Inclined Planes

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Students will be able to explain that an inclined plane is a simple machine that makes lifting heavy objects to a higher place easier by solving the problem of how to lift a heavy box.

Big Idea

Students understand that the inclined plane can make work easier for humans.


15 minutes

Students are asked to sit on the meeting place rug to talk about a new simple tool that is used to make a job easier: the inclined plane.

I start by talking to students about what inclined and plane mean since this is a term that students most likely will not have heard or having meaning for. "An inclined plane is a flat surface or plane that is sloped or inclined."

After giving them definitions of these words, I show the students a slide show of different types of and uses for inclined planes.

The slide show that I created is very basic.  I do not show students many examples for the reason that I want students to be able to come up with their own ideas of what common items or things they see are also inclined planes. 

We watch the slide show in order to give the students who may not have prior knowledge or who may have a more difficult time envisioning the things that we talk about.  Seeing the pictures gives students the opportunity to connect their knowledge to something familiar, especially when they speak another language.

Group Activity

20 minutes

After the students watch the slideshow, they are asked to sit at their seats.

I ask students to think for a minute or two about why they think an inclined plane makes a job easier.

I give students think time.  After a minute or two, I use turn taking sticks to call on a few students to give their ideas of what jobs would be easier when using an inclined plane.  I record their responses on chart paper.

After making a list of the students' ideas, I show the students a box of heavy blocks.  I ask a student to come to the front of the room and try to lift the box and put it up on the table at the fron of the room.  (the student will not be able to do that because of the weight of the box).

I ask students to talk to their table partner about how we could get that box onto the table. I give them 2-3 minutes while I walk around and listen to their ideas.

After a couple of minutes, I say, "freeze"  to get the students' attention.

We then share our ideas and I record them on chart paper.

(Hopefully, one or more students will share that we could use a ramp.)

At that time, I will have students try out some of their ideas.  At the end, we try a ramp using a 2X4 that I have on hand in the classroom.

Doing the activity shows students that using certain tools make certain jobs easier which comes back to the focus of the entire lesson.


10 minutes

To close the lesson, I pass out science journals and the students are asked to draw a picture of an inclined plane.

I then pass out the definition that is printed ahead of time and cut out for them, in kid friendly terms to glue to the page.

Definition that I use is:

An inclined plane is a flat surface or plane that is sloped or inclined.

Having students revisit the definition and to draw a picture of an inclined plane gives them another opportunity to show that they have understood the meaning.  Also, having the definition in writing is important for those students who also need a visual.