States of Matter Activities

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

States of matter are easy to see, but much harder to explain. Help your students understand the topic, while having fun at the same time, with these ideas for states of matter activities.

States of Matter Activities

Solids, liquids, and gases. They're all around us, and easy to see. What's not so easy to see is the arrangement of molecules that make them up. Understanding how the large-scale physical world is affected by things so tiny is a challenge for young students. Thankfully, there are many activities we can use to make it easier for them. Check out a few of these ideas for your classroom.

Human Modeling

The classic way to teach about solids, liquids, and gases is to use the students themselves as a model for the states of matter. We can have our students act out the properties of solids by standing close to each other, turning and vibrating. We can have our students act out the properties of liquids by sliding around one another while crouching towards the ground. Finally we can have our students act out the properties of gases by having them run around the classroom and bounce off the walls.

These models can be as accurate as we make them, and the experience will be something they remember, which hopefully means they also remember the properties of solids, liquids, and gases at the same time.

States of Matter Card Matching

Solids, liquids, and gases have many properties. The way the shapes and/or volumes change, the way the particles move, the consistency of the material, whether they feel hard or soft, whether they flow, whether they fill the container, whether the particles attract each other, and how much movement energy they have. That's a lot to learn.

To teach this, we can play a card matching game. Give each group of students an envelope full of various cards containing some of the properties described above, or others they need to know. The goal is for students to split the cards into solids, liquids, and gases. They can also put cards in between two categories - for example fluids that flow include both liquids and gases, and so a card like that would go in between liquids and gases. Students can complete the activity independently, or work with others in a group to be the first to successfully sort the cards.

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