Volume of a Penny Lab – New!

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Problem: How can we use water displacement to calculate the volume of one penny?


  • Volume of a Penny Lab (PDF)
  • Graduated cylinders (25 mL, 50 mL, or 100 mL)
  • Cup or beaker of water, food coloring optional
  • Pennies – 100+ per group
  • Tub
  • Plastic Spoon – to pour water out of graduated cylinder and separate pennies

Screen Shot 2019-10-18 at 10.33.54 PM

This is a simple & fun lab to have students practice measuring and reading volume as well as use water displacement to determine the volume of  a penny – an irregularly shaped object.

Students will design their own series of 10 tests with the following criteria:

  • All pennies must be under water inside of the graduated cylinder.
  • The volume of water must not pass the 100 mL (or highest) increment.
  • All data is recorded carefully.

Students were able to carefully measure and determine that the volume of a penny was 0.35 mL – most students were very close with a range of 0.33 – 0.37 mL.


Physical and Chemical Changes Sorting Activity



  • Physical and Chemical Changes Sorting Worksheet & Cards (pdf)
    • Laminate and cut cards apart, place in zip-top bags
      • 1 set per 2-3 students
    • Answers for Physical Change are: cracking eggs, slicing bread, ice  melting, glass breaking, boiling water, fresh lemonade, mowing lawn (cutting the grass)
  • Optional – privacy screen made of one manila folder cut in half and stapled together

View my Properties of Matter resources for related lessons (page)

This is a fun partner activity that I use as part of my Chemistry unit to get students thinking about the differences between physical and chemical changes. Each pair of students is given a set of cards with images and descriptions of either a physical change or a chemical change. (see photo above)

Each pair goes through the cards and discusses/decides where the each card will be placed. Once they have categorized the cards, students call me over verify their work – I will either say “Yes, they are all in the correct category!” or “Not quite yet, try again.” I give a small clue each time I come over. For example, I will say something along the lines of “You have 2 in the incorrect column” or “You have too many in the Physical Change category, which ones should be moved to the Chemical Change category?” or “Two cards need to be flip/flopped to the other category, all the other cards have been placed correctly” or “All of the cards that are placed in the Chemical Change group belong there, but not all of them are there quite yet, what else can you move to that category?” – I won’t tell them the specifics of what needs to be changed. This forces the students to re-evaluate their choices and make changes as needed until all of their cards in the correct category.

Every few minutes, I will give the whole class a clue. This allows them to check their progress and verify one answer at a time. One card that many students have difficulty with is the boiling water card – and that is usually the first clue I will give out once I have had a chance to check every group’s progress. Each pair of students continues working together until all the cards are placed in the correct category. Once I’ve verified their placements, they add the answers to their notes and answer the questions for the activity and we discuss our results.

Students sorting physical & chemical change cards


Using Lego Bricks: Elements, Compounds, and Mixtures Activity

Exploring Elements, Compounds, and Mixtures using Legos
Exploring Elements, Compounds, and Mixtures using Legos

I use this activity to help students visualize how atoms are used as the building blocks of matter and how matter can be classified as elements, compounds, or mixtures.


  • 12 Legos – 3 different colors and sizes with 4 of each kind
    • Lego Bricks must be the same size for each color (see photo above)
    • stored in sandwich sized zip-top bags
    • 1 set per 2 students
  • colored pencils
    • I placed 3 crayons in each bag along with the Lego pieces
  • handout (pdf)

Background Information

  • Each Lego Brick represents one atom
  • Each colored Lego Brick represents one atom for each element
    • example: 4 blues = one element, 4 oranges = second element, 4 greens represent a third element
  • When Lego Bricks are snapped together, that represents a chemical bond and one compound
  • Lego Bricks that are not snapped together are not chemically bonded to each other
  • For mixtures, you can have combinations of single bricks (elements), bonded bricks (compounds), or a mixture of both elements & compounds

Solid, Liquid, & Gas – Triple Venn Diagram Activity

Solid, Liquid, & Gas- Phases & Changes Venn Diagram Sorting Activity (Public)

Updated Dec. 2018

I added a 16th term to the Venn Diagram and new handout to go with it.


  • Google Slides (Public) – this slide presentation will show the answers for the activity
  • Handouts: (PDF) Includes blank venn diagram, slips to cut apart, and answer key
  • Optional Videos:
  • Statements: Different ways to use the 16 statements, or facts, about Solids, Liquids, and Gases:
    • give each group 2-4 facts to discuss and place into the Venn Diagram
    • give each group all 16 facts to discuss, then ask each group to place one fact into the diagram
      • this is the versions I use, see below for details
    • give each student or pair of students only 1 fact
    • give every student all 16 facts and have them glue it into their Venn diagram
    • give every student all 16 facts and have them ‘dry fit’ the statements then handwrite them into their Venn diagrams (you can laminate and reuse the statements for each class) (I prefer to have the students write the facts into their Venn diagrams.)

How to use this version of the activity:

Whole class activity

  1. Discuss what we know about Solids, Liquids, and Gases.
  2. Give each student one of the 16 facts. They are not to share their facts with the class until it was their turn to present.
  3. They may or may not know the answer to their fact, and we discussed this first. I told them I would give them clues if they needed help and not to worry too  much about getting the answer ‘wrong’.
  4. After a minute or so to think about it, ask the person with Fact #1 to stand and read their fact to the class. The rest of class will think about the fact and where it might go into the Venn Diagram, but not share their answers.
  5. The person with Fact #1 will guess where the fact fit into the Venn Diagram. Once they give the correct answer, click on the Google Slide and the answer will pop up on the screen.
  6. Everyone will write fact #1 into their notes.
    • Optional:
      • Using a blue colored pen or pencil, the students will fill in the phrases related to the states of matter and their characteristics, such as definite shape or volume.
      • Using a red colored pen or pencil, they can write in the phase changes, such as evaporation. They will notice that all of the phase changes are placed where two states of matter overlap.
        • For example, evaporation is placed where liquids and gases overlap.
  7. Then ask the person with Fact #2 to read their fact to the class, and so on until all 15 facts are posted.
  8. We would discuss each fact and any questions they might have.
  9. If you have more than 16 students, you can have them work with a partner and guess together.

Cooperative Groups

  1. Instead of each student having only one fact, you can have the class work in cooperative groups and give one set of the 16 facts to a group of 4 students.
  2. The students will discuss/share their facts within their group and come to an agreement on where it should go.
  3. They will place the facts on top of the Venn Diagram where they think it is the best fit.
  4. Once each group has had a chance to discuss their facts, you can go over the answers as a class.
  5. Starting with #1, have the first group tell the class where they think it belongs in the Venn diagram and why.
  6. If their answer is correct, show the answer in the Venn diagram and have each student write that fact into their notes.
    • Optional: Using a blue colored pen or pencil, the students will fill in the phrases related to the states of matter and their characteristics, such as definite shape or volume.
    • Using a red colored pen or pencil, they can write in the phase changes, such as evaporation. They will notice that all of the phase changes are placed where two states of matter overlap.For example, evaporation is placed where liquids and gases overlap.
  7. If it in incorrect, go to the next group and have them share where they think it belongs.
  8. Ask the next group for fact #2, and repeat the steps above until all 16 facts have been placed into the Venn diagram and each group has had a chance to place a fact into the Venn Diagram.

Independent Seat Work, or as part of a Station/Center/Review

  1. You can also do this activity where each student will cut out all 16 facts and work independently to figure out where each fact would go in the Venn Diagram. They will then write in the facts as each answer is discussed.
  2. As a station/center activity/review, you can have a blank laminated Venn Diagram, a laminated answer key, and laminated facts. Students can guess where each fact goes into the diagram, then check their work with the answer key and write the answers into their worksheet

Older Version:

Phases of Matter Venn Diagram

This is an interactive/SmartBoard activity to show the relationship between the phases of matter and phase change.


Part 1 – Discussion and Categorizing: Students will work in collaborative groups to determine where each statement will go into the Venn diagram. In their notes, they will pencil in an ‘S’ for solid, ‘L’ for liquid, ‘SL’ if it goes between Solid/Liquid, etc… next to each statement on their list.

Part 2 – SMART Board: Each group will have a turn to make a guess to place one of the statements into the Venn diagram. If the group is correct, it stays in the Venn diagram and each student writes the statement into their Venn diagram handout and crosses it off the list. If the statement is incorrectly placed into the diagram, the statement is returned to the list outside of the diagram. The next group chooses a statement, and so on, until all of the statements have been placed correctly into the Venn diagram.

Using a blue colored pencil, the students will fill in the phrases related to the states of matter and their characteristics, such as definite shape or volume. Using a red colored pencil, they can write in the phase changes, such as evaporation. They will notice that all of the phase changes are placed where two states of matter overlap. For example, evaporation is placed where liquids and gases overlap.

For more lessons about phases of matter, please see my Properties of Matter page. Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MSScienceBlog

Metric System Notes – Foldable


This is one of my favorite foldables. The notes for the metric system are a basic introduction with a series of short class activities.
  • Brainstorming – with their lab group, students brainstorm all the different units we use to measure things, and classify each as length, volume, and mass. We then share and discuss our answers.
  • Estimation – students estimate the sizes of common objects in a classroom using their hands and feet as rulers. They use a ruler to measure their hand span, fingernail width, etc. Once they have those measurements (and I take the rulers away), they estimate the sizes of different items in the classroom. After each group has made their estimations, we find the actual measurements and see how we did. Which group had the best estimations?
  • Prefixes & Base Words – I introduce the base units for mass, volume and length: gram, Liter, and meter. We discuss the prefixes that can be added to the base units: kilo, centi, and milli. (I don’t really go into deci, deca, or hecto because they are not as commonly used.) Then I explain how you can mix and match the prefixes with the base units and the kids list all the combinations that are possible and we go over what each one means. We also practice writing and using the abbreviations. For example centi + meter = centimeter (cm) and its used to measure distance (length).

Mass, Volume, and Density Foldable


Above is a photo of a 4-door foldable for the three density related formulas: D= M/V, V= M/D, and M = VxD. The 4th door has step by step instructions on how to solve a word problem. Along with the formulas, inside the foldable are 3 practice problems, and a few notes about mass, volume, and density.

On the right side of the notebook are practice problems. Students have to determine which formula is needed, set up the problem, solve, and add the correct units. They can refer to their foldable for the formula and how to solve the problems. I have the students close the flaps for the known values. For example, if the problem states the Density and Volume values, they close those doors on the foldable leaving the Mass flap open, since it is the missing value. That is formula they will then use to set up the problem correctly and solve.

My main goal for this lesson is having the students choose the right formula, set up the formula by plugging in the known values (this is a step that the kids don’t feel the need to do/show as part of their work), and adding the correct units when done. Some students may have a little difficulty with multiplying or dividing decimals and rounding to the 100ths place, so I usually go over that before we begin by modeling a few problems with them.


  1. BrainPOP Movie: Measuring Matter
  2. BrainPOP – Graphic Organizer MVD Matrix
  3. Mass, Volume, Density Notes (pdf)
  4. BrainPOP Mass, Volume, Density Table
  5. Using Formulas: Mass, Volume, or Density? Practice Problems (pdf)