The topic “Physics Around the School: Simple Machines In and Out of the Classroom” is intended to help the students take into account the importance that objects around us have on basic physics principles.
I intend to start by checking for background knowledge regarding the children’s own interpretation of the machines we use. These lessons play a very important role in the implementation of the unit since they will act as the foundation from which the children will build knowledge regarding the physics principles of simple machines. Most of the tasks will be performed in pairs and as a whole class, providing the students with opportunities to share the work with the rest of the class. The teacher logs each of the comments after each whole class sharing session, followed with the next question for the children to work in pairs. A similar lesson regarding the creation of the simple machines will follow.
I want to emphasize that these discussions of what the children think about the origin of simple machines will be completed before they come into contact with any of the machines. My hope is that these discussions will put the children in a position to understand the importance of these machines and they will also give a context into which to place their reaction to the machines.
Children will use index cards to write and name some of the simple machines that are the focus of the stories. This will provide the student with a visual representation of the machine and a name to which to refer in discovering the importance of the simple machine. It will provide the student with the “comprehensible input” with which to make sense in participating in the sample lessons. The back of the index card will later be used to write the name of the other gadgets on which the simple machine is based. By the time the children finish their index card collection they could have ten or twenty cards with pictures, drawings, and the names of each of the six simple machines and the related machines based upon their basic principles.
These cards will also be used in performing each of the tasks that follow. The lesson plans have been broken down into tasks so as to allow focus on the performance and content standards on which this unit is centered. They have been written with the student in mind. The descriptions give the student a clear understanding of what they are expected to do, how they have to do it, and how they are going to be assessed. The students will receive copies of the assessment by which they will evaluate their work. Some of the tasks once introduced, can be used throughout the school year and with other gadgets or machines.
I suggest the teacher make tapes of one of the non-fiction books in order to provide the student with many opportunities to listen to the principles involved. These could be used at the listening center after they have been introduced to the class. In each retelling, as an extension of the story, the teacher can reinforce or focus on a different content standard (i.e. the teacher can do a mini lesson on note-taking, writing, etc.). The following is a list of suggested strategies to meet the goals and objectives of this unit.
Language arts: Introduce the story as a read-aloud, focusing on listening skills, doing a shared-reading lesson, whole class, in guided-reading with smaller groups of students (make a copy of any of the stories in book format). As a listening center, taping a story (like The Lever). As a writing prompt, consider changing one of the main characters (How do you lift a lion?).
Art: Making graphic representations (Task 1). Making machine models (inclines, levers).
Science: Classification. Machine basic principles and characteristics.
Social Studies. Maps, models, find places of birth of physicists such as Newton, Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci.
Games: Make a set of cards with fantastic and invented machines.
It is important to note that the performance tasks are to be given to the students prior to the beginning of the task. It is the road map that the student, will use to be able to perform what we are asking them to do. As part of the process the students will also be able to preview the assessment tool by which they will be evaluated. Please look at Appendix B for a list of the rubrics.
Performance Task 1
Title: Machines in the world
Background: There are many machines we use everyday that make our lives easier. You already know many of these machines. Many more machines are made and designed to help us build things, transport, destroy, or simply help to do things more easily. We are going to read and discover in person many of these machines; but let us first find out how much we already know about machines.
Task: You will work with another partner in making, taping, and writing a list of all the machines you can think of. Afterwards you will classify them according to whichever rule you choose. You need to tape and write your answers to some questions.
Purpose: To put all the machines we know into categories and give reasons how and why they came into existence, and why they are important.
List all the machines you can think of.
Make groups of machines.
Read each question and write down the answers.
Why are there so many different types of machines?
Where do machines come from?
Why do we need machines?
Who made the machines?
Were there machines before there were humans?
Why are machines different?
How do machines communicate?
Can machines talk to people? What about people talking to machines?
Can you think of a machine that does not yet exist? What will it do?
Audience: Classmates and teacher
Assessment: Please see Performance Task Listing/Categorizing - APPENDIX B
Extension: Have children draw machines on the back of an index card. Write the name and a major characteristic of that machine.
Give the students categories by which to make the classification. i.e., machines that transport us, that open things, sharpen, etc.
Performance Task 2
Title: The lever.
Background: The lever is possibly one of the oldest simple machines in existence. The lever consists of a bar that turns around a point called the fulcrum. There are three different kinds of levers according to where the fulcrum is in reference to the effort force (the work needed to move an object) and the load (the object being moved).
Task: You will listen to and read stories about simple machines and in specific about levers. Afterwards you will create an outline or other organizer and will retell the story to your partner. You need to write down the important parts so you can tell what levers are all about to someone else.
Purpose: To retell the story heard or read to a partner with as much detail as possible with the use of 5 drawings or sentences that you are going to draw or write.
Procedure: Make an organizer by writing the name of the book in the middle of a blank page and, as you listen to or read the book, write the most important parts (what is a lever, where, why are levers important? how does a lever work?) in the rest of the space.
Now you can listen to or read the book.
Draw 5 pictures or write 5 sentences using your organizer about levers.
On the back of each picture write something you learned about levers.
Retell the book to another classmate with the help of the pictures you drew, the organizer, and the index cards.
Assessment: Please see Performance Task Retelling - APPENDIX B.
Extensions: This lesson will be repeated with each of the non-fiction books listed in the Student Bibliography section at the end of this unit. Thus, there will be five other tasks, one for each of the other simple machines.
Performance Task 3
Title: Machines Scavenger Hunt
Background: There are many machines around the classroom that help us do work. Machines offer us mechanical advantage by allowing us to use less force to do the same amount of work.
Task: You will work with your group in drawing and labeling all the machines you can find around the classroom. Afterwards you will classify them according to which of the 6 simple machines is the most prominent one. You need to draw and write the name of each of the machines on a 3 by 5 index card.
Purpose: To list all the machines around the classroom and categorize them by what simple machine is the most important one in each.
Take 10 to 15 index cards.
Look around the classroom for machines or objects that have movable parts.
Draw each object or machine on a different card.
Write the name on the back of the card.
Continue the same steps until you have a card for each object/machine.
Write the name of the simple machines (lever, wedge, axle and wheel, pulley, screw, ramp) on a separate card each.
Draw a picture of the simple machine
Place the objects/machines behind each of the cards with the simple machines, according to the most prominent part.
Audience: Classmates and teacher
Please see Performance Task Machines Scavenger Hunt - APPENDIX B.
Extension: Go to the library, playground, gymnasium, cafeteria, etc. and perform the same scavenger hunt.
Introduce Venn-diagrams to show how machines have similarities and differences.
A mathematics unit studying machines characteristics and classification could also originate through this activity. Thus, at the same time we learn about different simple machines, we uncover and discover how complex machines are made up of multiple simple machines.
Performance Task 4
Title: The Unloading of the Truck
Background: We just received the order placed for school materials, which include new chairs, tables, books for the library, mathematic manipulatives, construction paper, etc. Some of the materials come in boxes. Others come in big cylinder containers. The principal asks our classroom to stay after school one day to help Mr. Mark, the custodian, since we are studying simple machines and we can be of assistance.
Task: You need to come up with a plan to move all the materials to where they belong in the school. First, you will work with a different partner in reporting to the class the answers to the following questions. You need to record your answers to present to the class.
What simple machine would provide the most mechanical advantage to unload the truck?
What simple machine would provide the most mechanical advantage to bring the materials from the truck to the school? What about to bring them upstairs?
Explain in full sentences, the reason why you chose the machine you chose.
Audience: Classmates and teacher
Purpose: To describe what simple machines would be used to move objects.
Procedure: Think about the objects in the truck.
List all the simple machines we have studied and write how each can be used in downloading the truck, and bringing the load upstairs.
Choose which of the simple machines would give you the most mechanical advantage to download the truck. Write a sentence.
Choose which of the simple machines would give you the most mechanical advantage to move the load from the truck to the building. Write a sentence.
Choose which of the simple machines would give you the most mechanical advantage to bring the load from the first floor to the second floor. Write a sentence.
Extensions: Community workers and the machines they use.