What’s the Matter With Teaching Children About Matter? by: Amy Palmeri, Amanda Cole, Sarah DeLisle, Stacey Erickson, and Jennifer Janes

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When it comes to learning about solids, liquids, and gases, children often bring interesting yet inaccurate ideas to the topic. When children’s ideas conflict with the concepts we seek to teach, they interfere with learning. Therefore, we must consider ways to elicit children’s thinking and match instruction and learning experiences to the knowledge, skills, and ideas learners bring with them. Here the authors present strategies for tapping into children’s ideas about matter and using them to inform instructional planning.

  • Elementary
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Reviews (5)
  • on Thu Nov 30, 2017 3:20 AM

This article is very effective in giving teachers a hands-on approach to students to teaching the different states of matter. Having students be able to sort the substances into different categories based on the states of matter is engaging and effective way of teaching. Another essential part of this article is reflecting on students prior knowledge. Finding out what students already know and do not know is essential to planning a lesson. Creating pre-assessments allows teachers to understand what concepts are confusing for students, and which they need to focus on during their lessons. This article presents different ways to alter lessons when teaching about the different states of matter.

Taylor M  (Keene, NH)
Taylor M (Keene, NH)

  • on Wed Aug 24, 2011 4:35 PM

This article outlines an innovative, hands-on approach to teaching elementary level students about the different states of matter. Using a systemic approach, students begin with informal investigations of various substances and then build on links formed by their investigations to introduce formal vocabulary. Students sort the substances into categories based on their characteristics and learn how each substance fits into it's specific category. This article also identifies and provides methods to address several common student misconceptions. This is an excellent article for anyone teaching elementary level students about matter.

Maureen Stover  (Seaside, CA)
Maureen Stover (Seaside, CA)

  • on Sun Apr 03, 2011 9:25 PM

Detailed with specific classroom scenarios and interactions presented in this article on teaching young scientists the characteristics of matter. This article also addresses young learners' misunderstandings and how to navigate your instruction to teach through their strengths and level of understanding.

Alyce Dalzell  (Peyton, CO)
Alyce Dalzell (Peyton, CO)

  • on Sun May 25, 2014 3:56 PM

Teachers often have difficulty thinking of ideas to help them understand the prior knowledge their students have about a subject. In the article Whats the Matter with Teaching Children About Matter by Amy Palmeri, Amanda Cole, and Sarah DeLisle published in the Science and Children Journal in the December 2008 edition describes different techniques to figure out your students prior knowledge through the subject of matter. In the activity the authors had students participate they began by creating a hands-on activity pre-assessment that would grasp students’ interest. Having students participate in a pre-assessment helps the teacher figure out where to start on the subject they are about to teach. The authors then built on the students’ knowledge by having them make observations and learn new definitions of why the different objects given to them were in fact different. The next step the authors took was to have the students participate in an activity that used the materials they first observed and had them add solutions to them to physically and chemically change. At the end of the activity the authors had students observe how they materials changed and how their first observations were either correct or misconstrued. I believe assessing a child’s prior knowledge is key before teaching any subject. You can pre-asses children through having them try and perform the end result that you want them to accomplish in a fun and interesting way such as the authors depicted. The key point that I believe the authors are portraying is to always assess prior knowledge but to also always connect their prior knowledge to their mastered knowledge at the end of their activity. I would recommend this article to all teachers who want to grasp an understanding of how pre-assessment improves the overall end results that students have.

Leslie Pierce  (Jacksboro, TX)
Leslie Pierce (Jacksboro, TX)

  • on Fri Jan 11, 2013 12:26 PM

Finding out what students already know is essential to planning any unit a teacher develops or uses. There are written pre-assessments but sometimes asking students to classify substances helps the educator understand what they know. In this article students are asked to sort materials (matter) define them into groupings of solids, liquids and gases. The article presents ways to alter thinking about the states of matter based on what students ‘knew’ about them. Assessment involved presenting students will some of the same materials to see how their confusion had been lifted.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

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