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In the sixth grade, students begin to study the characteristics of matter.  While they are not asked to understand the role that subatomic particles like protons, neutrons and electrons play in the structure of matter, they are asked to understand that all matter is made up of atoms -- which are extremely small particles that are too small to be seen with eyes and/or microscopes. 


They are also expected to understand that atoms form the 100+ elements that combine in different ways to make all living and non-living things in the universe.  Finally, they are expected to understand that atoms are constantly moving -- and when they are heated or cooled, the speed of those molecules changes.  This change in speed results in phase changes -- moves from solids to liquids and liquids to gasses.




County Unit Overview

County Overview - Matter Unit.pdf


This document was created by the county as an overview of the content to be covered in the Matter unit that can be shared with parents.  It presents essential content in parent friendly language, it includes a list of required vocabulary, and it highlights where the content that our kids are expected to master stands in the sequence of learning for students.  It can be useful as a guide for teachers -- both of sixth grade science and those who wish to integrate sixth grade science content into their curricula.  



I Can Statements

Handout - Matter I Can Statements


This document includes a list of the objectives that students will be expected to master in their study of matter.  It can be used as a checklist by teachers to guide their instruction and as a tracking sheet for parents and students to monitor progress towards mastery.



Individual Teacher Planning Documents


Below are links to the individual planning documents being used by the teachers of our team to organize their content and to sequence their lessons for the matter unit.  Consider clicking on these files to learn more about how your peers are teaching this unit.


Bill Ferriter's Matter Unit Plans

Joyce Sugg's Matter Unit Plans





Key Vocabulary List

Handout - Matter Vocabulary Notes

Handout - Matter Vocabulary Review

Handout - Vocabulary Organization


These handouts can be used by students to practice the content-specific vocabulary for our Matter unit.  The first handout is nothing other than a set of two-column notes that include our matter vocabulary.  The second two handouts can be used to help students practice with the vocabulary words.  



Vocabulary Quick Checks

Quiz - Matter Vocab Version C

Quiz - Matter Vocab Version E


These handouts include quick vocabulary tests that can be given to students to assess their understanding of the key terms in our unit on Matter.  They are NOT required assessments, however.  Teachers can use them if they want for practice and/or for retests.  We will not look at shared data around these assessments though.



Matter Study Guide

Handout - Matter Study Guide


This handout contains a simple study guide -- created by Kate Kotik -- that students can use to study for their matter common assessment.  It also includes an activity that asks students to create and interpret a graph -- a lab skill that Kate focused on during the course of her work with the matter unit.  


Matter Study Guide.docx 

A modified version of the above study guide that condensed some pages and includes an enlarged graph area and additional questions. 



Potential Lessons


General Materials


Reading - Matter over Time

Reading - Matter over Time

Handout - Matter over Time TASK


This reading is from the Discovery Ed Techbook.  It describes the changing perceptions that scientists held about matter over time.  Can be used as an introduction to matter.  Have students brainstorm everything that they know about matter to start the unit.  Then, have them compare their own thinking to the thinking of other scientists over time.  The second handout is a reading guide that goes along with the Discovery Ed article.  It was created by Bill Ferriter and is designed to help students track their thinking while reading.  



Reading - The Quest for Cold

Reading - The Quest for Cold 


Another reading from the Discovery Ed Techbook.  It describes the work of one scientist who was committed to finding the point where molecules stop moving completely.  Could be a good reading while talking about the effect that adding and removing heat have on the movement of molecules.  


Reading - The Characteristic Properties of Matter

Reading - Characteristic Properties of Matter


A general overview of just what matter is from the Discovery Ed Techbook.  Details the characteristics that we use to define matter.  Can be used as a good general introduction to matter and the role that it plays in the world around us.  Can also be used as a good introduction to the reasons that we study chemical and physical properties of matter.


Reading - Chemical and Physical Properties of Matter

Reading - Chemical and Physical Properties of Matter


Another reading from the Discovery Ed Techbook.  It is useful because it introduces the basic chemical and physical properties of matter.  That is one of the key outcomes for our unit -- students are supposed to understand how chemical and physical properties are used by scientists to identify bits of matter.  




Solubility Materials


Lab - Solubility and Temperature

Overview - Solubility and Temperature Lab

Student Handout - Solubility and Temperature Lab


While solubility is not dependent on the amount of matter present, it IS dependent on the temperature of the solvent.  This lab -- which was found in the Discovery Ed Techbook -- introduces that concept to students.  The first handout details the steps of the lab.  It is a general overview for teachers.  The second handout can be used by students when working through the lab to record their predictions and their observations.  This is a simple lab that requires little in the way of materials outside of a solute, a solvent and a tool for heating and/or cooling the solvent.  



Solubility Project

Handout - Solubility Project

Handout - Solubility Project Grading Rubric


These handouts include materials for an inquiry based solubility lab that Kate Kotik used with her students.  It asks students to develop and test their own wonder questions about why materials dissolve.  Not only can it be useful for getting students to wrestle with the core concepts behind solubility, it can be useful for getting students to practice developing their own sets of procedures for experiments.  



Solubility Activities


Handout - Rating Solubility Conclusions

Teacher Packet - Solubility Activites


This collection of activities -- spotted by Kate Kotik on the American Chemical Society's website -- are fantastic starting points for the study of solubility.  They ask students to conduct quick mini-experiments with M+M candies, specifically looking at how the candy shell is dissolved when in water.  All of the activities can be completed with limited supplies and all come with detailed handouts that introduce solubility concepts in an approachable way.  The final file listed here -- titled Teacher Packet -- comes directly from the site and includes an overview of the kind of testing that students can do in order to experiment with solubility.  


Bill Ferriter will often have his students complete one or two of these activities and then write conclusions about their discoveries.  The handout included here is an activity that his students complete after writing their conclusions.  It asks students to rate three conclusions in order from most effective to least effective.  




Exploring Saturation Lab

Handout - Exploring Saturation


This mini-lab -- created by Kate Kotik -- gives students the chance to experiment with saturation.  They are asked to add increasingly larger amounts of solutes to a solvent to see what happens.  It is a simple lab to complete and will help students to recognize that there is a point where every solvent stops dissolving solutes.  




Solubility Notes and Handouts

Handout - Solubility Explanation

Handout - Solubility Worksheet

Handout - Solubility Definitions


The first handout listed here comes from the solubility experiment site listed above.  It gives a detailed explanation of how solubility works.  Students learn about the role that polarity plays in dissolving and then learn why water is such a good solvent.  The second two handouts -- which Kate Kotik found useful when working with her students -- introduce the definitions of important words connected to solubility.  Both can also be used with sub plans and/or to collect quick formative grades on student mastery of solubility concepts.  



Mass and Volume Materials



Mass and Volume Lab

Handout - Mass and Volume Lab


This activity -- which was developed by Jason Dapkevich -- can be used to introduce students to (1). the difference between mass and volume and (2). the proper use of graduated cylinders and triple beam balances.  It asks students to use these tools to calculate the volume of typical classroom supplies like paper clips.  



Play-Doh Density Lab

Handout - Play Doh Density Lab


This activity -- which was developed by Kate Kotik -- can be used to introduce students to the notion that the density of an object can be determined by first figuring out its mass and volume and then using the formula D=M/V.  It is also designed to give students the chance to determine whether or not density is a property that is affected by the amount of matter present.  



General Matter Materials


What's In Project

Student Packet - What's In It Project

Infographic - Abundance of Elements

Exemplar One - Student Project

Exemplar Two - Student Project

Handout - Elements Project Feedback


This activity -- which was developed by Kate Kotik -- asks students to study the elements that are in common, every-day household objects and then to compare those findings to the elements that are common in the human body.  The purpose of the activity is to introduce students to the concept that elements in combination make up everything in the universe.  While the activity asks students to bring in packaging from a common household product, this website can be used by students who forget to bring in a package to find ingredient lists for common household products, too. 


There are a number of additional materials in this student packet.  Some introduce kids to the composition of both the human body and earth's atmosphere.  It can be used as a comparison for students completing the What's In Project.  Others ask students to make comparisons between the kinds of elements found in products that we eat and products that we clean our bodies with.  You may not use all of the materials in this packet -- that would take too long.  Instead, choose the materials that you think would work the best for both you and your students.


You can also find an infographic linked above that shows the distribution of elements in the universe, the earth's atmosphere, the oceans and the human body.  It can also be used by students to make comparisons and to draw conclusions about the kinds of elements that are most commonly found in the universe.  Bill Ferriter has colored copies of this document laminated in his classroom.  See him if you want to borrow them.  


The final files are tools that you can use when reviewing student work samples with your classes.  The first two are exemplars of projects completed by students.  The first is an example of solid A level work.  The second is an example of work that goes above and beyond all expectations.  These exemplars can be used to show students what you are expecting them to produce.  The third lists the kinds of common mistakes that Bill Ferriter finds in the work turned in by his students.  It can be used by students when they are assessing their own work. 




Boiling Point Demonstration

Handout - Boiling Point Demonstration


This activity -- which was developed by Kate Kotik -- asks students to consider whether or not the boiling point of water is affected by the amount of water in a container.  It can be used as either a mini-lab or as a classroom demonstration.  It asks students to create both a table and a line graph showing how boiling point changes over time.  



Boiling/Melting Point Interactive Graphic



This interactive graphic from Harcourt can be used to introduce students to the idea that temperatures don't rise above the boiling point.  It is also useful for introducing students to the idea that temperatures will plateau at the melting point until all of a substance melts before rising again to the boiling point. 



Lab - Making Ice Cream



This activity -- which was developed by Kate Kotik -- is designed to introduce students to the notion that substances can change states.  In it, students make ice cream and observe the transition that milk undergoes from a liquid to a solid. 



Lab - What's Your Phase

Lab - WhatsYourPhase.docx


This lab -- created by Stephen Howe -- is designed to introduce students to the different phases of matter.  It asks students to make "flubber" using Borax.  What is neat about the activity is that can be used to introduce students to colloids -- substances that exist somewhere between solids and liquids.  



Viewing Guide - Bill Nye Video on Atoms and Molecules

Viewing Guide - Bill Nye on Atoms and Molecules


This viewing guide -- created by Bill Ferriter -- is designed to be used alongside the Bill Nye video on Atoms and Molecules in our school's library.  The video is a nice introduction to the differences between atoms and molecules, which is one of the key expected outcomes in our unit.  The activity could also make for good substitute teacher plans.  





Additional Resources



Density Overview



This weblink provides a nice overview of what density is and where the concept of measuring density comes from.  It can be used as a resource for students, parents and/or teachers who are interested in brushing up on their knowledge of density as a physical property of matter. 



Atoms Make Up Everything Image

Image - Atoms Make Up Everything


This is a funny image of a sign found in front of a gas station in rural West Virginia.  It says, "Don't Trust Atoms.  They Make Up Everything."  Bill Ferriter will often use this image as an extra credit assignment, asking students to figure out why it is funny -- and explaining the scientific truth in it.  







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