Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Teaching Primary Science: Chemistry. Join the course to learn more.

Eliciting misconceptions for changing materials

This video provides three examples of how to elicit children’s misconceptions about changing materials.

Example 1

A sentence making activity may be used to elicit the misconception that sugar in water disappears. This example is based on an activity on page 41 from ‘Active Assessment’ by Stuart Naylor and Brenda Keogh.

Mohammed says: “When I stir sugar into water it disappears very slowly.”

Use the following words, as many times as you like to make your own sentences. Do you agree with what he says?

Quickly Particles If melt/s dissolves it will makes it does doesn’t I When sugar water disappears changes

Example 2

An odd one out activity like the one below could be used to elicit any possible misconceptions about the difference between melting and dissolving. This example is based on an activity on page 110 from ‘Active Assessment’ by Stuart Naylor and Brenda Keogh.

Which is the odd one out and why?

  • Baking, Condensing, Heating
  • Mixing, Dissolving, Separating
  • Rusting, Fizzing, Boiling
  • Changing state, Heating, Dissolving
  • Melting, Freezing, Boiling

Example 3

You can use a demonstration of an irreversible change to explore children’s thinking. Choose any example, such as the reaction between baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (dilute acetic acid). This is an activity from Explorify: 3, 2, 1 Lift Off

Place some vinegar into an empty film canister. Place the lid, up side down, next to the film canister and put about half a tea spoon of baking soda onto it.

At this point, you stop, and ask the children what they think will happen when you tip the baking soda into the canister.

The quickly put the lid onto the canister, allowing the baking soda to fall inside – and step back!

The reaction between the baking soda and vinegar produced carbon dioxide bubbles. As the gas pressure builds up inside the canister, it blows the lid off and pushes the canister upwards.

Now you can probe the children’s understanding of what happened:

  • What changes in this demonstration?
  • Is it a reversible or irreversible change?
  • What effect does the change have on the plastic canister?
  • How might this reaction be used in day-to-day life?


During this course, we’ve discussed different techniques to elicit misconceptions in children including: questioning, odd one out, true/false statements, concept cartoons, writing a definition and creating an annotated drawing to explain a concept or idea.

Choose one of these techniques to create a short task for your class to elicit any of the misconceptions around changing materials.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Chemistry

National STEM Learning Centre