Students learn the states of matter in primary school science, so middle schoolers already know the basics. When middle school teachers are teaching the states of matter, our students have a good foundation from primary school but we need to expand on previous knowledge. Middle school science standards include phase changes and exploration of the states of matter including endothermic and exothermic reactions and the law of conservation of matter.
Resources for teaching the states of matter:
The slide show that I use for teaching the states of matter in middle school is an interactive Google Slide Show. I use interactive notes because students find it easier to drag and drop correct answers rather than copying down long explanations. It allows them to pay closer attention without missing information and has been a great benefit for my students during remote teaching days during the pandemic.
Hands on activities for teaching the states of matter:
A good Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) activity is to provide students an opportunity to determine if air is matter. Using what they know about the states of matter, students can conduct controlled experiments to determine if air has mass and volume. My CER for the states of matter has 5 hands on stations for students to travel through.
Everyone’s favorite hands on activity for the states of matter is the phase change lab in which students can make ice cream. Students spend a few minutes mixing their simple ingredients in a ziploc baggie, probably listening to me talk about freezing point depression. This one always makes it on to the end-of-year survey as my students’ favorite activity.
Resources for reviewing the states of matter in middle school:
Review phase changes with digital flash cards. Boom cards are commonly used in elementary school but less so in middle school. I still love them because they are self-directed and self-checking, and because kids still love them. My states of matter Boom card deck contains 26 cards and includes basic phases and phase changes.
My students still pixel art worksheets. They are engaging and fun, and I love them because they are self-checking. For the states of matter, I have a mittens pixel art worksheet.
Digital escape rooms became my favorite review activity during the COVID pandemic, just like physical escape rooms were my favorite pre-COVID. Digital escape rooms allow students to find clues and solve puzzles but in a completely digital way. The escape room I use when I’m teaching states of matter is a scenario in which students must find clues and solve puzzles about what appears to be a crime scene in their science lab.
Assessing the states of matter:
I use a self-grading Google form to assess the states of matter. While it’s important to allow students to write about what they understand, I include enough of that in my hands on activities that I can use a simpler multiple choice format for the final assessment.