This activity is a great way to allow students to use everyday, ordinary objects and examine them in multiple ways to see how the objects "fit" together. Students will work together to determine how to group the items given to them by characteristics of the items, and will have to defend the choices they have made. They will then be asked to extend what they have learned and "think like a scientist" to determine what scientists must consider when categorizing matter (such as elements, compounds), and/or living organisms.
Teacher Instructions: To get ready for the activity, simply gather together a collection of things you might find in your classroom and place the items in a baggie. I used items such as paper clips of all colors, magnets of varying colors, pencil top erasers, map tacks, butterfly clips; you can use your imagination to create the bag, as long as you make sure that each bag contains items from which several different groups can be created (for instance, the students might group by color the first time, by purpose the next, and by shape the third time). Each group (I found that 2 or 3 students per group worked best) gets one baggie and the activity sheets. The students then follow the directions on the worksheet. Challenge the students faced: which characteristic to use to group the items. Impact on how scientists classify matter: what property should be used to identify the matter.