Compounds and Mixtures


Compounds and Mixtures introduces students to the differences between these two types of substances. Students will discover the factors that determine whether something is a compound or a mixture. They will also learn how to identify both types based on the properties of a given substance.

The “Options for Lesson” section lists several ideas for additional tasks or activities that you could include in the lesson if you want to. One idea is to set up stations around the classroom with various types of compounds or mixtures. Students could then go around and identify and sketch what they observe.

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What our Compounds and Mixtures lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Compounds and Mixtures explores a variety of mixtures and solutions, such as sand in water. Students will learn how to explain the difference between these two concepts. They will also discover that some mixtures maintain the physical properties of their ingredients while others change. This lesson is for students in 5th grade and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For this lesson, the only supplies you will need in addition to the handouts are colored pencils.

Options for Lesson

There are several suggestions in the “Options for Lesson” section that you could incorporate into the lesson if you want to or have extra time. A couple of these ideas relate specifically to the activity portion of the lesson. Students could work in pairs for the activity and use construction paper or other large paper to sketch each type of mixture or compound. Another option is to set up stations around the classroom with different types of compounds or mixtures and have students identify them and sketch what they observe. You could also distribute a Periodic Table of Elements to each student and discuss the combinations they could create with various elements. One final idea is to invite a chemist to speak with the class about elements, compounds, and mixtures.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes pages has a short paragraph of extra information or guidance regarding the lesson and what you can expect. It encourages you to engage students in as many hands-on activities as you can as these often help solidify the concepts for students. You can use the blank lines on this page to write out your thoughts as you prepare.


Elements and the Periodic Table

The Compounds and Mixtures lesson plan contains three pages of content. Students will first learn that every single thing in the whole world is made of up matter. Virtually all matter exists in the form of a solid, liquid, or gas. Matter consists of molecules, and molecules form from atoms or elements. An element is a pure substance that cannot be separated physically or chemically.

For instance, oxygen is an element. We cannot possibly split an atom of oxygen into another substance. It is pure. All the elements that we know of are on the Periodic Table of Elements. Examples of other elements include hydrogen, carbon, gold, potassium, and over 100 others. These elements are the basis of everything.

What Is a Compound?

Students will then learn specifically about compounds. A compound consists of two or more different elements that join together by chemical bonds. When a chemical reaction of some kind occurs, the elements react and form a new substance.

One of the best examples of a compound is water. Water is a liquid that forms from the reaction between two elements: hydrogen and oxygen. Each water molecule has two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. There are millions and millions of other compounds or substances in the world. Each of them is comprised of different types of molecules from different kinds of elements.

The combination of these atoms and molecules determines what type of substance a compound is. For example, sugar is another compound that consists of hydrogen and oxygen. However, it also contains a third element: carbon. One sugar molecule has six carbon atoms, 12 hydrogen atoms, and 6 oxygen atoms.

A chemical reaction is the only process that can separate the molecules of a compound. A chemical change must take place to break apart the compound’s bonds. The food we eat, for instance, goes through a chemical change as we digest it. This is how our bodies can process the nutrients from our food.

There are three main characteristics of compounds. They consist of elements in a specific ratio that always remains the same. Compounds also have a chemical formula, like H₂O (water) or CO₂ (carbon dioxide). In addition, we can only separate the molecules chemically, not physically. Mixtures, on the other hand, are easy to separate physically.


We can create a mixture by combining two or more substances, but not chemically. Water and sugar are both compounds, but we can easily combine them into a mixture. We simply have to stir some sugar into a glass of water to make sugar water. The substances and compounds do not change. There is no chemical reaction. To separate the two, we can simply allow the water to evaporate out of the glass, leaving the sugar behind.

Like compounds, there are three main characteristics of mixtures that students will learn. Mixtures combine two or more substances, and the result holds together due to physical forces. No chemical change occurs, and each substance retains its properties in the mixture. Finally, the substances can only be separated physically, not chemically.

Just as there are millions of compounds, there are also millions of mixtures. However, we can classify mixtures into two main categories: heterogenous and homogenous. Heterogenous mixtures, those where substances do not distribute evenly, include suspensions and colloids. Homogenous mixtures, in which the substances do evenly distribute, include solutions and alloys.

Suspensions contain liquid and solid particles. The solid particles do not dissolve but instead spread throughout the liquid. Eventually, the particles will separate and settle to the bottom, like sand in water. Colloids are mixtures with very small particles of one substance that distribute evenly but do not dissolve. The particles don’t settle but stay afloat. Such is the case with muddy water, milk, or mayonnaise.

Solutions are homogenous mixtures in which one substance dissolves into the other. The solute is the substance that dissolves, and the solvent is the one that does not. In salt water, for instance, salt is a solute in the solvent of water. Alloys are mixtures of elements that have the characteristics of metals. One of the elements must be a metal. Steel is one example, which forms from a mixture of carbon and iron. Other alloys include bronze and brass.


The Compounds and Mixtures lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one helps reinforce what students learned and helps them demonstrate their knowledge in different ways. Refer to the classroom procedure guide to determine when to hand out the worksheets to the class.


The activity worksheets display 10 boxes, and each pair of boxes (five pairs total) compares a compound and a mixture. Students must sketch a picture that represents each of the five pairs. They must ensure that the sketches clearly show the differences between each pair, using labels as needed. At the bottom of the third worksheet page, students will decide whether each of 20 terms represent an element (E), a compound (C), or a mixture (M).


The practice worksheet requires students to review 15 statements. Students must match the definition to the correct term from the word bank on the right of the page. You may or may not choose to allow students to refer to the content pages for help on this worksheet.


There are two sections of the homework assignment. The first section provides a table with two columns. The left column is for compounds and the right is for mixtures. Students will search around their home (with permission) and list examples of items they find that represent both and explain why the item fits that group. For the second section, students will review 10 statements and circle the word within the sentence to make the statement correct.

Worksheet Answer Keys

The last two pages of the lesson plan PDF are answer keys for both the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. They provide the correct answers in red to make it easy to compare them to students’ work. For the most part, students’ responses should mirror those on the answer keys. However, given the nature of the first section of the homework assignment, you will have to determine students’ accuracy in their answers yourself. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


5th Grade, 6th Grade



State Educational Standards

NGSS.5-PS1-1, NGSS.5-PS1-2, NGSS.5-PS1-3, NGSS.5-PS1-4, NGSS.MS-PS1-4

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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