Teacher's Corner



Matter is the name we give to all the stuff in our physical world. From stars to dust, from elephants to fleas, everything is made of the same building blocks. Although the scale of our universe ranges from the very large to the very small, all of it is matter.

All matter has properties that can be observed, defined and recorded. Matter occupies space, it has substance, and we can measure its weight.

Most matter around us exists in three states or phases; solids, liquids, and gases. The state of water can be changed by heating and cooling it. Each of the states of matter has distinguishing characteristics.

The basic building blocks of ordinary matter are very small particles called atoms. Atoms are too small to be seen with ordinary microscopes. There are about 100 different kinds of atoms. The smallest part of a substance is usually a molecule. A molecule is a group of atoms tightly bound together. Because there are so many ways to put atoms together, there are an almost unlimited number of the kinds of molecules and different kinds of pure substances. Substances that are made of only one kind of atom are called elements. These are organized in a Period Table of the Elements.

The properties of most substances around us, because they are mixtures, are very different from the properties of the substances that constitute the mixture. When matter interacts with other matter under ordinary circumstances, it changes in various ways; but it does not disappear nor is it created. The amount of matter (its mass) remains constant.

From Science Framework for California Public Schools Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve
Physical Science - Matter

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Classroom Use With Students

Most of the material explored in this activity will be new to students at Third Grade. They might have some knowledge of the states of matter - solids, liquids, and gases - but it is likely they will have little or no prior knowledge of the concepts covered in this activity. Therefore, before exposing the students to this activity, some classroom preparation should be done. The videos in the Print and Media Resources would be a good place to start. The CD's would also provide a good visual explanation of some of these concepts. In addition to help build science vocabulary, a science word wall and individual science vocabulary journals could be helpful. The glossary in this unit would be a resource for the development of this science vocabulary.

Students with learning disabilities and English languages learners will need additional assistance with the activities in the unit. Peer coaches, parent volunteers, or paraprofessionals could be used to make the experience more successful for these learners.

Links Used In This Unit
Additional Background Links for Matter
Media Resources

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The activities for this unit support the following California State Standards for Science.

Grade 3

Physical Science

1e: matter has three forms: solid, liquid, gas

1f: evaporation and melting are changes that occur when objects are heated

1g: when two or more substances are combined a new substance may be formed that can have properties that are different from those of the original materials

1h: all matter is made of small particles called atoms, too small to see with our eyes

1i: people once thought that earth, wind, fire, and water were the basic elements that made up all matter. Science experiments show that there are over 100 different types of atoms which are displayed on the Periodic Table of the Elements.

Investigation and Experimentation

5f: students collect data in an investigation and analyze them to develop a logical conclusion

The activities for this unit also support the California State Standards for Language Arts.

Grade 3

Reading Comprehension

2.1: use titles, table of contents, chapter headings, glossaries, and indexes to locate information in text

2.2: ask questions and support answers by connecting prior knowledge with the literal and inferential information found in text

2.3: demonstrate comprehension by identifying answers in text

2.4: recall major points in text, and make and modify predictions about forthcoming information

2.6: extract appropriate and significant information from text, including problems and solutions

2.7: follow simple multi-step written instructions

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The rubric for the student pages is found under How Did You Do. For teacher evaluation, below is a four point rubric that includes the research log and the final project.
Research Log
  • completed all parts of the log with accuracy
  • used correct vocabulary
  • work is organized and readable
  • completed all parts of the log with mostly accurate information
  • used mostly correct vocabulary
  • work is organized and readable
  • completed most parts of the log with mostly accurate information
  • used some correct vocabulary
  • work shows some organization and readability
  • incomplete research and very little accuracy
  • used little correct vocabulary
  • work is disorganized and has little readability
Final Project
  • completed all parts of the task
  • creative-goes beyond expected
  • organized
  • neatly completed
  • completed all parts of the task
  • creative-not as creative as a 4
  • organized
  • neatly completed
  • completed most of the task
  • little creativity
  • some organization
  • fairly neat work
  • task mostly incomplete
  • minimal or no creativity
  • minimal or no organization
  • sloppy work



Activity 1

Activity 2


Investigator's Log

Team Page

Show Your Stuff

How Did You Do

Teacher's Corner