Newton's Laws Graffiti

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SWBAT describe Newton's Laws of Motion.

Big Idea

Newton's Laws help us explain and predict the motion of objects - explore the laws through research, demonstrations and art!


15 minutes

No! Not note-taking! This Newton's Laws Graffiti lesson "tricks" students into note-taking by drawing on several high-interest strategies. By using demonstrations, research and art, students participate actively in this introductory lesson to the laws of motion (PS2.A: Forces and Motion). In addition to addressing forces and motion disciplinary core ideas, rigor is added in terms of the science practices. Students critically read scientific texts adapted for classroom use to obtain scientific information (SP8) which is related to the "Research to Build and Present Knowledge" Common Core English Language Arts Standards for Science and Technical Subjects.

In order to ENGAGE students in this lesson, students consider the question:

Why is a picture said to be worth 1,000 words?


After viewing the, "If a picture is worth 1,000 words" meme, students enthusiastically respond, "Yeah! Why can't we just draw instead of write!?" I tell them, "Yes! Today you will!" Students share why they think a picture is worth 1,000 words. Some probing questions that can help the discussion develop are:

What can a picture do that words cannot?

When are pictures better to use than words?

When might you want to use pictures in science to help you explain what you are thinking?

These questions may lead to a connection to the models cross-cutting concept. Since models can be used to represent systems and their interactions (CCC Systems and System Models - Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.), students may recognize that pictures can be a powerful way to portray scientific models.

Students then view the following picture with the instructions to choose five words that this picture evokes for them.

This picture has powerful connotations that students share. To finish the ENGAGE portion of the lesson, students view the following picture with the instructions to choose five words that this picture evokes for them.

Ending on this fun note, students begin to explore Newton's Laws of Motion.


75 minutes

The EXPLORE stage of the lesson is to get students involved in the topic so that they start to build their own understanding. The EXPLAIN stage provides students with an opportunity to communicate what they have learned so far and figure out what it means. To help students explore and explain Newton's Laws, each student receives a blank Newton's Laws Graffiti Student Handout. Drawing on previous discussions about the power of pictures, we discuss what "graffiti notes" might look like and what types of information to include. It is important to show an example, Newton's Laws Graffiti Teacher Example, so they can visualize how their notes can develop.

Once students understand the concept of graffiti notes (splash words and pictures on the page using colors and symbols to build memorable visual displays), students activate (or build) background knowledge by viewing the Sir Isaac Newton BrainPop video. The video introduces Newton's Laws of Motion. This is a good departure point for discussion about the nature of science concept: scientific models, laws, mechanisms, and theories explain natural phenomena. For a brief explanation of scientific theories, hypotheses and laws, click here.

Using the Newton's Laws Graffiti Presentation, students begin the exploration process. For each law, students follow this pattern (slides 2 - 4):

1) Use a resource to find a description of Newton’s 1st, 2nd or 3rd Law.

2) Review Law using Newtons Laws of Motion Interactive Presentation.

3) Demonstration of law using: Predict – Observe - Explain Protocol.

4) Discussion and clarification of law.

For more on the Predict - Observe - Explain strategy for demonstrations, visit this section's reflection: Predict - Observe - Explain: A Protocol for Demonstrations. Once we have completed this cycle for each law, students spend time enhancing their graffiti notes using the following criteria (slide 5) and by adding artistic components:

      - Explanation of law

      - Real world examples

      - Diagrams

      - Predict – Observe – Explain entry for each law

      - Any other important facts

Teacher Note: While live demonstrations are highly engaging, if time or materials do not allow, the following videos are available for use:

Newton's 1st Law of Motion Demonstration:

Newton's 2nd Law of Motion Demonstration:

Newton's 3rd Law of Motion Demonstration:


The EXTEND stage allows students to apply new knowledge to a novel situation. The novel situation in this case is for students to add to their Newtons Laws Graffiti Student Handout as we explore the laws in subsequent investigations. Additionally, on the back of the handout, there are additional activities students may use to further extend their understanding.

In order to extend or remediate learning, we may also use Newtons Laws of Motion Interactive Presentation as a supplementary tool to explore the laws. This presentation includes links to simulations, examples and questions that can be used for assessment.


10 minutes

The EVALUATION stage is for both students and teachers to determine how much learning and understanding has taken place. Due to the introductory nature of this lesson, I choose to simply check student work: Newton's Laws Graffiti Student Example 1 and Newtons Laws Graffiti Student Example 2 for the completion (final product includes all required components) and presentation (final product uses words and pictures to show Newton's Laws of Motion). The reason I don't conduct a more formal assessment for this lesson is due to its introductory nature. After this lesson, students conduct multiple investigations to further explore and refine their understanding of each law. Attached to each of those investigations, I would assess conceptual understanding - I do think this graffiti product could make for a very interesting assessment strategy for Newton's Laws or other scientific concepts.