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Elements, Mixtures and Compounds


VA-SOL.SC.PS.2 STANDARD: The student will investigate and understand the basic nature of matter. Key concepts include B. elements, compounds, mixtures, acids, bases, and salts;




Title: Elements, Mixtures, and Compounds Continued

Related Concepts:




Organic compounds

Inorganic compounds


Students will define: compounds, mixtures, matter, substance, element, homogeneus, heterogeneus, colloid, suspension, and solution


Students will distinguish between compounds and mixtures

Students will distinguish between elements and compounds

Students will describe how to determine whether a substance is an element, compound, or mixture

Materials &


Used for the graphic organizer in the Explain section and as the basis of the activity in the Expand section of this lesson

This lesson plan provided the basis for the activity done in the Explore section of this lesson.


Students will answer the following Bellringer question:

"Besides as states of matter, are there any other ways to classify matter? If so, how? If not, why not?"


Bead Sort In this section of the lesson, students will sort beads to help them understand the differences between elements, mixtures and compounds.

Before beginning the lesson, you will need to prepare the following class set:

For one complete sample set, fill nine petri dishes and label the lids as described in the table below.

A Sharpie works well for the label, and a piece of clear tape over the writing will make the label more permanent.

Use a dab of super glue to affix the lids securely.

Dish Label

Dish Contents




Red beads only

Pure substance, element



Blue beads only

Pure substance, element

Gn 2

Green beads, wired in pairs

Pure substance, diatomic element

BGn 2 P

Several pieces, each consisting of one blue bead, two green beads, and a pearl wired together

Pure substance, compound


Several pieces, each consisting of a pearl wired to a green bead

Pure substance, compound


4 Gn

Several pieces, each consisting of four red beads wired to a green bead

Pure substance, compound

RGn + Gn 2

Some green beads wired in pairs, as well as several pieces consisting of a red bead wired to a green bead


R + P + Gn 2

Loose red beads, loose pearls, and green beads wired in pairs


B + R

Loose red beads and loose blue beads


During the lesson, the students will be led in the following steps:

1. Divide class into pairs of students. Instruct students not to open the dishes.

2. One student from each pair should come forward to obtain a bag of samples.

3. Ask students to sort the dishes into three groups based on similarities in the contents of the dishes. Emphasize that when students disagree with their partners about the classification, they should discuss their ideas until a consensus is formed.

4. As a class, present and discuss the different ways that the students sorted the dishes. Ask the students to explain why they sorted the dishes the way they did.


Students will be led in a discussion of the ideas related to elements, mixtures and compounds. As the discussion moves forward, students will be led in completing a graphic organizer (tree diagram) of the information being discussed in class. Ask students what elements, mixtures, and compounds we encounter everyday.

Key Vocabulary:












It's a Mixed Up World


Examples of elements (aluminum and copper), compounds (salt, water, ammonia, and sugar), and mixtures (oil and vinegar salad dressing, cake, vinegar, and glass)

Safety Goggles

Alum (dispense in salt shakers or with a measuring spoon)

Filter materials (gauze pads, cotton, coffee filters, fabric, cheese cloth)


Aquarium filter charcoal

Styrofoam cups (for layering filter materials)

Clear cups or jars for retrieving “treated” water

Jug of water with soil/mud added

Waste collection bucket

Any other reasonable request

Preparatory Directions:

Assemble the required materials.

Check school policies on working with solutions to see whether safety splash goggles are required.

Prepare “untreated” water sample (muddy water).

Put together activity kits for each group: alum, 1 styrofoam cup, 1 clear cup, and adequate amounts of each filtering option.

Allow 1 teaspoon of alum for 1 cup of dirt water (A 53 gm jar contains about 15 teaspoons).

Wash aquarium charcoal to avoid increasing turbidity of filtered water.

Activity Directions:

1. Show students an example and have them identify it as an element, compound, or mixture and explain their reasoning. (Either pass


examples around the room or display where each can be clearly seen.)

2. Discuss or clarify categorization of examples if needed.

3. Discuss the water purification process. The source of drinking water for many communities is river or lake water. The untreated water contains a variety of suspended and dissolved materials.

4. Divide the class into working groups of three. Explain that they will be working together to “unmix” a mixture which will result in cleaner water.

5. Provide each group an activity kit and explain that they can construct their filter out of any materials they wish.

6. Have students discuss how mixtures can be separated into pure substances in their small groups. Students should use this information to help them separate the muddy water mixture.

7. Punch holes in the bottom of the styrofoam cups to allow water drainage. Holes don’t need to be too large or too small – remind students to use ONLY the tip of the ink pen/pencil (not the entire object) to make many holes.

8. Once a group has the filter constructed provide them with a cup of “untreated water” and instruct them to add a small amount of alum and stir – observe and record observations. Repeat until coagulation occurs. ***SLOWLY pour the “untreated” water through their filter.***

9. Each group should produce: their ideas about how mixtures can be separated, how they layered their filter, and their analysis of their filter (what should they have done differently)

10.If time: have teams compare the clarity of their samples after they finish. Discuss why some samples ended up clearer than others. Discuss if this activity would be possible with compounds or elements.


Students will write an exit pass which includes:


things they learned


things they are confused about


question they still have

Plans for

Students will be placed in heterogeneus groups which each have a mixed ability level of students.


Notes will be written as students write them. If necessary, students will be given a copy of the notes rather than writing them themself.


This lesson directly follows the set of lessons on the states of matter. Because of this, students are able to begin to see that there are multiple ways to classify matter rather than just into 3 states of matter.

After this lesson, the students will learn another method of classifying matter, acidity.