Specific Heat Lesson Plan

Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Calculating specific heat may seem dull, but this lesson plan is chalked full of activities to make learning about specific heat, and specific heat calculations entertaining and engaging.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define the term 'specific heat capacity' and explain what it means
  • Explain the difference between heat and temperature
  • Memorize and use the formula for specific heat capacity, and understand what it means
  • List some items with a high specific heat, and some items with a low specific heat


120 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined 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 9-10 texts and topics.


Analyze the structure of the relationships among concepts in a text, including relationships among key terms (e.g., force, friction, reaction force, energy).


Compare and contrast findings presented in a text to those from other sources (including their own experiments), noting when the findings support or contradict previous explanations or accounts.


This lesson is broken into sections. In addition to the materials listed in each section, students will need:

Demo Materials

  • Several latex balloons (9-inches or bigger)
  • Water
  • Candle/matches
  • Graduated Cylinder
  • Ring-stand
  • Timer

Heat vs. Temp Activity (per group)

  • 500 mL beaker
  • Hot plate
  • A large metal ball
  • A small metal ball
  • A rubber ball
    • If these balls are not available, improvise and use a large and small nut, or other piece of metal.
  • Thermometer
  • Tongs

Math Practice

  • Specific Heat practice problems cut into strips for half of the class.
    • Each math problem is on its own strip of paper.
  • Answers to each problem cut into strips for the other half of the class.
    • Each answer is on its own strip of paper.


  • Begin with the demo.
  • Add 25 mL of water into one of the balloons (do not let the students see you do this).
  • Set up the ring-stand.
  • Blow up the balloon (with the water inside of it) to about 10 inches in diameter, tie it, and place it on the ring-stand.
  • Set up the ring-stand so the candle's flame is about 1-inch from the bottom of the balloon.
  • Light the candle, and have a student time how long it takes the balloon to pop.
  • Now choose a volunteer to come up the front of the class and repeat (except don't add water this time). His balloon should pop quickly. Have another student try. Her balloon should also pop quickly.
  • Students should be entertained (and baffled). Finally, tell them you added water to your balloon (and repeat the first demo so they can see).
  • Ask them why the water prevented the balloon from popping. Take a moment to compile ideas on the board.
  • Introduce the term specific heat. Explain that water has a higher specific heat compared to the air.

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