Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 5-8, students play Atom Touch, a simulation that invites learners to explore principles of thermodynamics and molecular dynamics. Specifically, they gain a hands-on understanding of how sodium and chloride atoms behave in the real world under various conditions that they get to control.    


Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Lesson Plan Next Generation Science Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Understand the structures and attributes of particles at the molecular level.
  2. Predict and model how atoms behave as materials change state.
  3. Experiment to learn how temperature and volume affect molecules and atoms
  4. Learn about the properties of atoms, molecules, and matter


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard


This lesson plan features a game called Atom Touch, developed by our partner, Field Day Lab. This simulation invites students to explore principles of thermo- and molecular dynamics in a hands-on, playful way.

Preview and play Atom Touch, to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. If students will be playing in small groups, review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

Read Atom Touch: SnapThought Prompts for more information and specific SnapThought prompts to provide students during game play

Assign Atom Touch to the whole class using the Assignment Builder.

Depending on your classroom routines and available technology, you may want to consider these grouping options:

  • 1:1 with students and devices
  • Two to three students sharing one device and swapping ideas and the device back and forth
  • Station model where small groups rotate through using the devices

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Prompt students to brainstorm what they know about atoms and molecules. Jot their ideas on the whiteboard. After everyone has had a chance to share, show the BrainPOP movie Atoms on the whiteboard as an introduction or a review
  2. After the movie, project the game Atom Touch on the whiteboard. Tell students that today they will experiment with this simulation, Atom Touch, to discover how atoms bond in different states of matter and how temperature and volume affect molecules and atoms. They’ll also learn about the forces that atoms put on each other.
  3. From the menu screen, click Activities. Suggest that they do the activities in order, starting with the Introduction that shows them how to use the tools in the simulation. If you’d like, you can complete the Introduction as a class and answer any questions student might have about how to play. Then review the titles of the different activities they will do.
  4. Now have students return to their devices and instruct them to open the Atom Touch assignment. Circulate as students play and help as needed. If students have individual logins through My BrainPOP, encourage them to use the SnapThought® tool to take snapshots and describe their thinking as they play.  For suggested prompts, see Atom Touch: SnapThought Prompts.  
  5. As students finish the activities, encourage them to play in the Sandbox (last activity) to experiment with what they’ve learned.
  6. Finally, bring the class together to discuss and review what they learned. Return to the original brainstorm and revise to delete incorrect information and add new knowledge. If students used SnapThought, encourage them to share their reflections.

Extension Activities:

If time allows, invite students to play other chemistry games in GameUp.