Observing Properties of Matter

Author(s): Linda Akiyama and Ranyee Chiang

Lesson Overview

Grade level(s):

Elementary School (K-5), Grade 2, Grade 3


FOSS-Related, Physical Science


Properties of Matter

Big ideas(s):

Matter has properties that can be observed or measured

Vocabulary words:

Before lesson: matter

During lesson: property

What you need:

Overhead projector, overhead of data sheet, 20 magnifying glasses, one large clear bag of popped popcorn, one container of sand, and one container of gravel for each pair, data worksheets for all students






regular classroom

Time needed:

45 minutes

Author Name(s): 
Linda Akiyama and Ranyee Chiang

Students will observe two materials and compare their properties. They will use this information in a later lesson to help them predict whether an equal amount by weight of the two materials will take up the same amount of space (volume). This will lead to a discussion and activity about density.

Learning goals/objectives for students: 

Students will learn the meaning of the word "property" when used in science.

They will be able to identify properties of specific materials.

Students will develop prerequisite skills needed to identify if a new substance is formed when two substances are combined.

Getting ready: 

Supplementary Third Grade Matter  Kit or make up 10 containers of sand and ten containers of gravel and make an overhead copy of the data worksheet

Lesson Implementation / Outline


Today we are going to look very closely at two different materials to find out how they are alike and how they are different. Later, we' ll do a science experiment using these two materials, so we want to find out as much as we can about them.


1. Show materials - sand and gravel


2. Introduce the concept of a property of a material.

We're going to get more information about each material by using our senses – Who remembers the fives senses that people have?


3.Write down list of senses used to perceive properties

looking, touching, listening, tasting and smelling are the senses that people use to observe things.


4. Define the term "property"

Anything that we can observe about a material with our senses, or anything that we can measure, is called a property of that material. We'll be looking for these properties.


5. Practice observing properties of a material as whole group

Let's practice looking for properties by using a different material – popcorn!

(show a big clear bag of popcorn)


6. Display the Properties List

See – size, color, shape, if it smears, if it clumps, if the particles of the material are stacked closely or if they have space in between them,

Feel – smooth, rough, hard, bumpy, heavy, light, thick, runny, cold, hot

Hear – makes a sound when dropped on a table

Smell – sour, sweet, smells like ________

Taste – but not in this science investigation!-sour, sweet, bitter, salty


7. Ask questions about the bag of popcorn using examples from the list.


8.Call a student volunteer up to look at the bag of popcorn with a magnifying glass. What properties does she/he observe?


9. Give directions for observing the sand and gravel-

Tell students that it's their turn to investigate the properties of sand and gravel. Ask them to first observe individual pieces of gravel and of sand by putting a few pieces on a black piece of paper and then observe many pieces of gravel together and of sand together when they are in the containers.

10.  Hand out data sheet. Put on overhead of data sheet.

Look on your data sheet to see where to record the name of your substance. Now look at the column labeled Properties. That's where you can record any of these things.(point to chart). Write down your observations . You may also wish to draw pictures that show different observations.

11. Share results of observations. compare and contrast the properties of sand with the properties of gravel. Create a group data sheet on these two substances.

Checking for student understanding: 

Circulate among pairs and and question individuals about properties

Note oral responses to students reporting out

Assess writing and drawings on data sheet

Wrap-up / Closure: 

Share results of observations. Compare and contrast the properties of sand with the properties of gravel. Create a group data sheet on these two materials.

Extensions and Reflections

Extensions and connections: 

This lesson is written as the first of two lessons that supplement the FOSS Energy and Matter Kit. The second lesson is "Investigating the Relationship of Mass and Volume." Students will use their observations of the two sustances to make a prediction  for the testable question,"If I have two substances, gravel and sand, that weigh the same, will they also take up the same amount of space?" They will also be asked if any of the properties that they noted can explain the results that they got when testing the question.

Examples of Properties of a Substance.doc24 KB
Data Sheet for Mass and Volume of Substances Investigation.doc25.5 KB
NGSS Topics
Kindergarten through Grade 5: 
NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas
NGSS Performance Expectations
NGSS Performance Expectations: 
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: 

Standards - Grade 3

Physical Sciences: 
1. Energy and matter have multiple forms and can be changed from one form to another. As a basis for understanding this concept:
g. Students know that when two or more substances are combined, a new substance may be formed with properties that are different from those of the original materials.
Investigation and Experimentation: 
5. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
c. Use numerical data in describing and comparing objects, events, and measurements.
d. Predict the outcome of a simple investigation and compare the result with the prediction.
e. Collect data in an investigation and analyze those data to develop a logical conclusion.