Year 4: States of Matter
This list consists of lesson plans, activities and video clips to support the teaching of states of matter in Year Four. It contains tips on using the resources, suggestions for further use and background subject knowledge. Possible misconceptions are highlighted so that teachers may plan lessons to facilitate correct conceptual understanding. Designed to support the new curriculum programme of study it aims to cover many of the requirements for knowledge and understanding and working scientifically. The statutory requirements are that children are taught to:
• compare and group materials together, according to whether they are solids, liquids or gases
• observe that some materials change state when they are heated or cooled, and measure or research the temperature at which this happens in degrees Celsius (°C)
• identify the part played by evaporation and condensation in the water cycle and associate the rate of evaporation with temperature.
Visit the primary science webpage to access all lists.
Links and Resources
This collection of activity ideas is a great place to start when planning this topic. The teachers notes are excellent for teachers starting out on their careers or for more experienced teachers wishing to extend their subject knowledge.
The idea of having three identical balloons filled with ice, water and air is a great way of observing water as a solid, liquid and gas. This would lead into to a discussion about the properties of each state.
When grouping materials into solids, liquids and gases it is a good idea to have items which are more difficult to place- e.g. toothpaste, jelly and foam. These items will promote discussion and really get children thinking about the properties of materials.
When comparing and grouping materials include some materials such as a sand, flour, sugar which will provoke discussion. They may be harder to place as they behave like a liquid but are in fact very small pieces of a solid. Try including a sponge and see were children place it. It is a solid with air trapped inside its many holes.
This colourful comic, which children will love, is an inventive way of introducing an investigation on gases.
Carbon dioxide is a commonly known gas which is used in the production of fizzy drinks. As children will most likely have tried fizzy drinks it is a great experiement which will excite them to understand more about the properties of gases.
Ask children to observe what happens when a sweet is dropped into a fizzy drink. The resulting explosion may be explained as follows: the sweet helps the gas form more bubbles in the drink as the sweet sinks to the bottom of the container so the gas bubbles must rise through the liquid. If there is enough gas trying to escape, it forces some of the liquid (the drink) out of the bottle.
Sand, sugar and flour are examples of materials which children may find difficult to place. This is because they pour like a liqiud and will often take the shape of a container. This short video is a really effective way of showing children that some solids are composed of tiny pieces which have been broken off or ground from a larger solid.
This activity could be carried out in class or used as a demonstration. Ask children to list the properties of the biscuit before and after it has been bashed.
Evaporation and condensation are difficult concepts for children. Many will think that water in puddles disappears rather than that the water has evaporated to form a vapour. This resource contains extensive background knowledge for teachers including key vocabulary.
The investigation on page 4 looks at different liquids evaporating. Children will be able to smell the vinegar and lemon juice as the liquid evaporates and the vapour travels around the room. Though invisible it can be smelt and therefore will help children to understand that evaporation has taken place.
It is also a good way of showing that boiling doesn't need to occur for evaporation to take place. In any liquid some molecules will leave the surface and evaporate into the air.
Children often talk about liquids as being water and don't see that water is just one example of a liquid. This video demonstrates a good way of showing children that there are liquids other than water and what happens to them when they are cooled.
Try making observations of the different frozen liquids and predict what liquids they once were. Children may suggest other liquids they would like to freeze and observe the the resulting ices.
This series of short clips may be used as a starter to introduce children to the properties of solids, liquids and gases.
Melting Moments which begins at 8:41 looks what happens to ice when it is heated.
Rainy days from 9:33 discusses the water cycle and the part played by evaporation and condensation.
This short clip helps children see that chocolate changes from a solid to a liquid when heated and back to a solid when cooled. Children will love seeing how chocolates are made and how the science of changing state has applications in the real world. Making crispy cakes or even chocolates if you are more adventurous is a great activity, which children will enjoy whilst helping them learn more about changing state.
The concept of a gas is difficult for young children and one which may take time to develop. Physically representing gas molecules may help them to understand the properties of gases. It can also help them develop an understanding of changing state.
Solid ice which is composed of closely packed molecules is heated and melts to form a liquid in which molecules move around more freely. The liquid water is then heated to boiling point and some molecules change to a gas and float off around the classroom.
This is a fun activity for all children, which could be used as a starter or a plenary with either the whole class or with smaller groups. Children could explain what is happening as they role-play which would help reinforce their learning.
This resource provides a set of videos and a practical investigation aimed at supporting experimental science in the classroom and relating it to real world experiences. In the first video Professor Brian Cox joins a teacher to find out how to set up and run an investigation to find out the time it takes for different types of chocolate to melt. In the next video he then joins the class carrying out their investigation. Further videos show Brian Cox visiting a chocolate factory and a factory which produces parts for jet engines to find out more about the melting of different materials and how this can be applied to real world contexts. A written resource guides teachers on how to run the investigation in class.