Beacon Lesson Plan Library

What State Is It?

Sandi King
Bay District Schools


After reviewing the states of matter and reading [Bartholomew and the Oobleck], students create some oobleck and then use the descriptions of the states of matter to categorize the oobleck.


The student knows that objects can be grouped according to their physical characteristics (for example, shape, color, texture, form, size).


- The textbook
[McGraw-Hill Science]. New York. MacMillan/ McGraw-Hill School Division. 2000. 116 - 133. (Any science text can be used that has a section describing the states of matter.)
- The book
Seuss, Dr. [Bartholomew and the Oobleck]. New York. Random House. 1977.
- One box of cornstarch
- Water, one tablespoon per child for the mixture, plus a bucket full for washing hands if no sink is available
- A tablespoon measuring spoon
- Small plastic cups, one per student
- Wax paper, a one foot square piece per student
- Long pencils with erasers (new ones), one per student
- Sink or bucket of water for wash up - This is not a messy activity and washes up very quickly and easily. No soap is necessary.
- Chart from Day 5 from the Unit Plan, Our Picnic, The Study of Matter


1. Locate and preview the textbook, [McGraw-Hill Science], pages 116 – 133. (Another text may be used if it contains a section describing the states of matter, especially water.) (See Materials.)

2. Locate and preview the book [Bartholomew and the Oobleck]. (See Materials.)

3. Cut a wax paper square for each child. Each square should be about one foot square. This will be used to for the experiment surface and boundary for the oobleck as the students investigate its properties.

4. Locate plastic cups. You need one per student. They must be plastic as the students will poke holes in foam or paper cups.

5. Measure 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into each plastic cup.

6. Locate pencils with erasers for each student. The pencils will be used to stir the oobleck and as a tool for investigating. They will wash easily and quickly and can then be used for writing again. Although students will be stirring with the eraser end, this activity in no way damages the pencil. Pencils without erasers dig a hole in the cup and cause a mess.

7. Prepare a bucket of water. The water will be used to mix the oobleck (one tablespoon per student) and for clean up. If a sink is readily available, no bucket of water is needed.

8. Experiment with the recipe to know the feel of the finished oobleck. Having had the experience of making and playing with the oobleck yourself, you will be able to assist the students in making their oobleck in a much more timely manner. Personal experience is very helpful. Procedure – In a plastic cup place two tablespoons of cornstarch then one tablespoon of water. Mix with the eraser end of a pencil. Mix well. The mixture should appear as a solid in that you can bounce the eraser off of its surface, but also appears as a liquid as it pours out of the cup.

9. Locate the class made chart from Day 5 of the Unit Plan, Our Picnic, The Study of Matter. This chart should have the headings of the three states of matter and a description of each state.

10. For assistance in finding the books suggested for this lesson, go to Sunlink on the Web at This site allows you to find the schools in each county that have a specific book. Follow these instructions: (1) Type the URL in the address line of your browser. The URL is (2) Click the button for Begin Your Search. (3) Click the part of Florida for your county. (4) Click your specific county. (5) Type the title of the book. No other information needs to be typed here. (6) Click the Find It button. (7) Click the title of the book that appears to receive the Full Record. At the bottom of the Full Record is the location of the book. (8) Request the book from the school shown.

11. Many of these activities can be used with the language arts blocks or periods. For more information on the use of these blocks see the following book. Cunningham, Patricia M., et al. [The Teacher's Guide to the Four Blocks]. Greensboro, NC. Carson-Dellosa Publishing Company. Inc. 1999.


1. This is lesson plan four of seven lesson for the Unit Plan, Our Picnic, The Study of Matter. This lesson plan contains the activities for DAY 6 OF THE UNIT. If you are interested in completing the whole unit, please see the Extensions section of this lesson plan for further information.

2. To gain attention and to review, read pages 116 – 133 from the text [McGraw-Hill Science]. This can be used as a guided reading activity. Guide the students to look for information about the three states of matter. Question students as to what information they have learned and have them back up their statements from text from the book. If students are not able to read the text at this point, use this as a read-aloud activity. Students should still be encouraged to verbally back up their statements from the text. Be sure to show the pictures from this section of the text.

3. During read aloud time, read [Bartholomew and the Oobleck] as a read-aloud activity. Be sure students see all the pictures as it will help them envision the state of matter of the oobleck. (See Materials.)

4. During science time, discuss the state of matter of the oobleck as described and illustrated in the book. Ask students if they would like to make their own oobleck.

5. After cleaning off their desks, students should receive a one foot square piece of wax paper. This will be their surface for experimenting and will also serve as a boundary for the oobleck. Explain that all oobleck MUST stay on the wax paper. Any oobleck that cannot follow the rules will be placed in the garbage. Now that you have given the terms of the wax paper, stick to it! This is not a messy experiment, and there is no reason why students can’t follow these rules.

6. Students need their longest pencil that has an eraser. If the student does not have such a pencil with eraser, you should provide one for this activity.

7. Pass out the plastic cup containing two tablespoons of cornstarch. Have the students feel the cornstarch by sticking one finger into the cup and then rubbing that finger with another to feel the texture of the cornstarch. Using the definitions from the class chart made on Day 5, have the students use the properties of the cornstarch to classify it as a solid. (It is not runny when poured.) The cup, pencil, and wax paper can also be classified as solids. They have their own shape.

8. Before adding the water to cornstarch, describe the properties of the water and elicit the classification of liquid for the water.

9. Each student needs one tablespoon of water. This can be accomplished by each student bringing the cup to you to for water, or by you carrying the water to the students. I carry a squirt water bottle around the classroom and add water as I pass each student. This is a time efficient way of passing out water and causes less spillage. It also works as a behavior management system as I pass by any student not on task.

10. Once the students have the cornstarch and water in their cups, they use their pencils to stir. As you found from your pretrial, the mixture has very unique properties that are discovered while stirring. You will know when the mixture is exactly right because the pencil eraser will bang and bounce off the surface of the mixture, yet stirring can continue. As students use their pencils to bounce off the mixture, ask about the state of matter for the mixture. Most students will say it is a solid because it is hard. Listen to the students' responses and encourage them to back up their responses using the definitions from the chart. Don’t give any feedback at this point.

11. Staying over the wax paper, have students pour a small amount of the mixture into their hand. Encourage students to experiment with the oobleck. Can they shape it into a ball? Will it stay in that shape? Can they pick it up off the wax paper? Can they hold it in their hand? Can they make two pieces of oobleck join together? With only the residue of the oobleck on their hands, rub their hands together and feel the texture. Ask if the classification should be changed. Is oobleck a solid, liquid, or gas? (Answer: liquid) How do you know? (Answer: It does not have a shape of its own. It is runny when it is poured.)

12. During procedure #11 above, use the students' discussions to formatively assess student knowledge of the three states of matter and the characteristics of each used to group the different components of the oobleck by their physical characteristics.

13. Clean up is a very fast procedure, as the mixture appears to melt away as it comes in contact with water. Students should wash their hands and pencils. The wax paper and cups can be trashed. Total class clean up should not take more than a few minutes.


This lesson plan is the fourth of seven lesson plans in the Unit Plan, Our Picnic, The Study of Matter. The standards addressed will be formatively assessed as the students relate how to classify the oobleck as a solid, liquid, or gas. Students explain the reason for the classification using the descriptions of a solid, liquid, and gas. The teacher will give corrective and affirmative feedback.


The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, “Associated Files.” This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

2. During writing center, students can write in their journals about the three states of matter for water. Perhaps they could choose one state of water and tell about a personal experience with that state of water.

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