Ideas for Teaching The Properties of Matter in 5th Grade

ideas for teaching science cover 5th properties

Welcome to the first post in a series of upcoming posts on Ideas for Teaching Science. I am hoping to give each of my fellow teachers out there enough ideas and materials to save hours of planning time. Why scan Pinterest for hours when you can find a collection of my ideas right here in one spot? And, why reinvent the wheel, right? I already have a full year of lesson sets (lesson plans + printable materials) for 4th and 5th grade for both the TEKS and NGSS standards that thousands of teachers and districts across the country are already using. Grab the FREE year long scope and sequence here.

5th grade science ngss teks

My long-term plan is to also make these planning tools and complete lesson set bundles for grades K-3. For now, this blog series will focus mostly on the two grades I have ready to go. This post will cover the 5th grade, and 4th grade will be covered in a separate upcoming post.

I really want to help you find what you need to make your life a little, or maybe even a lot, simpler. I will start each post with the standards I cover in that lesson set of science. And then, I will share all of the ideas and resources I can think of. The title of each lesson set in this series may not be exactly what you call it at your school, so look for the standard(s) that you are hoping to cover in your lesson. I will cover each set of standards for each grade level. I will be working to add as many visuals for my ideas as possible, so this series may take me a year or so to complete. But, I am excited for the challenge! I hope you find what you need! And, if you ever need something that you can’t find, let me know!

Make sure to grab my FREE lesson planning pages before we go through the planning ideas! It will give you a place to plug ideas into lessons.


Now that you have your lesson plans ready to fill-in… Here we go!


The Properties of Matter

Physical science is always a blast! What a fun way to start off your school year and get students curious and engaged in science! It may be my favorite part of the year for experiments, but I really like Earth Science, too. I teach in Texas, so everything I do must be aligned to the TEKS to get my kids ready for that glorious standardized STAAR test at the end of 5th grade. I really want well-rounded, scientifically educated kids, so I also teach using the NGSS. I truly feel using both sets of standards bring the quality and depth of learning up big time. It works well for a Texas teacher because we have very similar standards to the NGSS. We just have a few extras in Life Science.

I break up the first standard(s) of the year into two lesson sets. Properties of Matter and the States of Matter. The States of Matter will be covered in the next post. Any materials you read about in this post that you want to use in your class, you can grab right here in this lesson set. Or, you can click on any pictures in this post to be taken to the lesson set.

Properties of Matter 5th


Standards Covered:


5(A) classify matter based on measurable, testable, and observable physical properties, including mass, magnetism, physical state (solid, liquid, and gas), relative density (sinking and floating using water as a reference point ), solubility in water, and the ability to conduct or insulate thermal energy or electric energy;


5-PS1-3. Make observations and measurements to identify materials based on their properties. 

The Lesson Intro – Engage, Excite, and Assess

I always start a lesson with an engagement piece. This is something that activates prior knowledge and interest in the topic. I usually try to find an activity that gets them moving, talking, playing, or interacting with something we are about to learn about.  I like to start the Properties of Matter off with a scavenger hunt. I make a list of things they can find around the room based on some physical properties. You can put out supplies such as magnets and beakers of water for them to test some properties, but I like to just see what they know without testing it. (They will test items in the lab stations later.) Each item to check off their list is not a specific object, but such as, “Something magnetic”. This scavenger hunt is fun for them, gets them moving and maybe talking to other students around the room. But, it also gives you a list of items they think match each physical characteristic- a super sneaky pre-assessment. I love sneaking assessments in where I can. The kids never even see it coming.

testing properties of matter with text and blur

I also use the intro part of my lesson to introduce our key terms using the Word Wall Chart. My Word Wall Chart is a guide for us to learn more about our science words as we learn more about the topic. Each day we add to this chart with a better definition of each word. I always pick three words from my informational text (more on this in the next section) to use in this chart. For the intro part of our lesson, we write the word in the first column. I ask students to think about what the words mean. We share ideas and come up with a definition as a class (based on their ideas and schema) to fill in the second column of the chart. This gives me a good idea of how well students understand these words going into the lesson. I can also pick up on misconceptions during this activity, too. I have a big chart on my board, and I also print student copies for them to fill in on their own before we share ideas or answers as a class. You can keep these in their interactive notebooks or have students turn them in to be checked. [Side note: You can also see in the picture below part of my Content Focus Wall. It is a great tool for your classroom. I use it to record and display what we are learning and as an exit slip system. Check it out FREE here (or click on the picture). Monday is the day that I have students fill in the terms to define and questions to answer on their exit slip. They will only write the words and questions. At the end of the week they will define words and answer questions based on their learning.]

science focus wall pic.png

As the last part of my introduction, I will introduce the project. For each lesson unit, I plan a project that will allow students to learn as they work on it as well as use their classroom learning to add to their project depth. This is something that I will allow time throughout the week for their brains to work creatively and hopefully grow their love of science.

The project for properties of matter is actually really fun and creative to get students excited about science and STEM. Students will work through my project guide to develop a new way of measuring volume. I love to see the creative alternatives kids come up with.

Properties of Matter Project

Teacher Input

For this portion of the lesson, I try to give them just enough information to build a good background knowledge for assimilating, or taking in and fully understanding, the information we will be learning throughout the lesson. I always let them know that we need to learn and research before we can make our exciting labs happen. This gives them a little purpose and motivation for reading.

Teacher Input: Informational Text with Key Terms and a Graphic Organizer

Here you will use a rich and engaging informational text that will explain a little more about the concept, while introducing the key terms they need to know for this lesson. Students will read the Properties of Matter informational text, and determine the meaning of each key term using context clues from the text. I always select three key terms that I want them to really learn. Students will use clues from their reading to write their own definitions for the words. This fits right into the second column of the Word Wall Chart. If you go by the one week lesson plan in my FREE Lesson Planning Kit, I complete the lesson intro on Monday and have students read the text. They will also complete the graphic organizer to process the information they learned from their reading. The graphic organizer can be something they turn in for you to assess comprehension or save for reference on homework and studying. On Tuesday, I have students do a Think-Pair-Share to think about what they read Monday. Partners can talk about what they remember from their reading yesterday to refresh their memories. Allow students to share what they discussed about their reading as a class. This is also a great time to get ideas from the class for a new definition to add to the Word Wall Chart. The third column is a place to write a definition based on context clues from their reading.

After refreshing their memories on the reading, I allow students to write a summary using the key terms from the text. This student output activity allows them another chance to build on their prior knowledge, strengthen their vocabulary by connecting the words to what they learned, and process the details from their reading. I chose Matter, Mass, and Volume for the key terms of this set of standards. These three words will be the foundation of their writing. You can get a good idea of how well they are understanding the topic so far through their writing. PLUS, it builds their literacy skills!

Properties of Matter literacy 5th

Teacher Input: Anchor Chart {and Interactive Science Notebook}

I LOVE a good anchor chart! Not only do I find it fun to draw and color, but I love to make meaningful posters to display around the room. Anchor charts make a great reference for students to look at while they are working. The more they see the information, the better they will remember it. Anchor charts are great for your visual learners because they are visual representations of the standard(s), and they are great for you kinesthetic learners because I have my students make their own copy of the anchor chart. Students play an active part in making the big anchor chart, and use their creative skills to work on their own. As a class, work to complete the anchor chart together. Allow student input and guide student suggestions to make sure the correct information is used. I always have a prepared anchor chart plan, but I make changes to include student ideas. Students can draw the anchor charts in their Interactive Science Notebook on the input page. Or, they can cut and glue the interactive anchor chart in their notebook. In each of my lesson sets, I provide a printable anchor chart to make your life easier and to save time on student work. They can fill in the printable anchor chart and not have to take as much time draw every part. And, most of the time the anchor charts can be colored for fun while looking at the visual representation of the standard(s). I even add an interactive component to make their anchor more fun and memorable. Interactive flaps may look fun, but they make a great quiz tool for review time. Students can quiz themselves and lift a flap to see if they knew it! Real learning made fun!! Take a look at the printable student anchor chart from this lesson. Its interactive and can be so colorful.

properties 5th isn

To end the day Tuesday, students can fill in the diagram section of their Focus Wall exit slip. The diagram is going to be the anchor chart. Some diagrams throughout the year will be a collection of information like this, and others will be more of actual diagrams such as cycles or processes.

Student Experience

This is the FUN part! Here you will find a meaningful, hands-on activity to help students
experience the concept first hand in a real way. Labs, games, stations, scavenger hunts, and passport activities are all great ideas for the experience portion. For the properties of matter experience, I set up a variety of stations with tools that help them observe properties of the items in their basket. Each group will carry this little basket from station to station and test each item. For example, one station is a triple beam balance and beaker for students to observe the mass or volume of each item in their basket. For my students/classes that are ready for an extra challenge, I have students look for the item that has the trickiest mass or volume. We tend to think bigger size equates to bigger mass, but that’s not always the case. I give students a chart to guide them through the challenge. I typically do the Student Experience part on the Wednesday of my lesson week. This may fall on a different day if the two-week plan works best for your class.

Properties of Matter lab 5th

testing properties of matter with text and blur

Critical Thinking and Creative Output

Now that students have everything they need to fully understand the concept, they need a creative and critical thinking output to process all of it. Here you will give them something creative to do on the student output page of their interactive notebook. Then, they will need to think critically about this concept by analyzing some data. Complete the processing portion by allowing them to create the project and learn/experience more through it. I usually take Thursday and Friday to work through this portion of the lesson. This is a great place to add to the last two columns of the Word Wall Chart. Look up the real definition of the words with the class and draw an image to represent each word.

Creative Output: Interactive Science Notebook

For the properties of matter, I made this a simple read-and-draw activity. Students will read the clues for each mystery object and use their knowledge to draw what they think is being described. It is always fun to see how those 5th grade minds work and see what they come up with. Here is the notebook image again, but this time you can look at the output side (left side). I do not take this for a grade. I just want to see if they seem to grasp the concept. Does their answer make sense based on what we have learned? If not, I will sit and let them tell me more about what they drew. In our mini-conference, I can better understand their misconceptions or missing knowledge, and decide how I need to help them catch up through one-on-one instruction.

properties 5th isn

Creative Output: The Project

This is the part of the lesson where students have covered all the bases and will complete their project. They should have worked on it some already through the week. I don’t always have them physically create their project. Due to lack of time or materials, I may just have them work through all the design of it. If its a design, I let students share their ideas as a class. If it ends up being a physical creation, I let students present their creations to the class. You can also use this project as an extension for students who need more of a challenge. I will often use the creation of the physical representation as a G/T project.

Properties of Matter Project

Critical Thinking: Analyzing Data

For our analyzing data part of the lesson, I try to make it similar to something they might see on their standardized test. I will make it more thinking than just one question, but it will be comparable to the rigor and style of a test question. This is also more open ended than a multiple choice test question. I want an answer that makes their brain work to use everything we have learned, but I also want a thorough explanation of their thinking. For the properties of matter, I give them a collection of images that show how a crayon would look if tested in situations similar to our lab stations. They will use those images to describe and classify that object based on the properties of matter. You can see the analyzing data page on the left of the picture below.

Properties of Matter thinking 5th

Formative Assessment

This is the ONE part of our lesson that I take a grade on. (Grading will vary from school to school, but the schools where I have taught take about one science formative assessment grade per week plus a summative unit test grade every two or three weeks.) The formative assessment comes after all learning has been done, and I have had a chance to assess along the way through observing student work and responses. I would have already been able to have mini-conferences to catch any students up who were falling behind. I always use a CER activity for this assessment. I want to see students make a claim about what they have learned, support that claim with evidence, and explain their thinking. This activity really builds their thinking, processing, and written communication skills. I will have a very good idea of what they have learned through this writing. I like to provide a question to get them started, but you can leave it completely open for any students at that ability level. The question I provide is usually a guiding question from the standard(s) we covered. They will answer that question by making a statement. They will use evidence from the information they learned throughout the lesson, and explain how their learning supports their statement. An activity like this needs to be presented to students throughout the first few lessons using a gradual release of responsibility. For the first lesson, walk them through the activity with teacher modeling and thinking out loud. You can make the statement for them at first and let them support it and explain it. You may need to work in small groups with students to help them learn how to think and write in great depth and detail. As they grasp the concept over time, allow them to do more of it on their own.


Science Starters

I use science starters to get the class ready for the lesson. Being departmentalized, this is something students know to walk in and get started on. They answer one question each day that helps them think about the standard and how it applies to real life. Some questions will help activate prior knowledge, and others will just work to get their brains thinking. Science Starters are great for behavior in the classroom because they know what is expected of them from the moment they walk in the door. I include a week of science starters in each Complete Lesson Set. You can also find a year of science starters here.



Vocabulary is important in all subjects, but plays such a big role in a subject like science. Each science word is a key to understanding the concept. I include vocabulary practice pages, vocabulary flash cards, and word wall charts in each Complete Lesson Set that I make. You can also grab my Big Bundle Vocabulary Tool Kit which has over 50 printable activities for learning and practicing vocabulary in an subject area.


Science Says

My students have always loved this game! First of all, it gets them out of their chair and moving. It also makes a great brain break activity. BUT, the biggest reason I love this game so much is because of how much I have seen it help my students remember information for their tests. I have seen students using their Science Says movements while answering questions on their STAAR test. Do you know how happy that made my teacher heart?!?! We play this game during any down time and before each unit test. I teach them moves that resemble science words and then we play it like Simon Says.  I have a Science Says Kit coming soon due to popular request!! Until then, here is a few words and movements to get you started.


Focus Wall

The Content Focus Wall board is a great way to make your classroom learning more interactive and purposeful. It helps students know the learning goals from the beginning and guides them through acquiring the knowledge to define key words and answer the guiding questions. The exit slip will have categories for students to fill in on their sheet each day when they walk in. What makes this interactive is that the students will keep it on hand throughout the class time and look for the answers for the Content Focus Wall. You can set this board up for each content you teach! I like to use this over the course of the week and have students hand it in on Friday. Here is an example of what a Science Focus Wall might look like.

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Diagram Quick Draws

Science Diagrams are incredibly important for students to see often and know well. I use them to teach, review, and as a test taking strategy.

-Note-Taking Pages
These work great for a fill-in-the-blank note taking page for learning or reviewing concepts.

-Test Prep
Having students practice filling in these diagrams will work wonders for helping build their memory of each concept. This can be build skills for a test brain dump or for using as a supplemental aid on a test.

-Test Prep Game – Science Diagram Quick Draw
Give each student a dry erase board and call out a diagram. They can show you their diagrams when time is up and demonstrate how much of this concept diagram they can remember. This helps practice for a brain dump or showing thinking on a Science test. Modify this for any students using supplemental aids on testing by giving them a folder of these diagrams to fill in rather than completely draw from memory. Laminate these for repeated use with dry erase markers.

-Science Focus Wall
Use these diagrams in place of anchor charts for the diagram section of your Science Focus Wall.

Science Diagrams and Supplemental Aids.png

Unit Tests (after a selection of lessons are completed)

I have a collection of unit tests for both 4th grade and 5th grade TEKS that are written to mimic the style and rigor of the 5th grade Science STAAR test. Each test covers a selection of similar standards (about three lesson sets). The tests are designed with plenty of space for thinking, note taking, drawing diagrams, and making corrections after the test is graded. I use unit tests as an assessment, and also as another opportunity for learning. I go back over tests after I have taken a grade and work through (think aloud) each test question with my class so they can better understand the content and give an example of how to work through test questions. I want to build experts in both the content and test familiarity, so when they get to that big test at the end of 5th grade they are comfortable and confident. I do everything I can to set my students up for success. The image below shows how my unit tests are setup. I provide an answer key for quick grading as well as a copy of the test with answers and explanations. The test in this image is the 4th grade Structures and Functions Unit Test.

structure function unit test 4th thumb1

And, that concludes the first post in this series. I would LOVE to hear your feedback, questions, or comments on this post. If there is something else you were hoping to see in this type of post, let me know so I can make sure to add it!!

Hope this helps make your planning life easier and add free time or me-time to your life!!


Best Wishes,


Elementary Ali

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