Plastics Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

How many different types of plastic exist? This lesson plan will help you introduce students to the classification of plastics using a text lesson. A hands-on activity connects students with each type of plastic.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • list the classes of plastics
  • distinguish between thermoplastics and thermosets
  • discuss the different types of plastics and the meaning of their labels


45 to 60 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.


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 6-8 texts and topics.


Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.


  • Paper copies of the text lesson Plastic: Types & Uses
  • Photocopies of the worksheet from the associated text lesson
  • Permanent markers
  • Seven large cardboard boxes, each labeled with a number one through seven


  • Prior to beginning instruction, ask students to collect all plastic items they empty for a period of one week (e.g. shampoo bottles, water bottles, food containers, etc.). Students should rinse the containers out, gather them in a plastic bag and bring them to class.
  • Have students examine the plastic items in their bags.
    • How are the items similar?
    • How are they different?
  • Pass out the paper copies of the text lesson, one to each student.
  • Ask the class to read the introduction and 'Plastics' section of the text lesson.
    • How are plastics used?
    • How many classes of plastics are there?
    • How many types of plastics are commonly used?
  • Tell the students to read the 'Two Basic Classes' section of the text lesson.
    • What are thermoplastics?
    • What are thermosets?
    • How are thermoplastics and thermosets different?
  • Ask the students to read the '#1: Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE or PET)' subsection of the 'Plastic Number & Uses' section of the text lesson.
    • What does it mean when a piece of plastic is labeled with the number 1?
    • What are #1 plastics used for?
    • Why should #1 plastic be used only at temperatures below 140 degrees Fahrenheit?
  • Have the class read the '#2: High-density polyethylene (HDPE)' subsection of the text lesson.
    • What are #2 plastics made of?
    • How are they different from #1 plastics?
    • Why shouldn't use reuse #2 plastics?
  • Tell the students to read the '#3: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)' subsection of the text lesson.
    • What is PVC?
    • What types of things are #3 plastics used for?
  • Instruct the students to read the '#4: Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)' subsection of the text lesson.
    • What are #4 plastics typically used for?
  • Tell the students to read the '#5: Polypropylene (PP)' subsection of the text lesson.
    • How are polypropylene plastics used?
  • Tell the class to read the '#6: Polystyrene (PS)' subsection of the text lesson.
    • Why aren't polystyrene plastics conducive to recycling?
  • Have the students read the '#7: Other' subsection of the text lesson.
    • What types of plastics are labeled with #7?
    • Why are some #7 plastics dangerous?
  • Ask the class to read the remainder of the text lesson.
    • How can you tell if certain plastics are recyclable?
  • Distribute the worksheet to the class.
  • Have students work independently to complete the worksheet using what they learned about plastics from the text lesson.
  • When everyone has completed the worksheet, review each question and answer with the class as students follow along checking their work.

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