Everything you see or touch is made of matter! That means there are lots of simple, hands-on activities you can use to make your matter lesson plans engaging for upper elementary students.

All of the activities described in this blog post are related to the upper elementary Virginia science SOL related to matter. Concepts covered include:

  • matter is composed of atoms
  • substances can be mixed together without changes to their physical properties
  • energy has an effect on the phases of matter

All of the science experiments listed in this blog post are included in my Matter Lesson Plans. The lesson plans include detailed instructions for teaching each lesson, experiments, worksheets, digital activities, assessments, and word wall cards. You can find these Matter Lesson Plans HERE.

Fun States of Matter Experiments

By upper elementary, students should be familiar with the states of matter (solids, liquids, and gases). But, it is still a good idea to begin your matter lesson plans with a fun review activity to ensure all students are starting on the same page.

One of my favorite science experiments of the whole school year is a STEAM states of matter experiment that has students create paint bombs.  For this experiment, you will need the following materials:

  • snack-sized Ziploc bags
  • baking soda
  • vinegar
  • tempera powder paint
  • large sheet of bulletin board paper

Teacher Tip: If you’re on a tight budget, you can replace the tempera powder paint by adding many drops of food coloring (preferably a dark color) to your vinegar. The colors will not be as bright on the paper but it still allows students to grasp the concept in a fun way.

To create the paint bomb, put a few scoops of tempera powder paint in a bag with some vinegar. Quickly, seal the bag and shake to mix the powder and the vinegar. Set the bag on a piece of bulletin board paper and wait for it to explode.

This “explosively” fun experiment is always a huge hit with students! They love getting messy and creating art as they explore the states of matter.

Matter and Atoms Activity

As students experiment with the states of matter and discuss their observations, it is a good time to remind students that matter is composed of atoms by creating a simple model.

For one of my matter lesson plans, I like to have students use Cheerios to model the atoms for each state of matter. This simple activity is an easy way to help them understand the spacing between atoms for each state.


Describing Matter Centers

Getting students to discuss and describe the states of matter is another easy way to help them understand that matter is composed of atoms.

An easy, hands-on way to get students talking about and describing matter is with simple centers. I like to fill Ziploc bags with different types of matter such as water, blocks, gel, air, etc. and sit each bag at a different center. Students rotate through the centers and examine each sealed bag. As students do this, they should consider questions such as:

  • Does the object assume the shape of the container?
  • Does the object move easily within the bag?
  • Is the object compressible?

As students answer questions such as these, encourage them to relate their observations to the object’s atoms.


Matter, Temperature, and Mass Experiments

As students learn about matter in upper elementary, they begin making connections between mass and matter. There are many simple experiments you can use in your matter lesson plans to help students see that regardless of the change that occurs when heating or cooling, the total mass of matter is unchanged.

For an effective and cheap experiment to use with this science SOL, you will need the following materials:

  • ice
  • cup
  • scale

This experiment is simple but it does take some time. To start, put a few ice cubes in a cup. Weigh the cup of ice on the scale. Give the ice time to melt. Then, weigh the cup again with the melted ice.

This experiment is included in THIS unit.

Teacher Tip: If you’re short on time, place the cup in the sun or use a blow dryer to help the ice melt faster.

Matter Review Games and Activities

Every science unit should end with fun review games to help students practice what they have learned. I have listed the review activities I use with my matter lesson plans below.

Jeopardy Game

Students love using my Matter Jeopardy Game at the end of the unit and before Virginia SOL testing. You can have students play independently or in teams.

The Jeopardy game features five categories, totaling 25 questions. The presentation is coded so that students can easily navigate between the category board, questions, and answers. They can also type points into a scoreboard, even when in presentation mode. My Matter Jeopardy Game comes with two versions—one for PowerPoint and one for Google Slides.

The following video is a short tutorial that shows how my science Jeopardy games work.

Escape Room

Escape rooms are one of the best ways to review at the end of any unit. Students have so much fun with my science escape rooms that they often forget that they are in school learning.

In my Matt Escape Room, students find themselves trapped! The only way to escape is for students to successfully complete six challenges that require them to use critical thinking skills as they review concepts related to matter and mixtures.


Activities included in this classroom escape room:

  • matching science terms to their correct definitions
  • identifying true statements about matter
  • solving math problems to create a code
  • identifying examples of mixtures and solutions
  • reading a passage and decoding information about what happens when heat or cold is applied to matter
  • decoding information about matter

Escape rooms are a fun way to get students up and moving. They are also an easy way to integrate math and ELA skills into your science instruction. You can learn more about this Matter Escape Room HERE.

Task Cards

Task cards have been a staple in my classroom for more than 10 years. These low-prep activities get students up and moving as they analyze questions modeled after questions on the SOL test.

Even though I use task cards frequently, students rarely get bored with them. That is because there are so many games you can play with task cards. You can find some of my favorite task card activities in THIS BLOG POST.

These Matter Task Cards can be found HERE.

Matter Test Prep

After you have finished playing review games at the conclusion of your matter lessons, remember to send home a study guide so that students can continue reviewing on their own.

My Matter Study Guide resource defines terms, provides visual aids, and explains important concepts related to the matter SOL. It also comes with two pages of review questions.


Often, I hear parents don’t help their students study at home because they don’t understand the science concepts. My study guide breaks the standard down into small, easy-to-understand pieces and provides a list of comprehension questions with answers that parents can ask.


Your matter lesson plans do not have to be complicated because matter is all around us! As students explore matter in the world around them through the experiments and games in this blog post, they will have fun and gain a better understanding of their surroundings.

Looking for more about the experiments or games referenced in this blog post? You can find more information in the following resources:

Now, let’s go make your matter lesson plans amazing!

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