Introduction to Forces and Motion

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SWBAT identify different examples of motion and the forces that cause them.

Big Idea

By engaging in play, students will explore the forces behind different motions.


In North Carolina, we teach the Essential Standards for Science and are not held to the Next Generation Science Standards. Click here to hear more. Therefore, in first grade, one of the units is Forces and Motion. For this introductory lesson, I use a mixture of teaching methods including an independent  writing/drawing pre-assessment at the beginning, then a whole group active game, followed by a whole group sorting activity.

The pre-assessment gets students thinking about motions and movement by themselves and gives me a chance to quickly find out what students already know. The game really gives students an opportunity to get out of their seats and become actively involved with the topic. Since we are learning about motion and forces, students need multiple opportunities to act them out and feel them kinesthetically in order to really understand the push and pull forces behind them. Then, finishing the lesson with a whole group sorting activity provides the time for me to help students to further connect the game with the vocabulary in the written sense which will support their learning in subsequent lessons.

This lesson is designed to introduce students to lots of different vocabulary words describing different types of motion and the forces that cause the motion. This concept aligns to L.1.4 because students are learning unfamiliar vocabulary about forces and motion. Since students already know about motion, I am starting this unit by engaging students in moving and acting out different motions while reading the written vocabulary words. This is to prepare them for writing about the movements in their science journals. Offering a variety of different objects for students to use gives them the choice to either use something they are familiar with or to try something new.The Essential Science Standard 1.P.1.1. states that students will explain the purpose of a push or a pull and how it changes the motion of objects and this activity introduces students to thinking about motion in terms of pushing and pulling.

At my school, I am required to include an "I can..." statement. For today, the statement reads, “I can identify different kinds of motion and the forces that cause them”.

I will use:

Three sets of motion vocabulary cards, cut apart and shuffled.

A variety of balls, toys, and objects that students will use to act out of the different motions.

Smart Board


Warm Up

5 minutes

Before I engage students in learning about forces and motion, I want to know what they already know. This will guide the rest of my lesson planning by ensuring that I am providing rigorous content and not boring my students with things they already know!

In our science journals, I ask students to start a new entry with the date, topic “Forces and Motion”, and the “I can…” statement for today.

Then, I say,

“Motion means movement. Write or draw all of the different ways you can think of that you can move. Who can think of one to get us started?”

After writing the answers of one or two students, I say,

“I want to see how many kinds of motion you can think of on your own. Work for a few minutes and write or draw the different types of motion you can do, or that an animal or an object can do. If you cannot think of any, try thinking about a different type of animal or object and how they move”.

After about 4-5 minutes, when everyone seems to be slowing down, I say,

“Now, close your journals. We are going to play a game to learn more about motion and the forces that cause them”.

I collect the journals because students will not need them again in this lesson and because I do not want them to change or add to their answers after the lesson before I get a change to see what they know. After class, I look at the journals and record how many different examples of motion students write or draw. At the end of the unit, I ask students to repeat this activity in order to compare and record how much more they can identify.


20 minutes

If the weather is nice, I take my students outside because I want students to not have restricted  movements for this lesson. Alternatively, we use the gym or move the student's tables out of the way so that they can really move. I ask students to make a circle and I put the box of balls and other objects that they can use near the middle. I tell the students,

"For this game, two students are going to play at the same time. I am going to show you both a word and I will read it to you, then you have to do what the word says with an object from the box and everyone says what motion you performed. For example, if I show you the card that reads 'drop', then you choose something from the box like a ball or a doll and you hold it up and then drop it and we all say 'Drop!' Let's practice". 

Then I take a ball and hold it up, drop it, and say, "Drop!" and encourage the students to say it with me. The purpose of having the students say the vocabulary word is to give the students a chance to hear me say it when I read it to them and then to repeat it in connection with the motion. Some of the motions I expect they will know, such as roll and drop, but some may be less familiar. Seeing the vocabulary word, hearing it from me, and saying it with the group provides multiple types of exposure to each word. Also, there are three sets of cards and lots of different objects to choose from so the students will have lots of opportunities to make connections to each vocabulary word.

Engaging in this activity as well as watching other students demonstrate motions for different motions provides the first opportunity for students to make observations about the motions - that some of the movements need a force behind them (like throwing or rolling a ball), some motions occur due to a release of a grasp (like dropping a ball), and some motions require complex, repetitive arm movements like zig-zagging a car. As students work with forces and motion throughout this unit, these initial, informal observations support their understanding of gravity. In the Science and Engineering Practice Standard 6, 'Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions', students are expected to make observations in order to construct explanations of natural phenomenon. Providing experiences for students to begin to recognize the similarities with all movements, including that a force is needed to start and stop an object and that gravity affects all objects, supports this standard.

For this game, I have two students play at a time with the same vocabulary word. That is purposeful because it supports students who are shy and do not want to play the game alone and it also makes each turn go faster so students get more opportunities to interact. If I had a really big class, I might even have 3 students go at the same time but I want to have a small enough group playing that I can watch their movements and make sure they are accurate.

If a student did the wrong motion, or did not know a motion, they can watch the other player and correct their own motion. Alternatively, I might shuffle the cards and make that one come up again very quickly and say,

"Everyone - quick - turn to your neighbor and tell them what [the motion that was incorrect] means and give an example!"

Since this is the introductory lesson and some of the vocabulary is purposefully challenging, I do not expect all students to be fully proficient the first time through the game. As this unit progresses, we will replay this game during recess to keep practicing each type of movement.


10 minutes

After we have finished playing a few rounds of the game, I want to help students make the connection between the motions they just experienced with the forces that cause those them. Specifically, I want to focus in on pushes and pulls because that is the specific objective for the Essential Standards, and my next few lessons are about those in particular.

We return to the classroom and I say to students,

"Now that you know lots of vocabulary words about motion, let's talk about the forces that cause those motions. Can someone tell me what a 'force' is?"

After students give their ideas, I say,

"A force is a push or a pull that changes the motion of an object. When you apply a force like a push or a pull, it makes an object go faster or slower or change direction".

Then I say,

"Who can demonstrate what it means to push an object?"

I get a volunteer to push a chair, and repeat the question and get a different volunteer to pull a chair. Then I use my Smart Board to show 3 columns with all of the vocabulary we just used in the game already typed into the middle column. If you do not have access to a Smart Board, you could write all of the vocabulary words onto sentence strips and tape or glue them onto chart paper labeled the same way.

I say to the students,

"Now, we are going to sort this vocabulary and see if any of them were caused by a push or a pull. Some of them were but some of them were not. Let's see what we can figure out".

We go word by word and decide as a whole group if each word was caused by a push, pull, or a different force. If it is a push, I highlight the word in the column and move it to the push column, and do the same if it is a pull.

When we are finished, I save the new document and print it to add to our bulletin board about forces and motion. Students can use this as a reference tool in the future. I can also use the same sorting columns again as a post assessment or to reteach in small groups if I need to, based on how students progress through the unit.


Since this is the first lesson introducing this concept and I used the first five minutes to conduct a preassessment of the content, I do not conduct a formal assessment during this lesson. However, since I expect students to begin to use the vocabulary that has been taught during this lesson I will collect the students' journals after 2-3 lessons and verify that they are utilizing the vocabulary. To do this, I will record on my Student Recording Sheet how many motion vocabulary words they use in the lessons to that point. Then, I will record the same information again further into the lesson. This provides me with the information that not only are they comfortable using the words but that they are also using them correctly and therefore understand the meaning of the words.