NASCAR 2022-23


Forums / Elementary Science / States of Matter activities

Elementary Science

States of Matter activities

Author Post
Amy Harwell Amy Harwell 715 Points

Hello!  I am looking for some suggestions on activities to use for teaching states of matter.  Can someone recommend an activity to introduce/engage a 4th grade class on this topic?  I am also looking for an exploration activity that can be completed in a classroom, not a science lab.  Thanks!

Denise Crouch Conway Denise Crouch 1780 Points

Hey, Have you thought about giving each group a different piece of small ice and have evaporation races? As they watch, they could draw what it looks like at a given time interval, and then let that lead into a discussion about the states of matter. You could also piggy back onto it and discuss thermal insulators and conductors as well. Sincerely, Denise

Julie Glass Julie Glass 680 Points

I am doing a short lesson on this topic with second graders. I am going to have them start with a small group activity - asking them to sort various things that fall into the categories of solids, liquids, and gases. I'm going to ask them to sort them in a way they think makes sense. Then, when we gather as a large group, we'll explore the characteristics by which they sorted. Some groups will sort by state of matter, others may not - and we'll explore that. However, with questions, I can direct them to think about the qualities that define states of matter. It is a topic we'll revisit, but this will get them thinking, as they puzzle through the sort and our follow-up conversation.

Joseline Echegoyen Joseline Echegoyen 1205 Points

I will suggest you let the students tell you what they know by doing a skit. Give your students a temperate and tell you do act out how that will look. For example, if you five them a temperature of 32F, how will that look like for example they can get altogether because the state of matter will be solid. By trying to know the prior knowledge of the students will be a great way to help you know as a teacher what is the material that you may need to cover.

Pamela Dupre Pam Dupre 92364 Points

I recently did this lab. We measured the volume of a solid. (We didn't have graduated cylinders or marked measuring cups to calculate the volume through water displacement. Hopefully, you have access to a microwave because that is just spectacular.! I did this as a demonstration lesson for a 4th grade teacher and the expression on his face was amazing. (He is very laid back.)
I had rulers for each team of 4, a set up of 3 kinds of soap for each table. Then I had three sets of the three different soaps for me to use. The students' soaps were just for measurement and predicting which ones would sink or float. We did take notice of the fact that the volue of soap wasn't exact because we measured the box that held the soap. They shook the box realizing that the soap did not actually fill up the entire box. I had one big clear container of water to test the sink or float aspect. I used paper plates to microwave the soap at the end. You can choose any three types of soap yoou like, just make sure one is Ivory.

I also made three containers with varying amounts of ping pong balls in them to have a visual for the three main states of matter which we held and shook before the experiment. After the experiment, we compared the containers that represented the solid and the liquid and brought the topic of density of matter into discussion. I can't upload pictures of the baskets I made because they aren't accepatble file types. I can post them to Facebook on the MEMTA page but, I just used zip ties to tie two plastic baskets together and filled one as full as I could, the next one was filled halfway, and the last one only had about 4 pingpong balls in it.

Jenny Nguyen Jenny Nguyen 1320 Points

I recently taught a lesson on states of matter! What I did for my engage portion was light up a candle, and show students how the heat from the candle was causing the candle to change from a solid to a liquid. This helped my students see how heat could change a solid. For my explore phase I gave each student an icecube inside a ziploc bag the students would then have to rub the bag until the ice melted, this helps the student see how heat from their hands will cause the icecube to melt. The explain stage I had my students explain to me as to what happened to the ice, I took the students responses and made an anchor chart displaying their responses. For the elaborate stage I had my students do another activity, this time they would be melting chocolate inside a ziploc bag, the students would rub their hands together to melt the chocolate again I had my students explain what happened, for the evaluate stage I had my students do a sort that I found on The students could refer back to the anchor chart if needed while completing their sort. Best of luck!

Jamie Becker Jamie Becker 2280 Points

Hi Amy! I am a pre-service teacher studying at the University of Northern Iowa about to begin my final year! I was able to teach a whole unit on the states of matter. In the first lesson I used gloves filled with various states of matter to engage the students (you would have to be careful with latex). One glove had ice frozen inside of it, one had water, and the other had air. The students were given these gloves and asked to describe what they were observing, and asked what they thought the similarities and the differences between the matter inside of the gloves were. You may have to adjust this to fit the needs of your students, as mine were 2nd graders, but I just wanted to throw this out there as an idea because my students really enjoyed it!

Hi Amy, A good way to introduce matter to your 4th grade students is to find out what their thinking is about the states of matter. You might consider using the formative assessment probe to find out about what they understand and proceed from there [url=]What is matter? [/url] [i]'The purpose of this assessment probe is to elicit students’ ideas of what matter is. The probe is designed to determine whether students recognize forms of matter and can distinguish between things that are considered to be matter and things that are not (such as energy, forces, and emotions). The probe helps reveal what characteristics students use to decide if something is considered to be matter'[/i] [i]You might then proceed to consider using some of the resources in the[url=] NSTA Matter Collection of LC resources [/url][/i] [i]Here is a review about what is included in this collection: [/i] [i] "Although the idea of atoms and molecules seems a little advanced for elementary children, I think to understand these concepts, children first need a foundation in properties of matter and states of matter. This collection has resources specifically for the professional development of the teacher and specific classroom inquiry-type activities that explore the different states of matter, as well as a lesson for upper elementary children on atoms, bonding and making molecules. This collection has really good classroom activities for young, middle and upper elementary children. The SciPack or Science Objects Explaining Matter with Elements, Atoms, and Molecules (an adult tutorial) includes topics such as density, characteristic properties, families of elements, solids, liquids and gases, and chemical reactions. It is a good review or learning tool for the teacher. It gives a good foundation in the underlying concepts of matter." [/i] [b]Do others have additional ideas for Amy? [/b] [b]Amy, did you find what I have included helpful to you ?[/b] My best, Arlene

Amy Harwell Amy Harwell 715 Points

Thank you for the wonderful information!

Amy Harwell Amy Harwell 715 Points

Julie Glass Julie Glass 680 Points

Arlene, Thanks very much for sharing this informative post with all of us. I have also been working on lessons about states of matter and I am going to check out the NSTA Matter Collection of LC materials right now. Regards, Julie G.

Alyson Whitmore Alyson Whitmore 555 Points

For a bit of a brain break that's still relevant, I really like playing the State Change game. Everyone is a molecule, and everyone starts out standing in an open area of the room or in the hallway- when I did this, I moved the desks into a circle and had the students in the middle of the "container". The rules are that you have to walk, and you can only bump shoulders. When you yell, "liquid!" the students have to come closer together and bump shoulders together. When you yell "gas!" the students walk far apart from each other, bumping shoulders occasionally. When you yell "solid!" everyone huddles together into one shape. It's fun to ask for different shapes- a line, a ball, a triangle, and a star for a challenge. It was a really fun break that reinforced the material (I was working with third grade). Good luck!

Sandra Saint-Val Sandra Saint-Val 1475 Points

Hi there! I teach third grade math. Most of my students are developmentally low, so I implement activities that are engaging to them because most of them already believe that they are not capable "scientists." For one of my exploration activities, I added ice inside of a zip loc bag and each table competed to see which table could melt their ice the fastest. Most students rub their bag and rotated after thirty seconds to each table mate. They had a blast, plus they saw how when heat is added to a solid, it melts. I am still finding a fun activity where the students explore how a liquid turns back to a solid after you heat a candle. I hope that helps. Teachers pay teachers and Pinetrest have lovely ideas. Hope that helped!

Cara Cook Cara Cook 5795 Points

I recently did a lesson using a strong zippered bag, baking soda, vinegar, and really hot water. After putting the solid into the bag and adding the liquid, it bubbled into the obvious gas. The part that is really interesting is that the bag actually explodes out with a bang! We worked outside for easier clean up. It was interesting to feel the changes in temperature, too.

Eric Roth Eric Roth 3375 Points

Gallium has a melting point of about 85.6 degrees F, which means it will melt from body heat. You could purchase a vial of gallium (or show videos from YouTube, including "the melting spoon" trick). Also, comparing dry ice (Solid carbon dioxide) to wet ice (water) is effective. The dry ice goes straight from solid to gas (sublimation), and the "smoke" that is seen is actually a fog of water (condensed water vapor) that quickly evaporates.

Eric Roth Eric Roth 3375 Points

If you want to show a plasma, you could get a plasma ball, use a fluorescent light, or do the sliced grape in microwave demonstration (see YouTube).

Yessica Castillo Yessica Castillo 690 Points


I would like to share something from one of my education courses this semester.

We learned about the states of matter the same way we have been many topics which is using the 5E lesson cycle.

One of the activities that stood out to me was the Oobleck activity. It is based from a Dr. Seuss book called Bartholomew and the Oobleck, my teacher began by reading us this book and asking us to think about what that substance could look or feel like. We then continued to explore actual oobleck (which is cornstarch and water) with this simple but fun activity we were able to knock out the engagement, explore, and explain portion of the lesson.

You can find a pdf of the book here.

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers