What is Temperature?
Temperature is the measure of the average kinetic energy of the molecules of a
- Kinetic energy is energy associated with motion.
- When molecules are moving, there is kinetic energy.
- Hot molecules move faster than cold molecules.
- Making Observations
- Making Comparisons
- Communicating Findings
- Making Inferences
- Controlling Variables
- Drawing Conclusions
- Making Generalizations
- Large work area
Type of Activity: Large Group
Have students move desks out of the center of the room so they have a
large open space to move around and work in.
Be careful not to hit anyone! The students will be standing very close to
Procedures and Activities
Ask, "What is temperature?" Share that:
- Temperature is the measure of the average kinetic energy of the molecules
in a substance. (Kinetic energy is the energy of motion.)
- The more kinetic energy a molecule has, the faster it is moving.
- Hot molecules move faster than cold ones.
Today, you will experience "temperature" by pretending to be molecules.
- Have students stand as close to each other as they can without touching
- Explain to students that they are behaving like the low-energy molecules
in a cold substance.
- Have students increase their level of kinetic energy by walking and moving
- As students increase their kinetic energy, you should notice them spreading
out and taking up more space on the floor. Have them pick up pace by
- Have students stop moving and observe their placement after walking and
- Like moving molecules, they are now spread out.
- Have students "see and feel" the increased temperature they have created
Help students discover that as substances heat up, their molecules speed up
and spread apart, causing the substance to expand. Compare this to their
movementstanding still, walking, and jogging. This expansion makes
the substance less dense, which is why hot air rises. (Note: In reality,
the molecules bounce off of each other while moving around. We have asked
the students to abstain from that both to make the activity a little safer
and to encourage the students to spread out.)
Closing - Original Question
What is Temperature?
- Have students answer the questions on the Handout.
- Listen for evidence that students understand concepts of temperature,
molecules, and kinetic energy.
Careers Related to Lesson Topic
Weather Underground at University of Michigan's Department of
Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences
- TV or Radio Weather Reporter