Exploring Simple Machines

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Students will explore various types of simple machines by observing them in centers.

Big Idea

Simple machines are everyday objects that kindergarten students may not realize are machines.


15 minutes

Students are asked to sit on the meeting place rug to hear the directions and instructions for a new science unit on simple machines.

For the first lesson in this unit, students will be able to explore different types of simple machines in centers. 

Each table in the classroom has various types of simple machines that we will be learning about in the unit. 

I explain to students that on each of the tables, there are some items that they will explore for this lesson.  When doing an exploration lesson, I do not give a whole lot of direction.  It is important at times to give students time to look at, feel, touch and just explore. 

I say to the students, "While you are at your table, I want you to get to know the things on the table.  Feel them, investigate these objects, try to figure out what they might be used for.  I will set the timer for 5 minutes and when the timer rings, I want you to freeze so that we can switch centers."

Students have been taught that when we "freeze", we stop what we are doing, look at the teacher and listen.

I set an egg timer for 5 minutes and when it rings, I give instructions to switch centers and start exploring again. The students always rotate clockwise and they use the arrows around the classroom to remind them which way to rotate. See the attached picture with the meeting place rug and the arrows on the wall.

Exploration Centers

30 minutes

Students will rotate through each center.  There will be 6 centers.

The centers will include the following: (see the picture of the first center to give you an idea of what I used.  Each center is different and uses familiar objects.)

#1 Wheels and Axels

#2 Pulleys

#3 Levers

#4 Inclined Planes

#5 Screws

#6 Wedges

I do not give the students the names of each type of simple tool.  This lesson is meant to just be an exploratory lesson.

Students have 5 minutes at each center.  While the students are exploring, I am walking around the room, listening to their conversations and observing them.  If I see students who are not engaged, I stop and ask questions to peak their interest or ask a peer to tell that students something interesting that they saw.

At the end of the 5 minutes, the timer rings, students freeze and I give instructions to rotate to the next center.  I set the timer for another 5 minutes.  This is repeated until every group has been to each center.



15 minutes

When students have finished their last center, I ask them to come back to the meeting place rug. 

This allows for an adult (classroom paraprofessional or an adult helper) to clear the tables while I give instructions.

I explain to students that our exploration is done and that we are going to go to our seats and work in our science journals.

"In your science journal, I would like you to draw pictures of some of the things that you saw at the centers.  If you think you know the names of some of those things, you could label them with a word."

When I see that the tables have been cleared, I will excuse students to their seats.

Having students draw pictures in their journals gives them the opportunity to recall some of the things that they saw.  It is also an opportunity to give those students who have some background knowledge on some of the items a chance to name the items.  This also gives me as the teacher a chance to see what students already know about these various simple machines.

I give students about 15 minutes to work in their journals.  At the end of 15 minutes, I explain to students that the next lessons, we will get to learn more about and explore each of the machines in more detail.