Frying ice

Frying ice

In the Frying Ice formative assessment students explore the three phases of matter. This formative assessment targets the question “What cues are used to differentiate matter types?” The target of this formative assessment was for students to demonstrate their understanding of the three states of matter and how the particles in each state react when heated. It is important for students to learn this idea, as it is part of the world around them. Knowledge that everything is made of matter and that matter can change phases when heated and cooled is a basic general science concept that can be observed and demonstrated in everyday life.

The students completed the  frying ice worksheet after watching a short clip of Bill Nye's Phases of Matter video of ice being fried. The students were asked to share some of their observations about the different states of matter and what they thought caused the changes in phase. The students then were asked to identify states of matter based on particulate representations. Finally, the students had to present their own ideas about an experiment that could be conducted around the three phases of matter. The formative assessment was given to students via Google Classroom after a “live” Zoom Science class and students were asked to complete it independently.

This formative assessment was given to 8th grade students with mild intellectual impairments who are in a self-contained classroom for all of their academic subjects. Our class has 11 students (6 girls and 5 boys) from various backgrounds, who are supported by 1 teacher and 1 paraprofessional for all of their academic and social/emotional needs. Just before this assessment was given, students had completed a series of virtual lessons about matter and its phases, as well as how particles react in each phase when heated and cooled. Students used this knowledge as well as background knowledge to complete this formative assessment independently.

Teaching reflections

The students that completed this formative assessment were able to successfully identify the three phases of matter that they observed in the “Frying Ice” video clip that we watched together prior to taking this assessment. Some students were also able to accurately identify the different phases at the particle level when given a “zoomed in” picture of the matter. This revealed to me that they understood the basic concept of solids, liquids and gases and how particles behave at each phase when heat was applied. However, most of the students who completed the formative assessment did not explain their chemical thinking thoroughly enough for me to determine whether they truly understood how thermal energy affected the particle movement at each phase of matter. If I were to implement this formative assessment in the future, I would like to “interview” students individually and allow them to give their answers to me orally. Given their varied learning challenges, combined with the general lack of student engagement during virtual learning, students who took this formative assessment were not able to clearly represent their chemical thinking when asked to explain their thoughts in writing.

Remote learning 

Virtual learning was a very new and unexpected concept for me and for my students. During our three months of remote learning, many of my students really tried to participate virtually on a consistent basis. Thankfully, we had been using Google Classroom all year long, so students were familiar with that platform prior to the Covid-19 shutdown. In addition, every one of my students had Chromebooks at home (thanks to the diligence of my paraprofessional who delivered them to their houses if they didn’t have one or when they broke their computers) and all students were able to connect to fairly reliable Internet each day. Some students participated in “live” Zoom classes with me several times per week and of course the students that participated consistently were the same students who successfully completed this final formative assessment of the year. During our Zoom classes, we watched YouTube video clips of science concepts together and I provided visual models for the students to refer to when they needed to complete an assignment. Just like in my traditional classroom, instruction was delivered using a variety of interactive ways. Although remote learning did not afford us the opportunity to work with hands-on models, I was still able to have students engage in the material virtually using a variety of techniques. These include but are not limited to:  Brain Pop and Bill Nye videos, edPuzzle videos with questions, Nearpod lessons, Wizer interactive worksheets, Kahoot games, Quizizz reviews, NewsELA articles and so much more. Using a variety of methods to teach the content and deliver material engaged students and gave me the opportunity to differentiate the material for my students with varied learning needs and challenges.

Examples of student work

✎ Describe the 3 Phases of Matter that you observed in this video. Be specific and write your answers below.


Student 1: Ice – solid matter – speed up particles phase

Student 2: The ice

Student 3: Ice


Student 1:  water melting liquid water vapor evaporate

Student 2: The water

Student 3: The ice melted into water.


Student 1: heat gas temperature slowdown

Student 2: Water vapor

Student 3: The vapor

❓ What happened to the ice cube as the kids in the video “fried it”?  Use scientific vocabulary in your response. Write your answers in the spaces below.

Student 1: It melted turned into liquid

Student 2: The ice cube melted.

Student 3: The ice started to melt slowly to make it water and gas.

❓ What caused the solid ice to change “phases”?

Student 1: It turns into liquid

Student 2: The fire or the hot pan cause the ice to change.

Student 3: The ice was melting because there was heat.

👀 Identify which phase of matter matches each “zoomed in” picture below. Explain, in your own words, what is happening to the particles in each picture.

Student 1: Liquid 

Student 2: This is the solid because the little balls are combined together. They are stuck together.

Student 3: These are solid particles because they are pushed together.

Student 1: Solid

Student 2: This is the liquid because they are a little bit far from each other. They spread out.

Student 3: These are the liquid particles because they are broken up but they are still pushed together a little.

Student 1: Gas

Student 2: This is the gas because they are spread apart even more.

Student 3: These are the gas particles because they are not touching each other and they are spreaded out.

😀 If you could design your OWN experiment about the Three Phases of Matter, what would you like to do? Briefly describe your experiment below.

Student 1: Explode like a volcano including water

Student 2: I’m not sure what I would do.

Student 3: Maybe I could put raid salt on ice to see how fast it melts and if the ice changes color.


Download the Frying Ice Formative Assessment.