States of matter...explore with your class
Ideas for how to explore this topic with your class and explain it in a way they will understand.
The second part of this topic guide leads on from the tricky scientific concepts that we explained in part one (you can revise them here). Now you're clear on what the children need to know and have the background science under your belt, you're ready to apply these ideas for teaching states of matter to your class!
To teach a tricky topic like this one, it is important to make clear links with your pupils’ learning about materials. STEM Learning has a host of excellent lesson ideas, activities and videos that are worth having a look at.
1. Identification and grouping
Let your pupils explore a range of materials (in pairs or small groups) and see if they can group them into solids, liquids and gases. Try and include a few trickier materials (e.g., jelly, shaving foam, bubble mixture) to really challenge them. As they become more confident, they will begin to understand the properties of each of the states of matter and use these to explain how they are grouping them.
As with the materials topic, you can guide your children’s independent learning in a variety of ways:
asking carefully considered questions,
modelling the correct scientific vocabulary
asking them to identify similarities and differences
challenging them to justify their reasoning
For those substances that are more difficult to have in the classroom, Explorify activities can be useful for providing images and videos to show them to your class for discussion. Spring clean, White crystals, Glowing depths, Snowflake are good examples.
2. Heating up or cooling down?
Your pupils will love designing investigations to observe how heating and cooling affect different materials first-hand. Health and safety is important here, so make sure you have consulted the CLEAPSS website (or SSERC in Scotland) for information on how to undertake practical work safely.
Ideas for investigations include comparing the melting point for ice, jelly cubes, good quality chocolate (cheap chocolate burns, rather than melts, because of the high sugar content!) and butter; measuring the time it takes for water to evaporate when heated versus when it is just left alone; investigating whether the amount of water is related to the time it takes to freeze etc.
Carrying out these investigations is a perfect opportunity for children to develop their scientific skills, including:
Asking their own questions about scientific phenomena
Selecting and planning the most appropriate ways to answer questions
Grouping and classifying objects
Carrying out comparative and fair tests
Recording data and results in different ways
Drawing conclusions and raising further questions to be investigated
Using appropriate scientific vocabulary and ideas to explain their findings
Explorify activities can also be used to provide a stimulus for investigations. Try the Mission Survive Ice lollies, What’s Going On? Melting ice cubes, What if… Water couldn’t freeze?, The Big Question Does hot chocolate have to be hot? and the Problem Solver Ice-block skyscraper.
3. The water cycle
Learning about the water cycle can feel quite abstract for children, so using clear diagrams and videos or undertaking research are valuable activities. STEM Learning has a useful resource (created by the Royal Society of Chemistry) which focuses on developing children’s understanding of evaporation and condensation.
There is a good opportunity here to make cross-curricular links to DT by getting your pupils to create a mini water cycle in the classroom, which demonstrates the main parts of the process. The Met Office has a simple example for you to follow.
4. Use a concept cartoon
(Taken from Science Concept Cartoons® Set 1 Revised Edition (2014) and Science Concept Cartoons® Set 2 (2015). © Millgate House Education Ltd www.millgatehouse.co.uk)
This concept cartoon presents a range of viewpoints about states of matter, including common misconceptions and the scientifically correct response. Get your pupils to consider what they think about the different opinions. It will help them to justify their own ideas and clarify their scientific thinking.
You can even design your own concept cartoons based on the needs of your children or to assess a particular piece of understanding. Or why not let your children have a go at creating their own?
We'd love to know how these ideas worked for you. You can tell us on Twitter, join our Facebook Staffroom Group or send us an email!
Image credit: Melting ice cubs in a pile by 5 Second Studio via Shutterstock SL