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Moving Molecules: A Lesson Plan on the Three States of Matter

written by: Melissa Elizondo • edited by: Beth Taylor • updated: 9/11/2012

Get students physically involved in this science lesson. Your students will become the molecules in a solid, liquid, and gas and imitate their movement.

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    This lesson is great to use when you are studying the three states of matter.

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    Materials

    Example of a solid, liquid, and gas

    Science textbook or other reference books

    Science journal or notebook paper

    Pencil

    Drawing paper

    Markers or crayons

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    Prior Knowledge

    Show your students an example of a solid, liquid, and a gas. A steaming cup of hot chocolate or hot coffee would work wonderfully for this. The cup would be the solid, the hot chocolate or coffee the liquid, and the steam coming off would be the gas. Talk about the properties of each one and how they are different from each other.

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    Teach

    Ask students to give examples of solids, liquids, and gases. Review that everything is made up of molecules, which are tiny particles that we cannot see. Take your students outside or to a large open indoor area. Explain to your students that they are going to become the molecules of a solid liquid and gas.

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    Procedure

    Ask students to volunteer to be the edge of the solid. Line up the volunteers to make the edge of the solid then place students inside the boundary. Place students next to each other so that they do not have room to move around. They should be standing shoulder to shoulder. Once the students are in place, ask them if they can move about freely. The answer, of course, is no. Explain to them that molecules in a solid cannot move about freely because they are so close together. Ask them if they can think of a way for the molecules to move. Then, explain to them that the molecules in a solid move by vibrating.

    Now have students become the molecules in a liquid. Have students volunteer to be the boundary for the liquid and place students inside the boundary. This time place students a little further apart where they have some room to move. Ask students if they have room to move now, which they do. Ask them if they have a lot of room to move, which they do not. Have students move around slowly flowing by each other. Then, explain that molecules in a liquid move that way.

    Now have students become the molecules in a gas. Again, have students form a boundary for the gas and place students inside. This time you will need to have a bigger boundary and place students farther apart. Ask students if they have room to move around. They will have lots of room to move around. Have them move around and explain to them that molecules in a gas are very far apart and move around rapidly.

    Go back to your classroom and debrief. Talk about what you did. Have students write in their science journals or on notebook paper in their own words how molecules move in a solid, liquid, and a gas. Then, read about the three states of matter in your science textbook or from information that you will provide.

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    Assess

    Have students draw the way molecules move in a solid, a liquid, and a gas.

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    Extend

    Learn more about the three states of matter using ice, water, and steam. Put an ice cube in a beaker and then on a hot plate. Talk about how the molecules move faster as heat energy is added and the state of matter changes.