Atomic Motion In Different States Of Matter

Atomic Motion In Different States Of Matter

Subject: Chemistry
Time: 1-2 Class periods (45 minutes each)
Level: Any chemistry class, grades 8-12


After a brief mini-lecture and follow-up handout defining the terms atom, molecule, element, and compound, students use the Concord Consortium Molecular Workbench “Atomic Motion in Different States of Matter” simulation to deepen their understanding of the submicroscopic properties of these different states of matter.

Learner Objectives:

- Student will be able to define the states of matter and compare and contrast their properties.

- Student will be able to classify materials as elements, compounds, or mixtures, stating the evidence for the classification.




The lesson begins with an introduction to the terms atoms, molecules, elements, and compounds. Below are brief definitions of each term and their relation to one another.

  • Elements: substances that cannot be separated into simpler substances. Salt is made up of the elements sodium and chloride. Water is made up of the elements hydrogen and oxygen.
  • Atoms: the smallest particle of an element that has the properties of that element.
  • Compounds: substance formed when two or more elements are chemically joined. Water, salt, and sugar are examples of compounds. When the elements are joined, the atoms lose their individual properties and have different properties from the elements they are composed of.
  • Molecules: consist of two or more atoms of the same element, or different elements, that are chemically bound together.
  • A compound is a molecule that contains at least two different elements. All compounds are molecules but not all molecules are compounds.
  • Molecular hydrogen (H2), molecular oxygen (O2) and molecular nitrogen (N2) are not compounds because each is composed of a single element. Water (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) are compounds because each is made from more than one element.

Pre-class Preparation

It is recommended to download the Molecular Workbench program before students work with the simulation. The program can be downloaded from the Concord Consortium website at http://mw.concord.org/modeler/index.html.


Compatible With




chrome books



What's Next?


Next Generation Science Standards
  • Physical Science

Computational Thinking in STEM
  • Modeling and Simulation Practices
    • Assessing Computational Models
    • Using Computational Models to Understand a Concept
  • Data Practices
    • Analyzing Data
    • Visualizing Data

Comments, Feedback, and Quesitons

Atomic Motion In Different States Of Matter

Teacher Notes

Teaching Notes

The teacher will begin the lesson with a discussion about atoms, molecules, elements and compounds. Students will then complete the “Atoms, Molecules, Elements, and Compounds” handout (included below) to apply the definition of atoms, molecules, elements, and compounds to submicroscopic models. After the discussion, students will use the Molecular Workbench program (downloaded for free from http://mw.concord.org/modeler/index.html )to investigate the state of matter and phase transitions on a submicroscopic level.

Students will investigate and complete seven sections of the “Atomic Motion in Different States of Matter” simulation. It is recommended that students work in pairs through these activities. The steps are pictured below.

Students will follow the directions and complete all 7 sections

  • In Sections 1-3 students will analyze the interactions of matter at various states. Students are required to take snapshot pictures of the interactions and insert them into the report. A “camera” is built into the computer program to take pictures.
  • Section 4 will ask students to investigate the melting process of Xenon.
  • Section 5 will model the interface between a solid and liquid.
  • Section 6 will provide an inside view of compounds and mixtures.
  • Section 7 summarizes the concepts learned with four questions.
  • Lastly, students should click on the create a report link to save or print a copy of their work.

Students may be also complete the simulation “Phase Changes” found in the Activity Center: http://mw2.concord.org/public/part1/index.cml. This activity can be used as an extension if some students finish before others.


Pre-class Preparation

It is recommended to download the Molecular Workbench program before students work with the simulation. The program can be downloaded from the Concord Consortium website at http://mw.concord.org/modeler/index.html.


Materials and Tools

The Molecular Workbench simulations can be downloaded for free at http://mw.concord.org/modeler/index.html.

Each simulation requires Java software, which can also be downloaded for free at www.java.com.   

A supply of paper and printer are needed if you want students to submit a print copy of the report. Students can also save the report and send you an electronic copy of the report.



The lab report can be used as an assessment for understanding the learning objectives.


Additional Information

The Concord Consortium is a non-profit technology lab for science, mathematics, and engineering. The mission of the Concord Consortium is to show how teaching and learning can seamlessly incorporate the best features of digital technology to dramatically improve education. The Molecular Workbench is one project created by the Concord Consortium to provide visual interactive computational experiments for teaching and learning science.

If you are using iPads in the classroom try using the “Next Generation Molecular Workbench” found at http://mw.concord.org/nextgen.