Compound Machines

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SWBAT identify simple machines within compound machines and will discuss how they work together.

Big Idea

Complex machines make work even easier. Students will discuss the mechanical advantage of compound machines through the combination of various simple machines.


5 minutes

Teacher Tip: This lesson requires the following materials- 4 brown paper bags numbered 1-4 with one complex machine inside (wine bottle opener, scissors, stapler, can opener). This lesson provides students with a chance to observe real machines that are compound, but made of easily identifiable simple machines. 

To start this lesson, students will recall the 6 types of simple machines we have learned by creating a list in their student notes sheet

After 3-4 minutes, I will ask the students to share their responses and will write them on the white board, along with an example for each that I will push the kids to share. 


20 minutes

Students will work in small groups to complete the next section.  Each group will get one of the brown bags. They will take out the compound machine, make observations, and answer the questions by completing the chart for each machine.  They will have 5 minutes for each machine.  I put a timer on the board.  At the end of the time, I pass new bags to the groups.  Following the procedure again. 


15 minutes

Based on the information in their data chart, students will answer the following questions in their small groups.  When they are finished, each group will share their responses with the class. 

Answer the questions below in complete sentences.

  • How are complex machines different from simple machines?
  • How could complex machines be more useful than simple machines?
  • Explain how simple machines work together to make work easier.

This writing activity addresses NGSS standard SP7, as students are making a claim and supporting it with evidence from their own observations.  The responses to the above questions must be supported with observational evidence or they will not be accurate.