in the 2nd column. Examples of solids and liquids are shown on the smart board which volunteers will move into the columns.

Students share their ideas on how they would sort the pictures with their shoulder partner. After a couple of minutes, I signal for student's attention and call on volunteers to move the images to one of the columns.

After the images have been sorted, I ask how the pictures in each column are different. Their answers are noted on the corresponding sides of the T-chart. I ask how we could label each side of the T-chart. If students use the words, solid and liquid, I note these words too. If not, I introduce the terms.

I expect that one of my students will ask about gas. If this happens I will write this term under a 3rd column and ask for examples. If gas is not mentioned, I will add the 3rd column later when it comes up in the lesson.

"Would you all agree that all these things take up space? And that I could weigh each one?  All these things are examples of matter. Matter is all around us and in us. We are made up of matter too."

"Matter can have properties of a solid, liquid or gas. Today you will explore the 3 states of matter to learn about  the properties of a solids, liquids and gas."

At this point I direct the students to return to their seats for the next part of the lesson.


Solid, Liquid and Gas Balloons: pre-pop observations and hypotheseses

25 minutes

I have adopted '3 states of matter with balloons' from Super Teacher, submitted by Jillian in Egg Harbor, New Jersey.

I project the observation form students will fill out as I review the steps and hold up the balloons as I mention them.

"For this lab, you will work in teams of 4."

"There are 3 balloons. One balloon is filled with a solid, one with a liquid and one with gas. After your team has received the balloons, your team will decide which is the solid, liquid and gas balloon. Raise your hand when you are ready for me to check your sort."

Rather than me pointing out which balloon is the solid, liquid and gas, I set a scenario where students can discuss this with their team. This helps them start to discuss their observations about the 3 states of matter.

"After I have checked your team's sort, discuss and write your observations about the 3 types matter in the balloons. You could describe how the matter feels and / or moves in the balloon."

"Next, your team will discuss and then write your hypotheses about what you think will happen to the matter when you pop the balloons."

"After you have written your observations and hypotheses then please come to the rug with your team."

I use the random sorter to create teams of four and project a class map to indicate where each team will meet. As teams move to their designated work space, I pass out the balloons which are in an aluminum pan and the observation forms.

I observe how teams are working,listen to conversations, and ask questions to help students develop specific vocabulary that will help them describe the 3 states of matter.


Properties of Matter

15 minutes

Students sit with their team on the rug and share their observations about the balloons. I write their responses on the board.

"When I say go you will return to your team tables and I will pass out a baggie with a push pin. Your team will decide who will pop each balloon. The fourth student who does not pop a balloon will be responsible for pouring the water in the planters and place the ice on the back table."

I explain the job for the 4th person so that everyone in the team has a task.

"After one of the balloons has been popped, teams will discuss what you all observed about the matter in the balloon. Then each of you will write your 'popped balloon matter' observations."

"Only when everyone has completed their observations will the next person pop the balloon. Balloon popper check that everyone is ready to watch what happens with the the matter before popping the balloon so that nothing is missed!"

"When your team has completed all their observations, please throw away the balloon pieces and meet me on the rug."


Making Meaning of Solids, Liquids and Gases

10 minutes

After teams have completed their observations, water poured into our planters, balloon parts thrown away and trays with ice are placed on the counter, I signal for teams to meet me on the rug.

"So what happened to the solid when you popped the balloon?" I may need to clarify which observations describe ice versus a solid.

At this juncture, I demonstrate with playdough to develop students' schema that solids keep their shape unless something is done to change the shape. 

I continue the same discussion for the liquid and gas balloons. I pour water into different containers to demonstrate that liquid takes the shape of its container. Then review with the students about what happened when they popped the gas balloon.

I check for understanding that students can express: solids keep their shape unless acted on to change its shape, liquids can be poured and take on the shape of its container and that gases spread out to fill a container.

After observations have been shared, I pass out exit tickets. Each ticket has one term on it, solid, liquid, or gas. I direct the students to write what the word means. I let the kiddos know that they may trade a ticket for another term.

Asking students to write about one term gives them more time to focus on one concept and not feel overwhelmed with writing about all 3. The exit ticket is a way to assess how well the lesson helped students develop their schemas of solid, liquid and gas.