ACS: Inquiry in Action - Properties of Materials (Lesson 1.1): Classifying Objects Based on their Observable Properties

Students sort common objects according to characteristics such as shape, flexibility, and the material they are made from to investigate the question: Can you group objects based on their characteristics?


Students will develop an understanding that objects and materials have characteristics or properties. Students will be able to recognize similarities between the properties of certain objects and materials and will be able to group the objects based on these similarities.

Key Concepts

  • Objects and materials have different characteristics or properties.
  • The properties of materials include features such as color, size, and shape; whether theyare rough or smooth, shiny or dull, hard or soft, and flexible or stiff.
  • Another property of a material is what it’s made of such as wood, metal, plastic, stone,or glass.
  • Objects and materials can be sorted into groups based on the properties they have in common.
  • Objects and materials can be grouped in different ways depending on the properties used to group them.

NGSS Alignment

  • NGSS 2-PS1-1: Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties.


  • Students are introduced to the idea that objects and materials have certain “properties”or “characteristics” that can be used to describe them.
  • After working with a simulation to help students understand the meaning of properties and characteristics, students are given a variety of small common objects to sort based on observable properties.
  • Working in groups, students sort objects and record their groupings on the Activity Sheet.Students are then guided to come up with different criteria for one more set of groupings.
  • Students participate in a class discussion of the different properties used to make the groupings.


Download the Student Activity Sheet (PDF) and distribute one per student when specified in the activity. The activity sheet will serve as the Evaluate component of the 5-E lesson plan.

Science Topics
Chemistry, Matter
K-6, Educator
Descriptions of PDFs

Lesson Plan (PDF) | Student Activity Sheet (PDF) | Teacher Background (PDF) | Connections to NGSS (PDF)

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