Intermolecular Forces Lesson Plan

Instructor: Joanne Abramson

Joanne has taught middle school and high school science for more than ten years and has a master's degree in education.

In this lesson plan, high school students explore intermolecular forces. Using a short video lesson, partner and class discussions, and hands-on activities, students discover three intermolecular forces.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define the term 'intermolecular force'
  • name three intermolecular forces
  • describe the molecular properties involved in each of the intermolecular forces


1-1.5 hours

Curriculum Standards


Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks; analyze the specific results based on explanations in the text.


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 11-12 texts and topics.


Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.

Key Terms

  • Intermolecular forces
  • Covalent bonds
  • Ions
  • Non-polar molecules
  • Polar molecules
  • Dipole
  • Ion-dipole forces
  • Dipole-dipole forces
  • Hydrogen bonding
  • London/dispersion forces


  • A video of astronauts on the International Space Station demonstrating the properties of water in 0 gravity
  • Images of water droplets on leaves or flowers
  • Lined paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Painter's tape
  • Marker
  • Paper towels
  • 150mL beakers, 3 per group
  • Petri dishes, 4 per group
  • Test tube rack, 1 per group
  • Test tubes, 6 per group
  • Popsicle sticks, 4 per group
  • Plastic pipettes or droppers, 3 per group
  • Small paper clips, several per group
  • Food coloring
  • Corn starch
  • Sugar (baker's sugar has a finer grain than table sugar)
  • Water
  • Non-polar paint solvent, such as toluene or xylene
  • Ethanol (ethyl alcohol)
  • Vegetable oil



  • Set up the lab stations ahead of time. Students will be working in groups of four and will be conducting three separate activities to explore the intermolecular forces described in the video. Since the students will be using paint thinner, be sure to do this on a day when you can open the windows and have fans blowing.
  • Activity 1: Use painters tape and a marker to label each of the containers. Set-up for the ion-dipole interactions is as follows:
    • 3 150mL beakers
      • 1 with water (labeled 'water')
      • 1 with water (labeled 'A-1')
      • 1 with toluene (labeled 'A-2')
    • 2 Petri dishes
      • 1 with sugar (labeled 'sugar')
      • 1 with corn starch (labeled 'corn starch')
    • 4 popsicle sticks
  • Activity 2: Use painters tape and a marker to label the Petri dishes. Set-up for the dipole-dipole interactions is as follows:
    • 2 Petri dishes
      • 1 with water (labeled 'B-1')
      • 1 with ethanol (labeled 'B-2')
    • Several small paper clips
    • Paper towel
  • Activity 3: Use painters tape and a marker to label the test tubes. Set-up for the dispersion forces is as follows:
    • 1 test tube rack
    • 6 test tubes
      • 1 with water and food coloring (labeled 'water')
      • 1 with ethanol (labeled 'C-1')
      • 1 with toluene (labeled 'C-2')
      • 1 with vegetable oil (labeled 'C-3')
      • 2 empty
    • 3 plastic pipettes


  • Begin the lesson by showing students a video of astronauts demonstrating the properties of water on the International Space Station. Ask students to discuss their observations and thoughts.
  • To bring the conversation closer to home, show images of water droplets on leaves or flowers. Ask the following question:
    • Do you know why water molecules tend to stick together and form spheres?
  • Explain that they are observing a type of intermolecular force and that they will be learning more about these types of forces in today's lesson.

Video Lesson

  • Write the key terms on the board.
  • Distribute pens and paper and ask students to fold their paper into fourths. Have them write headings for each quarter:
    • Background Information
    • Ion-dipole forces
    • Dipole-dipole forces
    • London/dispersion forces
  • Explain that for each section, students should write key terms, their definitions and examples (if able).
  • The first section in which they will take notes is 'Background Information.' They should listen for the following terms:
    • Covalent bonds
    • Ions
    • Intermolecular forces
    • Non-polar molecules
    • Polar molecules
    • Dipole
  • Begin the video Intermolecular Forces in Chemistry: Definition, Types & Examples. Pause at 0:44.
  • Allow students time to fill in their notes and check with a partner if they have any questions. Ask students to share the information they wrote down. Encourage the class to fill in their notes if they are missing something.
  • Continue the video. Inform students that they are still looking for the terms in the 'Background Information' section. Pause at 1:23.
  • Again, allow students time to fill in their notes and check with a partner. Have students share the information they found with the rest of the class, and encourage students to fill in their notes as needed.
  • Return to the video. Tell students that they are now looking for a definition and example for the second box, 'Ion-dipole forces.' Pause the video at 2:13.
  • Allow students time to complete their notes and check with a partner. Ask students to share their information with the class.
  • The next section they will be completing is 'Dipole-dipole forces.' They should listen for definitions and examples for the following terms:
    • Dipole-dipole forces
    • Hydrogen bonding.
  • Continue the video, this time pausing at 2:55. Give students a few moments to complete their notes and discuss their responses.
  • Finally, students will be completing the section, 'London/dispersion forces.' Watch the video to the end and allow students time to write notes and share their responses.
  • Check for understanding by projecting and completing the lesson quiz.

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