Modeling Particles of Matter

Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District Lifetime Learning
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This is the first instructional sequence in a teacher's guide built with the purpose of helping students build a deeper understanding of the Structures and Properties of Matter standard.Students have the opportunity to engage with interactive simulations, create poetry, drawing scientific diagrams, read complex text, develop evidence based explanations and design a model . The instructional sequence described in the lesson uses the 5 E learning model and includes a variety of online simulations, polls and model drawings.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 5
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

5-PS1-1 Develop a model to describe that matter is made of particles too small to be seen.

Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence could include adding air to expand a basketball, compressing air in a syringe, dissolving sugar in water, and evaporating salt water.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the atomic-scale mechanism of evaporation and condensation or defining the unseen particles.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
There needs to be stronger connection between the "explain" section of the learning cycle and the performance expectation.The instructional sequence might include an additional, more explicit learning experience where students are designing/developing their own model of gases to demonstrate their understanding matter is made of particles, some too small to be seen. Consider having a student developing a model to answer the question.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Although the use of models was very explicit, the developing/designing of a model to meet this practice should be stronger. Before students are given the baggies , they might be asked to work with a partner and develop a collaborative model of their thinking before actually doing the investigations. Students could go back and revise their model after the investigation. Maybe as an assessment,ask students to think about all the models they have seen,identified and/or used about matter being made up of particles too small to be seen. Ask students to design/develop a model that they might use to explain this concept to a friend.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
In the lesson description, the author includes the following statement but I didn't feel it was made explicit. The Crosscutting Concept for this lesson is “Natural objects exist from the very small to the immensely large” so a focus will be placed on matter in the gaseous state and how it is detected.The Crosscutting Concept needs to be pointed out explicitly to students. For example, when students are using the interactive simulations of models, the teacher should point out the relationship between the small particles of matter and a rock ( or the size of the particles that make up a rock), that is the arrangement of the particles that explains the observable properties of the rock. The student should be able to use the cross-cutting concept as part of their explanation of the science concept. Student should be confident in their understanding that matter can be very large or very small, visible and invisible.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The disciplinary core ideas and the practices are addressed significantly in the lesson sequence. There is not a strong connection to the cross-cutting-concept although there are opportunities.

  • Instructional Supports: Background and prior knowledge is described as well as a section on student preconceptions.Provides supports to help students engage in the practices as needed and gradually adjusts supports over time so that students are increasingly responsible for making sense of phenomena and/or designing solutions to problems.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Contains a brief list of potential assessment strategies but none explicitly linked to instruction

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: Impressive use of quality Internet resources provides equitable access for the majority of the learning experiences.