Learning Resource Type

Lesson Plan

Comparing Intermolecular Forces

Subject Area



9, 10, 11, 12


Students will be conducting a series of investigations in order to compare and contrast the various intermolecular forces that exist between compounds. First, students will rank 4 substances according to their melting points. Second, students will work together using the jigsaw research approach to understand the 4 types of intermolecular forces. And lastly, students will use the information gained to go back to their data collected and compare their original compounds and type of intermolecular bond they exhibit.

This lesson plan results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 09-12 - Chemistry


    Plan and conduct an investigation to classify properties of matter as intensive (e.g., density, viscosity, specific heat, melting point, boiling point) or extensive (e.g., mass, volume, heat) and demonstrate how intensive properties can be used to identify a compound.

    Unpacked Content



    • Properties
    • Intensive properties and examples (e.g., density, viscosity, melting point, etc.)
    • Extensive properties and examples (e.g., mass, volume, heat, etc.)
    • Matter
    • Macroscopic level
    • Atomic/ molecular level


    Students know:
    • Properties of matter can be classified as intensive or extensive.
    • Some examples of intensive properties of matter are, but are not limited to, density, boiling point, and specific heat.
    • Some examples of extensive properties of matter are, but are not limited to, heat, mass, and volume.
    • Intensive properties can be used to identify a substance.
    • Some properties of matter are visible on the macroscopic level, while others are evident at the atomic/ molecular/ particulate level.


    Students are able to:
    • Plan an investigation that outlines the experimental procedure, including safety considerations, how data will be collected, number of trials, experimental setup, and equipment required.
    • Determine the types, quantity, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements.
    • Conduct an investigation to collect and record data that can be used to classify properties of matter as intensive or extensive.
    • Classify properties of matter as intensive or extensive.
    • Evaluate investigation design to determine the accuracy and precision of the data collected, as well as limitations of the investigation.
    • Identify a compound based on its intensive properties.


    Students understand that:
    • Each pure substance has characteristic physical and chemical properties (for any bulk quantity under given conditions) that can be used to identify it.
    • The data generated from an investigation serves as the basis for evidence.
    • Macroscopic patterns are related to the nature of atomic/ molecular level structure.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Planning and Carrying out Investigations

    Crosscutting Concepts

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 09-12 - Chemistry


    Analyze and interpret data (e.g., melting point, boiling point, solubility, phase-change diagrams) to compare the strength of intermolecular forces and how these forces affect physical properties and changes.

    Unpacked Content



    • physical properties
    • melting point
    • boiling point
    • solubility
    • phase-change diagrams
    • Atomic/ molecular level
    • Macroscopic level
    • Particles
    • ions
    • atoms
    • molecules
    • networked materials (like graphite)
    • Intermolecular/ electrical forces
    • System


    Students know:
    • As kinetic energy is added to a system, the forces of attraction between particles can no longer keep the particles close together.
    • Patterns of interactions between particles at the molecular level are reflected in the patterns of behavior at the macroscopic scale.
    • Patterns observed at multiple levels (macroscopic, atomic/ molecular/ particulate) can provide evidence of the causal relationships between the strength of the electrical forces between particles and the structure of the substance at the macroscopic level.


    Students are able to:
    • Analyze and interpret data to describe why properties provide information about the strength of electrical forces between the particles of chosen substances, including phase-change diagrams.


    Students understand that:
    • Data is analyzed using tools, technologies, and/ or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims.
    • The structure and interactions of matter at the macroscopic level are determined by electrical forces within and between atoms.
    • Different patterns may be observed at each of the levels at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Analyzing and Interpreting Data

    Crosscutting Concepts

    Energy and Matter

    Primary Learning Objectives

    • Students will compare the relative melting points of various substances and arrange them from the lowest to the highest.
    • Students will define intermolecular forces and be able to give a description of each.
    • Student will use phase-change diagrams and other data to interpret how the different forces affect physical properties and changes.


    Day 1:

    Engage Activity:

    Students will complete the Bond Types and Physical Properties lab from Alabama Science in Motion. Their goal is to create a ranking of their substances from the lowest melting point to the highest. Lab procedure and lab sheet are available to view in attachments.

    Day 2

    Explore/Explain Activity:

    During this time, students will be divided up into four groups. They will complete a jigsaw activity where they are researching the 4 types of intermolecular forces that act on compounds within small groups. After each group completes their research, they will come back together in different groups to turn, talk and share their specific intermolecular force that they have researched with other members of the group. To conduct their research, they will complete a quick write which is simply made up of the definition of their force as well as 2 compound examples.


    The last part of the lesson is to have students reference back to their original Bond Types and Physical properties lab to check if they placed each of their compounds into a specific intermolecular force category. For example, which of the 4 intermolecular forces will Vanillin fall under based on the information gained during your research. Students will follow the Intermolecular Jigsaw Activity sheet and complete each of the parts inside their Chemistry notebook. 

    Assessment Strategies

    • Students will first be observed on their laboratory skills and the information collected during their lab. 
    • Each student group should have collected melting points and solubilities on each compound. Also, they should have arranged each from the highest melting point to the lowest.
    • Students will be monitored during their group research and on how they interact within each of their groups.
    • Students should answer the questions given on the Intermolecular Forces worksheet. These questions should be answered for all types of intermolecular forces.
    • Students will be assessed on this comparison information that should be written in their Chemistry notebooks.

    Approximate Duration

    Total Duration

    91 to 120 Minutes

    Background and Preparation


    • Students will need to know the difference between covalent and ionic bonds and what types of elements make them up.
    • Students should know the difference between physical and chemical properties.
    • Students should be familiar with polar and nonpolar molecules and how they affect the strength of bonds.

    Materials and Resources

    Materials and Resources


    well plate, 24-hole

    sodium chloride


    small test tubes

    magnesium sulfate


    Mel-Temp/capillary tubes

    stearic acid






    cooking oil




    • Safety Equipment: Always wear safety glasses and an apron in the lab. The Mel-Temp can become very hot.  Avoid touching the metal surfaces.
    • Jigsaw Activity (one copy per student)
    • Intermolecular Forces worksheet (one copy per student)

    Technology Resources Needed

    Computer with Internet Access