Beacon Lesson Plan Library

What's the Matter?

Renee Benefield


Students become scientists when they are actively involved in this lesson that teaches students to observe the differences between solids, liquids and gases. They will be amazed at the objects they come up with to sort in this engaging lesson.


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


-Water in a large pan
-Small amount of milk
-Solid objects of any kind
-Chart paper
-Perfume (for teacher use)
-Balloons of different shapes or paper bags (teacher use)


1. Gather solid objects.
2. Gather containers
3. Collect water and milk
4. Get balloons or paper bags.
5. Post chart paper.
6. Gather magazines.
7. Pre-fold paper into 3 sections (this is difficult for small children


1. Explain to students that today we will look at some objects the way a scientist would look at objects. Many times the scientist will look at things and find ways these things are alike. When a scientist does that, he is sorting objects by using his eyes and sometimes his hands. Sometimes he may even use his nose or ears to sort objects to study them.

2. Give examples: ocean animals and farm animals can be sorted into groups; boys and girls can be sorted. Let the children give some examples of things that could be sorted by another category such as sweets and vegetables.

3. Explain that today we will sort objects by what form they are in. All objects are made of some form of matter. Give examples: books are made out of paper, doors are made out of wood, oranges are made out of orange pulp. Repeat this new definition of matter and can ask the students for examples to see if they understand the concept of matter.

4. Explain that there are 3 forms (or states) that an object or matter can have: solid forms, liquid forms or gaseous forms.

5. Explain that today we will use our eyes and hands to help us to decide what form the object or matter is in.

6. Display the water, milk, perfume, solid objects, and balloons and ask the students to name the objects or matter that they see.

7. Take the solid object and a handful of the water and ask the students how these objects are different. It is important to try to let the students define how they are different rather than just giving them the characteristics.

8. Take 2 solid objects and ask the students how these 2 objects are alike. After hearing their answers, the teacher explains the characteristics of a solid object. Solid objects have a shape that we can feel or see, they take up space and they can be heavy or light, very large or very tiny.

9. Take 2 liquid objects (water and milk.) Ask students how these two objects are alike. Again, let the students give you the characteristics on their own. After hearing the answers, explain that these two objects are in liquid form. Liquid has no shape and moves freely. It takes up space. It can be different colors, tastes or smells. Explain that some liquids can be harmful to us if we drink, taste or smell them; let the students respond with answers such as cleaners, gasoline, or poisons, even dry erase markers.

10. Explain the last form that an object can have is the hardest to understand because it is sometimes invisible. You cannot see it or touch it, but it is there.

11. Ask students how can we change this balloon. Students respond that you can blow it up.

12. Blow up the balloon and hold it tight. Ask students to tell what made the balloon change. After listening to responses, explain that you have put a gas in the balloon called air. Explain that some objects are made out of gases; they take up space, they may have a smell and some gases can be dangerous if we breathe them.

13. Just for fun, tell the students that you are going to put some tiny particles of perfume in the air for them to smell. You cannot see the little pieces of liquid perfume, but explain that the tiny particles stick to the gas and float through the gases around them.

14. Review each of the 3 forms that they have covered in this lesson and allow the students to give examples of each, which should be listed on the chart paper under the categories solids, liquids and gases.

15. Explain that now it is their turn be a scientist to find objects and sort them into solids or liquids.

16. Explain and show an example. Students are given a large sheet of paper and write solid in one column, liquid in the next and gas in the last column. Explain they will look in magazines and cut out pictures that would go under solids or liquids and glue them to their papers. Explain that they will not be looking for gases and ask the students why. Because you canít see them!!!! Allow them to draw a balloon in that space and any other objects they can think of that holds air.

17. Allow ample time for the students to investigate and enjoy this hands-on project.

18. Take up the projects and checksthem for accuracy and you may choose to display the projects.


The assessment will be dual in that it will include group participation in discussion and have a performance-based activity. The student will produce a college of magazine pictures that the student independently selects and sorts by the form of matter the object is in, solids or liquids. The teacher will collect the projects and check for accuracy of the sorted objects into solids and liquids.


You may wish to display the projects when completed. Extend this lesson into a homework assignment in which the students may bring in their favorite solid and liquid objects; there could be a writing activity on their favorite matter!! The teacher may want to open a science center which would focus on each form of matter; this would encourage the students explore and experiment with the objects (weight, sink or float, smells.)
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