Motion of the Ocean (Part 2/2)

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SWBAT describe the motion of objects in different ways.

Big Idea

What does it mean to move? Students use diagrams, calculations and graphs and data tables to explore motion of objects.


Middle school students are always moving, so the study of motion should feel right at home. I use the Motion of the Ocean lesson as an introduction to basic kinematic concepts, so that students have a basic understanding as they move forward in the design of speed, acceleration and Newton's Laws of Motion investigations (MS-PS2-2). This lesson can be used as is, split into individual learning segments or jazzed up with additional demonstrations, visuals and demonstrations.

As students work through this lesson, they use science practices such as analyzing and interpreting data (SP4) and using mathematics and computational thinking (SP5) to construct a conceptual understanding of motion. Students also access Common Core Mathematical Standards in Expressions and Equations when they practice calculating speed and acceleration.

The Motion of the Ocean is a guided concept-building exercise including lessons taught over the span of two or more days. The activity relies heavily on rigorous student thinking, so spacing it out over several days can help minimize student burn-out. To help manage the magnitude of this activity, you will find the project split into two parts.

  • Part 1 includes the ENGAGE and EXPLORE/EXPLAIN components of the lesson; Time: one to two 50-minute lessons or equivalent block period. 
  • Part 2 includes the EXTEND and EVALUATE components of the lesson; Time: less than one 50-minute lesson.


The EXTEND stage allows students to apply new knowledge to a novel situation. The novel situation in this case is found here: Motion Challenge Problem For students who move through the activities quickly, I check their work and give them the choice to:

1) Review the concepts by making flashcards, quizzing or reading additional sections from the textbook.

2) Help another student who needs additional support. (See: Mastery Learning in Science: Students as Teachers)

3) Complete additional practice activities at the end of the Motion Student Handout or Motion Math Practice. An example of this extension can be found here: Motion Notes Student Work.

4) Work on the Motion Challenge Problem.

The following video describes the importance of designing lessons to include both remediation and extension activities in order to differentiate learning.


25 minutes

The EVALUATION stage is for both students and teachers to determine how much learning and understanding has taken place. The primary way I evaluate student learning is by giving students an assessment that focuses on the "remember", "understand" and "apply" levels of understanding: Motion Checkout Quiz.

Additional discussion about what to do if students "don't get it" is included in the reflection for this section. Additional practice and re-assessment may be required. If so, here are a couple of resources: Motion Relearn Activities and Motion Retake.