Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-8, students use BrainPOP resources to explore the states of matter. Students will determine whether an example of matter is a solid, liquid, gas, or plasma through collaborative, real-world activities and gameplay.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Identify the states of matter.
  2. Determine whether an example of matter is a solid, liquid, gas, or plasma.


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Computers for students to use
  • LCD projector or interactive whiteboard
  • 4 sheets of chart paper
  • 4 markers


matter; solid; liquid; gas; plasma; atom; molecule; rigid; colloid; absolute zero


Set up the four pieces of chart paper as explained in step one of the lesson procedure below, and preview the Matter Sorter game. This is a quick game which requires students to determine the state of matter: various examples fall from the top of the screen and students use the arrow keys or directional buttons to guide the dropping objects into the buckets with the correct state of matter. The objects fall slowly in the first level of play and increase their pace in later levels. 5 errors are allowed per level, and students can tell immediately if their answers are correct. After each level is completed, the game outlines students' incorrect answers and explains the reasoning behind the correct answer.

This lesson can be used with younger students toward the end of the matter unit as a review; with older students, use this lesson on the first or second day of the unit to determine background knowledge and address misconceptions.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Write one of the states of matter on top of 4 pieces of chart paper, so that one paper has solids written on it, one has liquids, one gas, and one plasma. If you have a very large class, you may want to make two of each. Hang the chart paper in different places around the classroom. If you use two sets of charts, make sure each set is clustered somewhat close together so there will be no confusion.
  2. Divide students into 4 groups (or 8 groups, if you have two sets of charts) and have each group stand in front of one piece of chart paper. Explain that you will set a timer for a short time and each group should record examples of the matter state listed on the chart in front of them--as many examples as they can think of within the time frame. When you give a signal (such as a bell or chime), students should rotate clockwise to the next chart and repeat the activity without duplicating any existing answers. At the final signal, they should bring their current chart to you and return to their seats. You may want to make the initial time periods brief (30 seconds) and make the final time periods longer (60-90 seconds) since students will need to read what's already on the chart and come up with less obvious answers.
  3. After the rotation activity, hang the charts at the front of the room and invite discussion. Is there anything that clearly does not belong? Put question marks next to any items that students have disagreement over.
  4. Tell students that they will be exploring the states of matter through BrainPOP resources, and that afterward, they will have the opportunity to revisit the chart and their original responses.
  5. Show the States of Matter movie to the class. Talk with students about the tiny atoms and molecules that make up matter, and how changes in temperature and pressure cause these particles to gain or lose energy, which affects a material’s physical properties. Are students surprised to learn about additional states of matter that aren’t often discussed in science class, like plasmas and colloids? You may want to take another look at the plasma chart paper at this point if students were not previously familiar with that state of matter.
  6. Project the Matter Sorter game for the class to see. Explain the basic premise, and play a round together as a whole class review activity. Students may wish to point to the chart paper that lists the correct answer. You may want to pause the game periodically to talk about the reasoning behind students' answers.
  7. Allow students to play the game independently and have them record their scores. After a set amount of time (5-10 minutes should be sufficient), have students navigate to the Review Quiz and record their scores for the quiz, as well.
  8. Bring the class back to a whole group discussion. Were there any surprises in the game? Does the information they learned from the game and movie make them want to change anything listed on the charts? Make edits on the charts as needed. How do students know that a particular example needs to be re-classified?

Extension Activities:

Use the Matter Sorter game as a periodic review throughout your unit of study on matter. Give students hands-on opportunities to discover the states of matter through the suggested Experiment and/or other scientific investigations.

Be sure to check out the other Science Games featured in GameUp, and explore the website of the game developer, Space Science Institute, for more science education resources.