Simple Machines Introduction

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SWBAT identify characteristics of the 6 simple machines and explain the function of each by observing household examples.

Big Idea

Through a station activity involving everyday simple machines, students will form their own ideas of the basic simple machines.


5 minutes

Teacher Tip: This lesson is designed to give students a chance to interact with the 6 types of simple machines using household examples. They will make observations about the machines and together will come up with the purpose and function of each kind based on those observations. This addresses SP8.  In order to properly understand the function of each machine, students will need to recall their knowledge of force, motion and potential energy.  MS-PS3-2 comes into play here, as the students will use their understanding of forces to identify how the simple machine works.

To prepare, you will need the following items: 6 brown paper bags labeled #1-6, each with a simple machine example inside (wedge-door stopper or scissors, lever- wooden spoon or ice cream scooper, inclined plane- a small ramp or set of dollhouse stairs, screw-an actual screw, wheel and axle- toy car or cart, pulley- pictures of various pulley systems)

To start the lesson, I have the students think about the word "machine."  In their student notes sheet, I have them answer the following prompt: 

What is a machine? Explain when or where you’ve heard this word and what you know about it.

After 3-4 minutes, I ask 2-3 students to share their responses with the class. 


25 minutes

On each table, I place one of the numbered brown paper bag with the simple machine examples inside. Each student has four minutes, per station, to complete the chart in the notes sheet.  I set a timer on the SMARTBoard so the students know how much time they have remaining for each station.  There will be a few students at each station.  Encourage them to talk to one another about their observations as they complete the data chart. 


20 minutes

Based on the student observations, we attempt to identify the function of each kind of simple machine.  On the SMARTBoard, I post this image.  Students will now see an example for each kind of simple machine along with the official name of each. Based on each example, we will identify the function of each using our observations, as well.  I start with wedge and move on in the following order:





Inclined Plane-

Wheel and Axle-

As each is discussed, I ask students to identify the image attached to wedge in the picture. They say "nail" and we discuss the function of a nail, "it holds things together with a point." I ask them if any of their sample machines in bags are like the nail. Some may say "screw." To which, I reply that the screw holds things together differently than a nail.  I ask them to find an example that comes to a point (door stopper). We do this process for all 6 simple machines. 


20 minutes

Now that students know the names and functions of each of the machines, they now go back to their observation chart and identify each bag with a specific simple machine.  They also explain how they know this example is that specific machine. 


5 minutes

For a final wrap-up questions, students answer the following prompt in their notes sheet: 

What is a simple machine?

List the 6 types.

I will ask 2 students to share their responses for each, asking another student to give an example as each simple machine is stated.