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Students will be able to identify the four major states of matter, classify matter, and compare chemical versus physical changes as evidenced by taking notes, making a foldable, filling in a concept map, and watching a demo.

Big Idea

Matter can be classified and changes forms both chemically and physically.


In this lesson students are introduced to the definition of matter, the various states of matter, how to classify matter, and changes in matter.  Although this is content that students should remember from previous science classes I have found that I must review the concepts so students have a basis for higher level concepts in this course.

Students are simply taking notes in this lesson, but are doing so on a notes paper which includes a concept map and a foldable.  I pre-make the foldable for students using my paper cutter which is much quicker than having students try to cut it themselves.   See the reflection on foldables where I describe this in more detail.

This lesson aligns with two NGSS Performance Expectations for middle school:

  • MS-PS1-2: Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.
  • MS-PS1-4: Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed.

This lesson also aligns with two NGSS Crosscutting Concepts.

  1. It deals with NGSS Crosscutting Concept 5: Energy and Matter.  It does this because throughout the lesson I help students understand how the state of matter really depends on kinetic energy of particles.  
  2. It deals with NGSS Crosscutting Concept 3: Scale, Proportion, and Quantity. It does this because within the lesson I help students begin to understand that we can see phenomenon at the macroscale (e.g. water boiling) and then can infer what is occurring at the particlulate scale (e.g. water molecules gaining energy, moving further apart, etc.).


30 minutes

In this first section students are doing an introduction paper which includes two sections.  I usually have students start this paper when they are completing their Unit 1 exam at the end of the previous unit (Unit 1), and then revisit it at the beginning of this unit (Unit 2).

1. In the first section students define vocabulary that is important for the section.  I choose words that are integral to understanding the concepts.  This is the same vocabulary that it included on the word wall in the classroom.

  • Students define the vocabulary words using their textbooks.  The textbook I use is Glencoe's Chemistry Matter and Change.  To help students, and try to keep them from just looking at the glossary in the back of the book, I give students the page numbers where they will find the vocabulary in their textbooks.

2. In the second section students are answering a prompt that is aimed at getting at their misconceptions concerning the boiling of water.  The prompt is adapted from NSTA's Uncovering Students' Ideas in Science Formative Assessment Probes

  • The goal of the probe is to find out if students recognize that bubbles formed when water boils are the result of liquid water physically changing into water vapor.  Despite this being an "elementary school" concept many of my students feel that the bubble are "nothing", "air", or "oxygen and hydrogen that have split".
  • There are many great probes available in NSTA's Uncovering Students' Ideas books available from NSTA's website or Amazon.


50 minutes

When I introduce the material in this section I have students record information in three ways. 

1. They record information on a notes outline paper where they write down definitions. (Here is a filled in copy of the notes with the front page and back page).

2. They fill in a matter foldable so that they can differentiate between the four major types of matter. (Here is a copy of the filled in outside and inside).

3. They organize matter using a concept-map.  Here is a copy of the filled in concept map.

I have all of this organized on the PowerPoint that I present to students.  They start on the notes (slides 2 and 3), then do the foldable (slides 4-8), then go back to the notes (slides 9-12), and finish with the concept map (slides 13-16). 

This is an information rich set of notes; however, it should be review for students based on previous science classes.  I have found that students do much better with having a way to organize the concepts of states of matter and how to classify matter so I use the concept map and foldable. 



10 minutes

As a way to elaborate I have students watch this video from Siberia where this person takes boiling water and throws it outside in very cold temperature where it freezes.

I then have students answer questions at the bottom of their notes where they analyze what happens visually (water freezing), what happens at the molecular level (liquid to solid, decrease in kinetic energy, increase in intermolecular attractions), and whether this is a physical or chemical change (physical). 

Here is a copy of one student's responses to the video at the bottom of the page.


20 minutes

For the evaluation section of this lesson I have students do bookwork that comes from the Study Guide that accompanies their textbook. 

I find that giving bookwork is helpful for this section because it allows me to scaffold based on students' prior knowledge.

  • For those students who remember this material from middle school they can just answer the questions without reading the sections in the book
  • For those students who do not remember the material from middle school can take the time to read the sections in order to answer the study guide questions appropriately.

The textbook I use is Glencoe Chemistry Matter and Change.  This bookwork is for sections 3.1 and 3.2 and is pages 13, 14, and 15 of the Study Guide. The bookwork covers the properties of matter and changes in matter.   The properties of matter section includes the definition of matter, chemical vs. physical changes, and states of matter.  The changes in matter section deals with physical and chemical changes. 

If you do not use this textbook then I would suggest using your own textbook and having students read similar sections and either using a study guide or the questions at the end of the section.  If you do not use a textbook or your text does not have similar sections on matter than there are also some resources available online.  Just through a quick search these are some resources that I found:

  1. This is site "Science Quiz" has quizzes on various subjects.  This is the link to their quiz on states of matter.
  2. The website shmoop also has quiz questions for students dealing with matter.
  3. On this site there are a bunch of questions that could be used for checking for understanding.