Skip to Content

Systems and Scale | Activity 5.2

(Optional) Activity 5.2: Explaining Methane Burning (40 min)

Students use the Explanations Tool to explain what happens to methane when it burns. If you feel your students are able to explain what happens to matter and energy when methane burns at an atomic-molecular scale, you may want to skip this activity.

Resources Provided


Print one copy of the 5.2 Explanations Tool for Methane Burning for each student. In this activity, your students will need to use the Three Questions Explanations Checklist on the back of the Three Questions Handout. Be sure to have this available to students, and see the notes in the Modifications at the end of the Activity for ideas about how to use it.


1. Use the instructional model to show students where they are in the course of the unit.

Show slide 2 of the 5.2 Explaining Methane Burning PPT.


During the class, circulate while students are comparing their explanations. Listen to see if they are able to explain methane burning at both the macroscopic and atomic-molecular scales. Use the 5.2 Grading Explanations Tools for Methane Burning to grade your students’ work on the 5.2 Explanations Tool for Methane Burning. This worksheet accompanies explanations tools for all examples of combustion in this unit.

  • At this point in the lesson, students should be held accountable for correct answers.


    The checklist on the back of the Three Questions Handout can be used to scaffold students’ explanations in many ways.

    • Students refer to the checklist as they are constructing their explanations.
    • Students use the checklist as they are sharing and revising their explanations with a partner.
    • Students use the checklist to critique and revise their final explanations.
    • Students use the checklist to critique the example explanations for each unit.
    • Students use the checklist to create and/or evaluate a whole-class consensus explanation.

    We recommend using this checklist with a gradual release. As students improve in their ability to write their own explanations, they may rely on the checklist less.

    Extending the Learning

    Use the Net Logo model of methane combustion to further understand the chemistry and kinetics of combustion.