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ACTIVITY in Physical Properties, Introduction, Matter, Chemical Properties. Last updated March 25, 2020.


In this activity, students will focus on the properties of matter and distinguish matter by their physical properties.

Grade Level

Elementary school


By the end of this activity, students should be able to

  • describe matter using appropriate examples of physical properties.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of

  • Physical properties
  • Chemical properties
  • Matter


Teacher Preparation: 30 minutes

Lesson: 1 hour


No safety precautions are needed for this activity.


  • 1 Cigar box/pencil box for each student,
  • Common classroom materials such as marker, pencil, eraser, cube, crayon, sand, gravel, etc. to place in each box.

Teacher Notes

  • Suggested introduction: Have students write down some descriptions of their partner on their student worksheet, without stating the student’s name (#1). Turn them in, then the teacher will read them and try to guess the student from the given description. Next, the teacher leads discussion: I’m thinking of an object in this room. Can you guess what it is? Give several descriptions to help the students identify the correct object. As students guess another student should write their guesses on the board in a column as “incorrect” or “correct.”
  • After identifying the correct object, propose the students with a guiding question. Guiding question: What are the properties of matter? Make a list of examples of physical properties of matter on a classroom board or chart.
  • Pass out boxes to each student and tell them not to open them yet. Their job is to describe their matter to their partner, and their partner will attempt to guess what it is based on descriptive physical properties. When the item has been guessed the students should switch roles.
  • After all the students have guessed their partner’s matter discuss if there were any properties that they may have forgotten on their initial class list.
  • Discuss properties that may have been overlooked (introduce chemical properties).
  • Assessment: Write a poem with illustrations to describe properties of matter.

Background Information

  • Physical Property: A physical property is one that is displayed without any change in composition. (It can be Intensive or Extensive)
  • Intensive Properties: A physical property that will be the same regardless of the amount of matter.
    • density: d=m/v
    • color: the pigment or shade
    • conductivity: electricity to flow through the substance
    • malleability: if a substance can be flattened
    • luster: how shiny the substance looks
  • Extensive Properties: A physical property that will change if the amount of matter changes.
    • mass: how much matter in the sample
    • volume: how much space the sample takes up
    • length: how long the sample is
  • Chemical Property: Any characteristic that gives a sample of matter the ability/inability to undergo a change that alters its composition. Example: Paper’s ability to burn.
  • Matter Video: Physical Science For Children All About Properties Of Matter: 20 minutes
  • Possible Differentiation, or brief suggestions for modifying the assessment for higher or lower levels:
    • Lower levels have them illustrate the properties.
    • Higher levels give those students 2-3 properties and have them go home and find 3 objects or more with those properties. Have those students switch the next day and see if their partner can come up with the properties.

For the Student



To learn how to describe matter by its physical properties.


Matter is everywhere!! You are matter and so is your paper and pencil. Even the air you breathe is matter. How do we distinguish between all the different matters? What makes each piece of matter unique?


  • 1 box for each student containing item of matter


  • Write the characteristics of your lab partner in the space below. Do not use his or her name. (Hand them into me when done).
  • Let me read your characteristics and see if the class can figure out who I’m talking about. How do your descriptions help you figure out your classmates?
  • Now I’m thinking about a piece of matter in the room. I will give you some characteristics and write your guess down.
  • Who was right? Why were they right?

Those characteristics are called “properties.”

In your mystery box there is a piece of matter. I want you to describe the properties of your matter to your partner without saying what matter you have. Do not open your box until you are told to do so.

  1. What properties(s) helped your partner to guess your piece of matter? Write the properties below:
  2. Now let’s group those properties as physical or chemical properties.
    1. What properties can you observe?
    2. What properties can you measure?
  3. In your own words, describe what a property of matter is: