TOT – Concept Attainment
November 6, 2007
Concept to be taught: Phases of Matter
Given class discussion exploring the critical attributes of matter, reevaluation of attributes and in
class assessment, the student will be able to define the critical attributes of solids, liquids and
gases and distinguish between them with a high degree of accuracy.
Explain Goals To Students:
1. Students will brainstorm ideas about solids, liquids and gases to determine their critical
2. Students will complete written assessment of knowledge differentiating between phases
General Set Up:
Prepare students to start thinking of the differences between solids, liquids and gases and how we
tell them apart. Indicate that we will brainstorm in a few minutes and to gather their thoughts.
Remind students of our Phase Tag game where we used our bodies to mimic the behavior of
molecules within solids, liquids and gases. As we portrayed solids we stood closely together and
didn’t move thereby showing that molecules within solids are tightly packed and maintain their
shape. As liquid molecules we still stayed close together and jiggled while maintaining contact
with each other indicating the movement of molecules of liquid. The students pretended they
were gas molecules moving in slow motion (with respectful consideration for other). The
students carefully walked in straight lines in the room until they bumped into another student,
wall or furniture and rebounded in the opposite direction. Students portrayed the action of gases
filling their space and moving quickly, though for us in slow motion. Remind student to keep
these ideas in mind as we explore the attributes differentiating solids from liquids and gases.
Phase 2: Input Examples and Non Examples:
Work with students to help them think critically about solids, liquids and gasses to create a
spreadsheet on the white board, ideas below. Provide examples and encourage students to
brainstorm ideas and guide with suggestions to increase student awareness of examples and non
examples of attributes. Label the chart with student responses; use random order. Critical
question: What are the properties of solids, liquids and gases which help to differentiate between
them? Continue brainstorming until definition and critical attributes are established.
Property Solid Liquid Gas
Can I pick it up X
Holds its own shape without a container X
molecules packed closely X
fixed position in space (does it stay where you put it?) X
molecules move within the volume of the container X
molecules move within the volume of an open container X
volume fixed by temperature and pressure X
no definite shape X
no definite volume X
free moving X X
low density X
low viscosity X
volume changes with temperature and pressure X
will diffuse X
Can I see it X X
Assumes the shape of its container X X
Temperature dependent X X X
If dropped would it disperse X X
Phase 3: Testing for Attainment
Provide examples from the spreadsheet below and ask students to come up with their own ideas
to challenge the critical attributes established. Write student responses on whiteboard while
checking for accuracy and understanding of concept attainment. Continue practicing until
students have full understanding of critical attributes.
Solid Liquid Gas
cornstarch and water mixture
Phase 4: Analysis of Thinking and Integration of learning
Question children about their techniques for qualifying the data to get them to think about their
What was your criteria for grouping?
What was going on in your head when we were brainstorming?
If you were teaching this to younger students, could you?
What helped you understand the non examples and examples?
Post Instructional Task:
Test for student learning of critical attributes as it applies to real life by giving each student a
baggie containing a mixture (1/8 cup water and ¼ cup cornstarch) which has characteristics of
both solid and liquids. Students must apply their newly attained concepts to critically examine
the mixture to determine the phase of matter.
TOT Concept Attainment Exam
Phases of Matter
Stir the mixture until smooth. Use the mixture to answer the following questions. **When test is
complete, throw this material in the garbage, NOT in a sink.
1. Does the material look like a solid or liquid (why)?
2. Poke your finger into the material. Does it behave like a solid or liquid (why)?
3. Take a spoonful of the material in your hand and roll it into a ball. Then place it on the
desk. How did it behave when you tried to roll it into a ball?
4. On the desk?
5. Pick it up again and hold it for a few minutes. Do you observe any changes that
demonstrate the presence of a gas?
6. Is this material a solid, liquid or gas? Define using its critical attributes.