This is a two-week long lesson, designed to introduce 5th and 6th grade students to atoms, molecules, phases of matter, and the usefulness of understanding chemical properties. The goal is for students to end the lesson with a concrete understanding that atoms make up everything. This concept will be reinforced throughout the lesson through the construction of atomic and molecular models, as well as demos and hand-specimen examples. Students will complete models and record findings in individual journals throughout the lesson as a means of assessment.

  • Know that matter is made up of atoms which undergo infinite rearrangements.
  • Know that atoms are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons.
  • Understand that the number of protons specifies one element from another.
  • Understand how the Periodic Table is organized by trends in chemical properties.
  • Understand that living organisms and most materials are composed of just a few elements.
  • Understand how atoms form well-ordered molecular structures based on their properties as well as the common properties of salts and sugars.
  • Know properties of solids, liquids, and gases.
  • Understand that differences in chemical and physical properties of substances can be used to separate mixtures and identify compounds.
  • Gases are not matter. This will be addressed through visual demonstrations where gases can be “seen”, such as filling a balloon, and watching it change sizes in and out of liquid nitrogen. In addition students will draw the molecular arrangement of all three states of matter.
  • Particles are viewed as mini versions of the substance they comprise. This will be addressed as students draw and model atoms and molecules.
  • No differentiation is made between atoms and molecules. This will be addressed throughout the lesson as students draw and model atoms and molecules, and describe the differences in their journals.
  • Air and Oxygen are the same. The difference between Oxygen, air, CO2, and other gases will be demonstrated by using fire and balloons to show that they have different properties even when they look the same.
  • Elements only exist as one state of matter. A demo using LN2 will demonstrate that certain elements and molecules can easily become solid, as well as teach that a gas (nitrogen) can exist as a liquid at very low temperature.
  • Ice cannot change temperature. This misconception may be addressed using LN2 and a thermometer to compare the temperatures of various blocks of ice.
  • Day 1: Legos. This lab will begin with a brief discussion of atoms. After discussion, students will assemble and disassemble Lego objects and then assemble new ones using the same Legos. After this process they will discuss how Legos are similar to atoms.
  • Day 2: Atomic Models. Students will record the definition of protons, neutrons, and electrons in their lab notebooks. After this, students will follow along with the teacher, drawing a Hydrogen atom and then an Oxygen atom, and labeling the subatomic particles. Students will then be asked to draw a carbon atom on their own, and a group share-out will follow, as a means of assessment.
  • Day 3-5: Element Cubes. Students will make a cube based on one of the first 30 elements. The cubes’ six faces include:
    Side #1: Element symbol and name
    Side #2: Images
    Side #3: Physical & chemical properties of the element
    Side #4: Where it sits on the Periodic Table
    Side #5: Background history of the element
    Side #6: Uses of the element
    Students will then be grouped based on element family and asked to find similarities within their group. This will provide an introduction to trends seen on the Periodic Table.
  • Day 6: Gumdrop Molecules. Students will be introduced to ionic bonding and trends in charge on the Periodic Table. They will record the charge of each group on the Periodic Table. Students will then be assigned cations and anions and asked to form molecules a couple of times.
  • Day 7-8: Mineral Structure with Microscopes and Samples. Sugar crystals (started during the Element Cube Lesson) will be observed growing over a week. These crystals will be observed as they grow, and then examined under a microscope. Salt can also be observed. Crystal structures observed under the microscope will be compared with hand samples of minerals such as pyrite and quartz, as well as molecular gumdrop models.
  • Day 9-10: States of Matter LN2 Demo. This demo is designed to demonstrate that elements can exist as a solid, liquid, or gas. In addition it will reinforce the concept that elements have different properties because students will see that nitrogen exists as a liquid at a temperature that is much colder than solid water (ice). Various household items will be dropped in liquid nitrogen and changes in their properties will be observed and recorded in student journals. In addition, oxygen, helium, and CO2 will be used to show the different densities of gases and the different interactions they have with a candle flame.
  • PowerPoint presentations spanning one to three days are provided for each activity. In addition, a template for element cubes is provided as well as an element research worksheet, and a final assessment worksheet.
  • This is a 2-week set of lesson plans for 6th graders with little background in atomic theory. It is best taught in a series, but individual activities (1-3 classes each) can be adapted to part of a lesson about atoms.
  • Assessments will be in the form of drawings and information in science journals, recorded during each class, as well as completion of the atomic model, gumdrop model of a salt molecule, and element cube describing a particular element. In addition, a worksheet combining the concepts learned throughout the 2 weeks will be given to the students and evaluated as a means of assessment. The most important means of assessment throughout the lesson will be classroom discussions of each topic.
  • PowerPoint presentations provided are mostly as a convenient means to describe a lesson. Only orange sections are meant for use with students. Because these lessons are for fifth and sixth graders, it is best to use PowerPoint presentations largely for showing images, with a minimum of lecturing, and spend more time on class activities and group discussion.
  • This lesson does not include a final project or exam, but a few projects are made throughout the lesson series, including an atomic model, a gumdrop model of a salt molecule, and an element cube describing a particular element.



Lesson Specifics
  • Grade Level: 5 and 6
  • Time Frame: 2 weeks
  • California Science Standard G5 1B: "Matter is made up of atoms which undergo infinite rearrangements."
  • California Science Standard G5 1D: "The Periodic Table is organized by trends in chemical properties."
  • California Science Standard G5 1H: "Living organisms and most materials are composed of just a few elements."
  • California Science Standard G5 1F: "Molecules often occur in well-ordered arrays."
  • California Science Standard G5 1I: "Common properties of salts and sugars."
  • California Science Standard G5 1G: "Students know Properties of solids, liquids, and gases."
  • California Science Standard G5 1G: "Differences in chemical and physical properties of substances are used to separate mixtures and identify compounds."

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