(Day 1) Air Really Does Matter

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SWBAT prove that air takes up space, has mass, exerts pressure, and does work.

Big Idea

Students conduct several investigations to determine air is a form of matter.

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 Day 1 Air Really Does Matter takes places over the course of two days.  Since many students had questions in previous lessons as to whether or not air was matter, I created this lesson to provide them the opportunity to explore how air is, indeed,matter. Students rotate through five stations, testing out different ways air can be used and defined as matter. At each station, they record their findings on a data table within their interactive notebook. I wrap this lesson up with questions to check for student understanding based on their observations and experiences within the lesson. These questions help students identify the importance of air in everyday life and the properties that make air a form of matter. 

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. 

Scientific & Engineering Practices

Students are engaged in the following Scientific and Engineering Practices

3.) Planning and Carrying Out Investigations:  Students investigate air in the form of matter at 5 different stations to produce data to use as evidence to communicate what they have learned.

4.)  Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Represent data on air is really matter in a table to reveal patterns,relationships, and theory.  This data is used to draw conclusions and make inferences about air being a form of matter.

8.) Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information:  Using data from investigating air as matter at different stations, students communicate their understanding by answering a serious of questions related to their experience at each station on air as matter. 

Crosscutting Concepts

The Day 1 Air Really Does Matter lesson will correlate to other interdisciplinary areas.  These Crosscutting Concepts include:

3. Scale, Proportion, and Quantity: Students recognize natural objects such as air and observable matter exists from the very small to very large.  

4.) Structure and Function: Students learn different materials like air have different structures which can be observed or measured. Throughout each station, students explore how air functions.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas within this lesson include:

PS1.A Structure of Matter:  Measurements of variety of observable properties can be used to identify particular materials. (Because matter exists as particles that are too small to see, matter is always conserved even if it seems to disappear.) 



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.



For time management purposes, I use “lab rats roles” I introduce these roles this at the beginning of the year. I model each role and provide students' opportunities to practice each role with a group during an investigation or lab.  It has proven successful within my classroom keeping students engaged and on task.

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 explore activity, 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. 


10 minutes

I begin class by bringing student's attention to the board for the posted question, "Is Air A Form of Matter?" I start off with this question because in the previous lesson on properties of matter, students had uncertainties as to whether or not air was matter.  

I explain, "Today we are taking a closer look at air to determine if it is matter. Let's begin by brainstorming what we know about air by creating a chain note with our group members." I describe the chain note strategy to the class, "Each group has one paper with the question, What is Air? written at the top. This paper is passed to each person in the group. When you receive the paper, you are to respond to the question with one or two sentences whether it be a new idea or building off of a previous idea from another person. It continues going around the group until I say stop."

I selected the chain note strategy to activate students prior knowledge about air and engage them. A chain note gives students a chance to share their initial thoughts about a topic. Then, as the paper makes its way around the group, the student examines other ideas and connects it to their own thinking with them or adds a new one.  It's a opportunity to for students to write what they already know and make connections to other ideas presented.

Once the chain note activity ends, I use the quick pick bucket to call upon groups to share an idea or two to the class. 


40 minutes

After reviewing ideas about what air is, I hand out a data table and instruct students to paste it in their interactive notebook on the left side of the notebook. Noting that everyone set up their notebook, I move students' attention to the standards board and call on one students to read it aloud:

"Today we will explore how air is matter by rotating through five stations and examining the properties of air.  Then we will use our data as evidence to construct a claim statement about air being a form of matter." After reading it out loud, I bring their attention to the five stations set up around the room: Fan, Air In a Bottle, Balloon Balance, Make Air Work, and Water Bottle Fountain and tell them they are working with their group as lab rats at each station.

I begin at the Fan Station, I explain that groups are to follow the station card directions starting with discussing how they know air is there. After their discussion, each group member takes a turn seeing how air can make things move and writes down their observation or experience on the data table  At the end of this station, everyone writes a conclusion about what they saw happen with moving air and then supports it with evidence from the lab activity. 

Next, I move onto to the Balloon In A Bottle Station and review the station card directions out loud. I reiterate that the station begins with a quick discussion about the question: Can air take up space?  After discussing, each group member has a turn attempting to inflate a balloon inside the empty soda bottle. (After each turn, students use a disinfecting wipe on the bottle) After trying to inflate the balloon, each student writes down their observation or experience in the data table. Everyone writes a conclusion about what they saw happen and then supports it with evidence from the lab activity. 

Following the previous station, I shift students attention to the Make Air Work Station. I go over the directions on the card starting with the direction to discuss the question-Can air do work? After a brief discussion, students work as a group taking 1 air filled bag and placing it on the floor. From their, add 1 item, like a book, and place on top and keep adding things until the bag can no longer hold items.  I restate that observations are written in the data table and everyone writes a conclusion about what they saw happen and supporting evidence from the lab activity. 

I direct students to the, Balloon Balance Station. I explain to students they are exploring to see if air has mass. I review the directions on the station, instructing them to discuss the question- Does air have mass? before creating a balance.  After the group discussion, groups work together to balance an eraser on one end of a meter stick with as many balloons as it takes.  All observations are recorded in the data table.  When the balance is made, everyone writes a conclusion about their observation and then supports it with evidence from the lab activity.

For the last one, the Water Bottle Fountain Station, I gather the class for a demonstration on how air pressure affects an object. First, I ask groups to discuss with their group-How does air push or pull on an object? Then I gather students around the demonstration table and with a straw, water-filled bottle, and balloon and create a model.  Students observe the water fountain and each group member writes down their observations or experiences on their data table. We discuss what we notice and everyone writes a conclusion about what they saw happen and then supports it with evidence from the lab activity.

Once all stations are reviewed, I direct each group to a station and tell them to begin. I give them about ten minutes at each station and use a timer to keep everyone on task.

Students follow the directions at each station and all observations are recorded on the data table that applies to that station. They continue exploring the properties of air until all station are completed and observation data recorded.  I continue moving throughout the room and checking in at different stations. At the end of our investigation, I direct students to return to their seat for to complete a written reflection about each station.


Reflections (Homework)

5 minutes

Once students have explored and experienced each station, I hand out reflection questions 

  • Why is it important to know about moving air? 
  • Why is it important to know about air taking up space? 
  • How can air help do work? 
  • Why do you think studying the mass of air help scientists?
  • Why does knowing that air can apply pressure matter?


and assign them as homework. These questions are used as a formative assessment to identify student understanding about air as matter.

I assign these as homework because the remaining class time left is minimal.  I use these questions to re-engage the students tomorrow in the second half of the lesson.