The Three States of Matter for First Grade

By Susan Rickey

First graders can learn about the properties of the three states of matter through song, total physical response, center activities and demonstrations. Read on to learn more!

Learning the properties of matter in your first grade classroom involves exploring solids, liquids and gases. These three states of matter have different characteristics. Learning to identify these differing properties will help your students understand how each state appears in their world and responds to elements of nature.

Sing a Song

Introduce the students to the three states of matter by teaching them a song. To the tune of "Frere Jacques" you sing the first line and the students echo.

Solid, Liquid, Gas,

Solid, Liquid, Gas,

The three states of matter,

The three states of matter,

Everything is matter,

Everything is matter,



Sing the song repeatedly during the unit on the properties of matter. Have the girls sing the first lines and the boys echo. Change it up a variety of ways.

Introduce the Three States with Water

Upon the students arrival in the classroom, display in the front of the room a pitcher of water, a block of ice and a pot of boiling water with steam visible. Use a one-burner hot plate for the boiling water with caution in the classroom. For the ice example, two nights before you do the display, fill a latex glove up with water and freeze it. Peel the glove off and you have a frozen hand that will take some time to completely melt.

Hold up labels - solid, liquid and gas. Ask the students to decide which label goes with each item. Tape the labels to the white board or bulletin board behind your display. The water in the pitcher is liquid, ice hand is solid and the boiling pot of water is showing gas in the form of steam.

Beforehand write properties of each state of matter on sentence strips. If you have an interactive whiteboard, you can adapt this lesson to an interactive whiteboard lesson. Ask the students to help you place the properties under the correct state of matter. Use statements to identify each.

Takes the shape of its container. (liquid)

It has a definite mass. (liquid and solid)

It has a definite shape. (solid)

It does not have a definite shape. (gas)

It does not have a definite mass. (gas)


84px-Orange juice 1 edit1 As a center activity have three small boxes available, diaper wipe rectangular boxes work well. Label them solid, liquid or gas. Provide pictures from magazines you have prepared ahead of time or clipart of examples of solids, liquids or gases. The students sort the pictures. Using this activity as a partner activity will promote discussion of the properties between the group mates. Provide a list of the correct items for each box on the bottom of the boxes for the students to self-check their choices.

Molecule Movement

The molecules of each of the three states of matter have different properties. Draw the molecules on the board of each state. Liquid molecules take the shape of the container. Display them as short hash marks conforming to a glass's size. Solid molecules are compact and tight. Draw the molecules, short hash marks, very close together in a cube shape. Gas molecules are depicted as escaping out of a pot. They are not contained by the shape of their container. Gas molecules disperse into all areas of the room. If the door is opened they will escape out of the room.

Divide the students into three groups of equal size. Assign each group a different molecule to represent. Give the liquid molecules a large box or carpet square to fill up. Have each group show the placement and movement of their molecules.

Physical and Chemical Properties

Matter can be changed by physical and chemical changes. Show the students some examples of both -a picture of a piece of paper burning, chemical change, and a piece of paper being crumpled up, physical change. A physical change is an alteration of the look of the item. A chemical change is the alteration of the item into another substance. Water can be used to show physical changes - solid (ice) to liquid (water). Make a batch of cookies in the classroom to display a chemical change. The flour, chocolate chips, eggs and butter are turned into a new substance. There is no way to reverse it back to its original state.

Scavenger Hunt

Ask the students to lead their family on a state of matter scavenger hunt as a homework assignment. With their family, the students find 10 examples of solids and liquids. The most common gas is air, which is in every household. See if the families can find two more examples of a gas. Make a comprehensive list the next day in class of all of the examples.


Photo; By Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons;

New York University; What is Matter?; Sheila Estacio

Author's own experience