Science Lesson Plans
Posted Mar 12, 2014 by Elmers
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    The World of Glue

    This interactive inquiry-based instructional unit teaches students about adhesives in their world of day-to-day activities.
    • 1 - 5
    • 1-5 days
    • Science, Language Arts, History

    How do I get my class and myself ready? This lesson plan should give you everything you need to be prepared for the material.

    Lesson Plan Objective(s)

    Students will understand the concepts related to polymers as the building blocks for adhesives and glues.

    Students will identify examples of adhesives used in the world around them.

    Students will demonstrate their understanding of these scientific concepts in oral presentations or dramatic performances to the class. 

    Students will work in teams to solve a problem. 

    Students will observe and record the properties observed when two substances are combined.

    Background Details

    By identifying adhesives in our everyday lives, students get a sense of why they need to understand the science of polymers that enables adhesives to bond two or more things together.

    Polymers are large molecules formed when repeated chemical unites bond together. Polymers are all around us. Polymers are in DNA, starch, cotton, rubber, leather, and plastics. Polymers are the fundamental building block in glues and adhesives. 

    One of the big shifts in Common Core Standards is "inductive learning." A key component of inductive learning is teaching students how to support their thinking and understanding with evidence. This unit includes many opportunities for students to explore scientific principles and support their learning with the evidence they discover.

    Recommended Reading & References

    Too Much Glue by Jason Lefebvre

    The Story of Elmer (PDF handout included)

    Materials Needed

    • Elmer’s White School Glue
    • Examples of products that use adhesives 
    • Evidence Log 1 (PDF handout included)
    • Evidence Log 2 (PDF handout included)
    • Parent Letter (PDF handout included)
    • Non-fat or skim milk
    • White vinegar
    • Coffee filters or paper towels
    • Flour 
    • Warm water
    • Eye droppers
    • Various types and weights of paper
    • Cardboard
    • Fabric

    Required Knowledge/Vocabulary

    Student will develop an understanding for the following terms by the conclusion of the unit: Adhesives, Polymers, Monomers, Casein, Synthetic (man-made) vs. natural materials 


    Common Core State Standards

    CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

    CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

    CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

    National Science Education Standards

    Science and Technology Content Standard E: Abilities of Technological Design

    Physical Science Content Standard B: Properties of Objects and Materials

    The Nature of Technology: 3C- Issues in Technology

    How do I present the material? Here is the recommended approach, content and timing for presenting the materials.

    Lesson Instructions

    Begin by reading the book, Too Much Glue by Jason Lefebvre aloud to the students. This fun story is great to use as a springboard for learning, and even older children will enjoy the vibrant language and illustrations. Stop periodically to discuss the character and the plot.

    After reading the story, ask students if they ever wondered how glue is made or why it is sticky. Engage them in a discussion about their own experiences with different types of glue. Introduce the word adhesives and tell them that they will be conducting an investigation to identify examples of adhesives around us as well as how white glue is made. 

    Present the challenge to students by explaining that they will work as detectives in search of adhesives. The idea is to hook the students and have fun while making them aware of adhesives in the world around them.

    Discussion Questions

    1. What is an investigation?
    2. What is an adhesive?
    3. What do you already know about adhesives?
    4. Do you see any adhesives in the classroom?
    5. How many examples of adhesives do you think you can find by tomorrow?

    Activities (group or individual)

    Provide a copy of the Evidence Log for each student. Explain that they will record each piece of evidence that they find and explain what it shows, proves, or demonstrates. You may want to model this for students with a few examples on the board so that they are clear about your expectations. For example, a sticky note might be one example they find. However, they should recognize that it is not as sticky as other adhesives. It “proves” that adhesives have different levels of “stickiness” or levels of cohesion. Introduce two new vocabulary words to the students:

    Adhesion is the force between two materials. 

    Cohesion is the internal strength of the adhesive. 

    Explain to the students that they will conduct their own investigation of adhesives and present their evidence to the rest of the class. Invite students to work with a partner, and tell them that they will present their evidence to the class in a dramatic performance. This may be in the form of a courtroom drama, television show, or play. Invite them to include costumes, props, or visual aids to better communicate their findings. As each small group presents their evidence, students should record any new examples they learn from other students to their own evidence log.

    Did my students achieve the lesson objective?

    Activities (group or individual)

    Tell the students that they have a new case. Now that they have a basic understanding of how adhesives work, they will investigate different combinations of substances to create their own glue. Discuss how teams of scientists experiment with different materials to solve problems and invent new products.

    Provide each student with a copy of Evidence Log 2. Instruct them that they will be experimenting with different materials and again be searching for evidence to support a new type of glue. Remind students that Elmer’s first glue was made from a polymer substance found in milk called casein. Explain that they will make a casein polymer the same way that Elmer’s did. 

    Provide vinegar, milk, a bowl, and paper towels to small groups of students. Instruct them to put 7 tablespoons of milk in the bowl. 

    (Note: Whole milk contains more fat and won’t produce the same results, so be sure to use skim or non-fat milk.) 

    Ask them to add one tablespoon of white vinegar to the milk and observe what happens. They should see solids beginning to form in the liquid. Explain that the solids are actually monomers that have joined together into polymers. When the vinegar was added to the milk, it caused the casein to separate from the liquid part of the milk and join other casein polymers to form solids. Wait a few minutes until the solids settle to the bottom of the bowl and then carefully use paper towels to absorb the liquid on top. 

    Students can now experiment with the slimy casein substance as glue. Invite them to glue different types of paper or cardboard together. Instruct them to record their findings on their evidence log. 

    Next, explain that students will experiment with different combinations of flour and water to create glue. Allow small groups to determine different formulas of flour and water. Remind them to record their results on their evidence log. 

    Create a testing board on which students can test their glue formulas. Instruct them to glue samples to the board, but remind them to label each sample so that they can share their findings with the class.

    Helpful Tips and Tricks

    • Write a paragraph explaining how polymers are formed.
    • Create an advertisement for your new glue. 
    • Write a commercial promoting your new glue. What would make people want to buy your glue? What features does your glue have that would make it appeal to consumers?
    • Write a story about a world without glue. What problems would people face? How would things be fastened together? 
    • Extend the science inquiry by allowing students to continue testing different formulas of glue and adding additional ingredients such as glitter, confetti, or food coloring. Do these additional ingredients make the glue less effective? 
    • Create a timeline to demonstrate how Elmer’s progressed from making a casein polymer glue to the first natural glue made from corn (PDF handout attached).
    • Provide the Parent Letter for students to take home. This will communicate to parents what their children have learned and enable them to apply the science concepts even further in an at-home activity that students will share with the class. 


    • The Adhesive & Sealant Council - DPNA International, Inc.

    Lesson Plan Downloads


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