Newton's Laws of Motion

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SWBAT practice Newton's 3 Laws of Motion using simple experiments.

Big Idea

Sir Isaac Newton is a scientist who studied gravity and motion. Students will participate in an investigation that explores Newton's three laws of motion.

Lesson Overview- 5 E Lesson Planning

5 minutes

Unit 3: Gravity

Lesson 7: Newton's Laws of Motion.

5E Lesson Planning:

I plan most of my science lessons using the BSCS 5E Lesson Model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.For a quick overview of the model, take a look at this video.

I use this lesson model because it peaks the students' interest in the beginning during the "Engage" portion and allows for the students to actively participate in the investigations throughout the subsequent steps. The “Evaluate” component of the 5E Lesson Model can be used in many ways by the teacher and by the students.

A great resource for lesson plan frameworks and explanations is the Community Resources for Science. The 5E Planning Template and 5E Lesson Prompts come from this website. 

Unit Overview:

In this Unit students will conduct some investigations about gravity. They will learn about how the planets stay in orbit around the Sun and will re-create Galileo’s pendulum experiments. They will also learn about Sir Isaac Newton’s work and his Laws of Motion as they relate to the idea of gravity.

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students will learn about Sir Isaac Newton and his three laws of motion. We learn about the laws from a Science Channel video, we practice some simple experiments based on Newton's Laws, and we watch some circus dogs demonstrate these laws from a PBS program.

This lesson can be broken up over 2 to 3 days. Day 1 can be the Science Channel Video and vocabulary cards (30-45 minutes), day 2 can be the experiments (45 minutes), and day 3 can be the wrap up and Plickers quiz (30 minutes). 

Materials needed:

  • index cards for vocabulary flashcards
  • a small plastic cup
  • a playing card
  • a coin
  • marble (2)
  • paper ball (2)
  • ping pong ball (2) 
  • golf ball (2)
  • magnet (2)
  • penny (2)
  • flour
  • 2 shoe boxes or box to hold the flour and prevent too much of a mess
  • balloons
  • straws

Next Generation Science Standards:

The NGSS standards that will be covered in this unit/ lesson are:

5-PS2-1. Support an argument that the gravitational force exerted by Earth on objects is directed down.

Disciplinary Core Ideas:  This lesson aligns to the Disciplinary Core Idea of

PS2.B: Types of Interactions  The gravitational force of Earth acting on an object near Earth’s surface pulls that object toward the planet’s center. (5-PS2-1)

Crosscutting Concepts:

Cause and Effect:  Cause and effect relationships are routinely identified and used to explain change. (5-PS2-1)

Science & Engineering Practices:

Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Engaging in argument from evidence in 3–5 builds on K– 2 experiences and progresses to critiquing the scientific explanations or solutions proposed by peers by citing relevant evidence about the natural and designed world(s).  Support an argument with evidence, data, or a model. (5PS2-1)




30 minutes

I tell the students that we will be learning more about gravity and motion and I explain to them that we are learning about another famous scientist- Sir Isaac Newton and I ask the class if anyone has ever heard of him before. A few of them raise their hands and one of them mentions that he had an apple fall on his head. I explain that they will find out from the website about whether or not this is true. I tell them that they will be using the Science Channel website to learn about Isaac Newton and his Laws of Motion.

I have all of the students work on this interactive website from the Science Channel. We do this activity during one of our computer lab times. I am making sure to monitor their use of the website and encourage them to take their time and read through all of the pages. I also encourage them to write any notes down that they think might be important.I tell them that I want them to complete the quiz at the end of the presentation and that they have to show me their scores (this will count as a pre-assessment for the lesson). I record the student's scores so that I can see what they learned by the end of the lesson.  

I also tell them to make sure to read the biography about Isaac Newton as well as copy and define the terms from the glossary in their science notebooks. (they should be writing: force, motion, inertia, momentum, acceleration, action, reaction, uniform motion, physics, variable- these are in the glossary on the website).

Since this lesson has a lot of terms, I have the students make vocabulary cards when we return from the Computer Lab.

Our method of making vocabulary cards involves several steps and it's based on the Step Up to Writing  curriculum. One one side of the card, the student writes the term and a picture representing the term. On the other side of the card, the students write the word in syllables, what part of speech the word is, a synonym for the word and they write a short definition (in their own words), and they write a sentence that includes the word.  I model this with the students with one of the vocabulary words. We use these cards as study materials for tests when we include vocabulary questions.



45 minutes

After we have finished in the computer lab, I make sure the students have completed their vocabulary cards and we discuss what they learned from the website. I remind the students about the 3 laws of motion they learned about from the website and I show them a poster that represents each of the Laws of Motion. I printed these posters and laminated them so I could display them throughout the unit. I like them because they are simple and colorful and give a simple explanation and diagram of each of Newton's Laws of Motion: Newton's First Law PosterNewton's 2nd law poster, and Newton's 3rd law poster. I remind the students to reference these posters when they need a reminder about which of the Laws they are observing.

**This could be a break point and the next part can be done the next day.

I set up 3 different centers for the students to experience Newton's Three Laws of Motion. I divide the class into 3 groups and have set up 2  stations at each experiment around the room (this makes it so that only 5 students will be at an experiment at one time- 10 students will be at the Balloon Racers, but they have 2 sets of materials to work with). The students bring their science notebooks to each center to record their observations and draw sketches of each experiment using this Newton's laws data sheet.

I give each group 15 minutes at each experiment and rotate them through all 3. I have the procedures for the experiment written for the students at each station so that they can be self-directed with going through them. 

1) Newton's First Law (Law of Inertia)An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.”

Penny on a Card Experiment

Materials for the Penny on the Card Experiment:

  • a small plastic cup,
  • a playing card
  • a coin.


  • Put a playing card on top of the plastic cup
  • Put a coin on top of the card
  • With a sharp flick, hit the card out from under the coin! Or pull it really quickly toward you.
  • The coin will drop into the cup.

Record your observations and draw a picture of what happened in your science notebook.

2) Newtons' Second Law (F=ma): 

Dropping Objects into Flour (Force = Mass x acceleration)

marble vs. paper ball, ping pong ball vs. golf ball, magnet vs. penny.

Students will drop both objects from the same height and see what impact the object made on the flour (the size of the crater in the flour). They record their observation in their science notebooks and sketch what the craters look like in the flour.

3) Newton's Third Law (Action and Reaction):

Straw balloon racers

Students blow up a balloon and attach a straw to the top. Do not tie the balloon. Loop some string through the straw and tie one end to a stationary spot (cabinet door, chair, desk, etc.). Put the string through the straw and have a student hold one end. Let go of the balloon and watch what happens.





30 minutes

To complete the lesson on Newton's Laws of motion, I show the students the following video from PBS. I tell the students to think about which of the laws of physics that the dogs are demonstrating and to take notes about this in their science notebooks. After watching the video, we have a class discussion about how the dogs were demonstrating the 3 different laws of motion. My kids love dogs, so I thought that these would be fun for them to watch.

After the video, I give them a Plickers quiz to assess what they have learned in this lesson. I create a Multiple Choice quiz on the website and use the Plickers cards and the app on my phone to scan the students' answers. Each student has their own card that has a code on it and they hold their card to show their answer. The app lets me scan the cards and get/give instant feedback to me and my students about the quiz. Plickers also create a report for you so you can use the results. 

My quiz questions are (I base these questions on the initial quiz they took in the Science Channel website and on some of the activities we did in class):

1. How did Sir Isaac Newton first discover his laws of motion?

2. When an object is at rest, it stays at rest, and when it is in motion, it stays in motion. Which of Newton's Laws does this describe?

3. Which of Newton's Laws is this image showing?

Newton's 3rd Law

4. Kicking a soccer ball would be an example of which of Newton's Laws?


5. Which of Newton's Laws is this picture showing?


 Newton's First Law

6. From the experiments we did in class, which one demonstrated Newton's 3rd Law?

7. What does the formula F=ma stand for?


The students love using Plickers and they do a fantastic job on the quiz (the majority of them got all of the questions right). For the few students who struggle with the quiz, I meet with them in a small group and go over their notes and observations from the experiments to support them with understanding the content.