Module 3: Secondary Science – physics

Section 1 : Properties of matter

Theme: Probing students’ understanding

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will have:

  • provided opportunities for students to develop understanding of the properties of matter through talking;
  • planned questions at different ability levels in order to find out about your students’ understanding of the properties of matter;
  • used students’ writing and drawings to probe their understanding of how particle theory explains the properties of solids, liquids and gases.


At the end of teaching a topic, teachers usually set a test or an exam to find out what their students have learned. They are often dismayed to find that it is not as much as they expected but by this time it is too late to help students. A good teacher will find out what students understand as they go along and what the students are finding difficult and help them to make progress.

This unit has three short activities that will fit into your normal teaching about properties of matter and will show you how to find out what your students understand. Don’t worry – the activities won’t prevent you from finishing the syllabus; they are fairly short and will help your students to learn. Once you have tried these activities, you will be able to adapt them when you teach other topics.

1. Exploring students’ prior knowledge