Standard Lesson

Poppin' Fun with Physical and Chemical Changes

6 - 9
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 50-minute sessons
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Many students are hesitant about speaking in front of a class, but by providing them an opportunity to use an app for presentation, students can practice their speaking skills in a lower stakes situtation. Additionally, they are exposed to another skill for their technology toolbox. For this lesson students examine the differences between physical and chemical changes. After understanding these changes, in small groups students follow instructions for making popcorn, photographing each step. Then students create a video using the SonicPics app to narrate their photos and answer questions about this change.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

The International Reading Association has taken the position that for students “to become fully literate in today’s world, students must become proficient in the new literacies of 21st-century technologies. As a result, literacy educators have a responsibility to effectively integrate these new technologies into the curriculum, preparing students for the literacy future they deserve.” These new technologies include numerous and varied applications for iPads, which Hutchison, Beschorner and Schmidt-Crawford point out has made learning possible anytime, anywhere. No longer are students tied to a computer lab or library setting to research information or communicate their discoveries. They also found that students were highly motivated when using iPads in the classroom. This engaging lesson encourages students to learn a new application as well as practice their speaking abilities.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Computer connected to a LCD projector and iPad adapter
  • One iPad, one hot plate, and one beaker for every four students
  • Popcorn, plastic wrap, paper towels, plastic cups, and cooking oil



If YouTube is not blocked at your school, this video can familiarize you and your students with the SonicPics app.

This easy-to-read website provides simple definitions for what each type of change is and gives examples.

This website has more in-depth information and includes charts with vital information.

This website explains chemical change with molecules more fully.

This short video will serve as an introduction to the topic of physical and chemical changes.

If you or your school subscribes to BrainPOP Jr., this video is available on the iPads using the BrainPOP app.

Use this website to help explain why popping popcorn is a physical change.


  1. Arrange for one iPad for every four students to use in Session Two. Either bookmark the Chemical and Physical Change Websites on the iPads or make one copy per group of the printout. Download the app SonicPics on the iPads, and if you or your school subscribe to BrainPOP Jr., download that free app as well.
  2. Make one copy per four students of the printouts Questions to Consider, Popcorn Instructions, Physical and Chemical Changes Rubric, and Physical or Chemical?
  3. Familiarize yourself with SonicPics. Create a short video of at least two narrated photos on one of the iPads to serve as an example of what students will create.
  4. For Session Three prepare a supply kit for each group that includes one hot plate, one beaker, a small amount of popcorn in a plastic cup, and a small amount of oil in a plastic cup. Have plastic wrap and paper towels available in the classroom for this session, too.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • understand the difference between physical and chemical changes.
  • apply their knowledge of physical and chemical changes to determine which happens when making popcorn.
  • create a video that narrates what occurs when making popcorn.


  1. Explain to the class that they will study change: physical and chemical. Ask them if they can define what chemical change is and what physical change is. Write their ideas on the board and then tell them they are going to investigate to discover which of their ideas are correct.
  2. Divide the class into groups of four students and hand out the printout Physical or Chemical? Tell the groups to read through the top half of the printout but ask them to not mark anything yet.
  3. Tell students they will now watch a video, explaining to them that not all the answers for the top half of the printout will be in the video. Show the video Physical and Chemical Changes of Matter, and give students time to mark answers on the top half of the printout.
  4. Hand out the iPads and instruct students to visit the websites to find answers for the top half of the printout Physical or Chemical? If you or your school subscribe to BrainPOP Jr., instruct students on how to find the movie Physical and Chemical Changes using the BrainPOP app. As students work, circulate through the room, assisting those who have problems with the iPads and keeping students on task.
  5. After students have completed the top half of the printout, project the Venn Diagram, 2 Circles. Label one circle Physical Changes and the other Chemical Changes. Ask students to identify where information from their charts on the top half of the printout should be transferred onto this graphic organizer.
  6. Return to the ideas that are displayed on the whiteboard that students provided on the definitions for the terms physical change and chemical change. Using the graphic organizer and the top half of the printout, have the class develop formal definitions for the two terms.
  7. Based on their definitions, ask students in their groups to complete the bottom half of the printout Physical or Chemical? Tell students to be prepared to explain their answers when the class reassembles. Move through the room, probing students about their choices and asking them to support their decisions with reasons.
  8. When the groups have made their decisions, have the class gather to discuss each answer. For each example, ask why it fits the definition of chemical or physical change. Tell students to designate one responsible person in each group to keep the printout Physical or Chemical? for use in the next session.
  9. Explain to the class that in the next session, they will use the iPads to photograph a process to decide if it is an example of a physical or chemical change. They will then use the app SonicPics to make a video explaining their process and decision. Project the Physical and Chemical Changes Rubric and go through the rubric together. Connect the iPad that has the example video to the LCD project using the adapter and show the class the sample video. Ask students how they would score this sample for the categories of voice and photos on the rubric.
  10. Model for students how to take photos using the iPad. Allow time for all students to practice. Help students who have problems using the iPads. Note if students are cooperating as a group as that is part of the rubric.

Popcorn and Decision Day

  1. Before class starts, lay out the supply kits, paper towels, and plastic wrap in an area of the classroom that students can access easily.
  2. Begin class with a quick review of the definitions for chemical and physical changes.
  3. Have students return to their groups from yesterday. Check that each group has their printout Physical or Chemical? Hand out the printout Popcorn Instructions. Together read through the instructions and ask students if they have questions. Have one person from each group pick up their group’s supply kit. Tell students where the plastic wrap and paper towels are located.
  4. Hand out the iPads. As students work, move throughout the room, helping students take photos, checking safety, reminding students to split the work equally, and noting cooperation within the groups.
  5. After all groups have finished photographing and as students are enjoying their popcorn, hand out Questions to Consider and tell students as a group to discuss the questions and write answers. As students converse, circulate through the room, probing students about the reasons for their decisions. Explain to students that as long as they support their arguments for the type of change, they will receive full credit for their conclusions. Technically, popping popcorn is a physical change; however, students can successfully argue it is a chemical change.
  6. After students have finished their discussions, tell them to write a script that describes each photo as well as explains their conclusion about whether popping popcorn illustrates a chemical or physical change. Remind them that to receive the highest score on the rubric, they must include at least three reasons for their decision.
  7. Explain that after the script is written, they will use SonicPics to combine their script and photos into a video. Remind students that they will share equally in the recording of the script. Give students time to divide up the photos and work on their scripts.
  8. Assign students to finish their scripts for the next session.


  1. Check that students have completed their scripts. Provide extra time if needed.
  2. If your school does not block YouTube, show the students the video SonicPics Tutorial. If showing the tutorial is not an option, proceed to the next step.
  3. Connect one iPad to the LCD projector and model for students how to use SonicPics and then give students time to create their videos. As students work, check that students are sharing the recordings equally and that the recordings are clear. Assist groups that have trouble with the technology.
  4. When all groups have completed their videos, use the adapter to connect each iPad to the LCD projector and show each video. After all have been shown, explain to the students that popping popcorn is actually a physical change. Project the website Is Popping Popcorn a Physical or Chemical Change and read through the information together.
  5. Ask students to reflect on this lesson by completing one or more of the prompts in the assessment section.


  • If using the SonicPics app is not an option, consider using PowerPoint or other presentation software in its place.
  • In their groups, have students choose their own examples of a chemical change and a physical change to photograph step-by-step.  Have students create videos using SonicPics for their examples and share these with the class.
  • Use SonicPics to make videos for other lessons.  For example, take the class on a walk and photograph objects to research or write poems about.
  • Print the Venn Diagram, 2 Circles and give each student a copy of the graphic organizer to complete as the class goes through the printout Physical or Chemical? Assign students to write comparison-contrast paragraphs about the two types of changes.
  • Have students e-mail their finished videos and post these to a class website or wiki to share with the entire learning community.  The videos will play through Windows Media Player.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Evaluate each group’s video using the Physical and Chemical Changes Rubric.
  • Review each group’s Questions to Consider printout.
  • After all videos have been presented, ask students to reflect on the learning experience by completing one or more of the following prompts.
    • Because of this project, I learned ____________.
    • What I found difficult about this project was _____________________.
    • What I enjoyed about this project was __________________.
    • To improve this project, I would _____________________.

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