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Classifying Solids: Matter

Grades: 4
Author: Ken Kingston, Tracy Schmitz, Francesca Niekamp, AGPA Staff
Source: This lesson was inspired by information given me by Debbie Goodwin, material science instructor and Doug Rummel, 8th grade science teacher at St. Mark's School of Texas.


Students make observations of solids and classify the items into groups based on their properties. Students are introduced to the three states of matter.


What should students know as a result of this lesson?

  • Students will know that matter exists in different states
  • Students will know that different solids have different properties, for example, polymers differ from metals and ceramics

What should the students be able to do as a result of this lesson?

  • Students will be able to identify properties of different solids
  • Students will be able to classify different solids as polymers, metals, ceramics


  • "Goody Bags" that include an assortment of objects made of polymers (plastic, rubber, films), metal, and ceramics (pottery, glass); you may include non-solid items
  • Include an ice cube in a sealed plastic bag



  • Introduce the goody bags to the students without opening the bags.
  • Have the students work in groups of four students to one bag.
  • Have the students make observations and predict what items are in the bag.

Assessment: Monitor that the students are keeping the bags closed while making observations and predictions about the items in the bag.


  • Students open the bag to reveal the contents of the bag.
  • Have the students sort the items into groups according to the properties that they observe.
  • Have the students create data tables (the headings should be the properties that the students identified in order to group the materials) and list the materials identified to be in each group.

Assessment: Monitor the students as they work. Check that they are recording the necessary information on their data tables.


  • As a class, students report their observations and their reason for the groups chosen.
  • Discuss properties of solids, as a state of matter.
  • Discuss that there are different classes of materials (polymers, ceramics, metals, composites); see content knowledge.

Assessment: Have a list of materials and as a class decide whether or not the materials are solids.


  • Have students list other ways to group the items.
  • Have students give examples of situations in which you might need to put things into groups.
  • Discuss the ice cube, which should melt during the exploration. Use the melted ice (now in the liquid state) as a lead into a discussion of the other states of matter.

Assessment: Have a list of materials and have each student categorize as solids or liquids when the item is at room temperature.



Best Teaching Practices

  • Hands-on/Minds-on Learning

Alignment with Standards

NGSS Standards:

  • 5-PS1-3 Make observations and measurements to identify materials based on their properties.

Common Core Standards:

  • SL.4.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

National Standards:

  • Physical Science Grades K-4

Ohio Standards:

  • Grades 3-5: Physical Science Benchmark B

Content Knowledge

Basic knowledge on the states of matter is necessary. For images and a description of the 3 states of matter see: and

For basic information on the classes of materials, see:


Do not place sharp objects into the bag.
General science classroom safety should be followed.


Different classes of materials have different properties. Students need to understand the properties of materials to determine the correct material to use for an application.


Assessments are given at each stage of the learning cycle.

Other Considerations

Grouping Suggestions: Group 4 students to a goody bag of materials.

Pacing/Suggested Time: This lesson should take two 45 minute class periods.

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