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Students understand how the pulley functions to make work easier by raising a flag and using a simple pulley in the classroom.

Big Idea

Pulleys help make heavy loads easier to lift.


10 minutes

Students are asked to sit at their seats to watch a short video about how a pulley works and what a pulley is.  This video puts the pulley into simple terms for a young learner to understand.

After the video is over, I ask the students to line up at the door.  I take the students out to the front of the school where our flagpole is.  I have students surround the flag pole in a circle so that every student can see.  Having students see first hand how the flag gets up the flagpole is quite an eye-opener for them.  Most students did not realize that the flag isn't just always there.  They just assume that that it stays at the top all of the time.  The students were fascinated by seeing the flag move up and down the pole.

I ask students, "Do you know how the flag moves up and down the pole?"  I wait for student responses.  Most likely, one or more student(s) will make the connection that a flagpole and flag uses a pulley system.

I then have an adult helper (either my husband or the custodian) show the class how the flag moves up and down the flagpole.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

After students get to see the flag and how a pulley system moves it up and down, I bring the students back into the classroom.

In the classroom, I have set up a pulley system attached to a hook in the ceiling (this was previously used for a swing).  If you don't have a hook available in the classroom, you could easily set up a pulley system to the playground equipment outside.

Once again, I show students how a rope can be easily be pulled from one side to the other using the pulley. 

As a class, we brainstorm ideas on chart paper of what jobs we could accomplish using a pulley.  As students offer suggestions, I make note of the on chart paper. I have the student brainstorm ideas first because it gets them thinking.  They have to make the connections between things that they know of that work on the pulley system. 

After I feel that everyone has exhausted their ideas, I have the students watch a PowerPoint that I've created with pictures of uses for a pulley. 

During the slide show, we compare those pictures to the list that we made on chart paper.  We highlight all of the ideas that we see.  The students are typically surprised to see some very common household items on the slide show that they did not think of.




5 minutes

In closing, we look back at the chart that we made.  I ask students to turn and talk to their table partner about pulleys.

I give them a few guiding questions for this discussion.

"Are there any pulleys used at your house?  What for?"

"Have you seen pulleys used anywhere other than your house?  What for?"

Most students were not able to come up with anything on their own other than the items that they just saw on the slide show.  However, one student said that his dad uses a pulley when he butchers meat.  He said he has many pulleys with hanging meat in a large cooler in their back yard.