Force: Push or Pull

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Students learn that a force makes an object move or change direction by pushing or pulling something.

Big Idea

Pushing or pulling makes things move, even on the playground!


15 minutes

Students are asked to line up at the door because today we will be doing a science lesson on force outside on the playground.

I take the students out to the playground and have them sit in the middle of the playground so that they can see the majority of the toys and swings that are outside.

I remind students that in the previous lesson, we learned that force is the push or pull of an object and that force can make an object move or change direction.

I then ask students to look around the playground and think about the things they do when they are at recess. I give them a few minutes and then I ask them to stop, look and listen.

After giving students a minute or two to look around and think, I ask them to pair up with a partner and sit knee to knee with them. For this activity, I let them choose their own partners.

I ask students to take turns talking to their partner about the things they do on the playground. I add that I would like them to talk to each other about whether they are pushing or pulling during those activities. I give them an example. "If I were talking to my partner I might say, I like to play tag when I am at recess. When I tag someone, am I pushing or pulling?"

I give students several minutes to have these discussions.

Having students share with each other about things they do on the playground gives them the opportunity to use the vocabulary that we are learning in a setting that is fun and engaging. It helps them connect this idea of force with something familiar and concrete which helps builds their conceptual understanding.

Guided Practice - whole group

15 minutes

Before going back inside, We try out a few of the things that are played most often on the playground. I have pairs show us a few activities and we talk as a class about whether they are pushing or pulling during that activity like riding the see-saw or climbing the monkey bars. 

After trying a few of them, I ask students to line up to head back in.

We go inside together and I ask students to sit down at their seats. I have a chart hanging on the board with two sections. One section is labeled, "Push" and the other "Pull".

Using turn taking sticks, I call on a student to tell me one piece of playground equipment that he and his partner talked about. The student will name one and then as a class, we engage in discussion of which column we should put it in on the chart based on whether we use push or pull forces to make them move or our body move.

This activity will go on until we have exhausted all of the playground activities that the students engaged in.

When having the discussions of which force we use, I try to make sure that it is more the students having the discussions and I try to fall back and not get involved unless necessary. I express to the students that I am not the one on the playground playing so they are the experts in this discussion. Allowing students the opportunity to discuss their findings helps them to work together to analyze their data.


Independent Practice

15 minutes

After the group discussion is finished and we have filled out our chart, I explain to students that it is now time for them to be scientists and study push and pull.

I hand out a form to each student that has boxes where the student will draw a picture and then circle the words push or pull for each picture.

I explain to students that they will be going on a walk around the school. They will then draw pictures of the things around our school that use force (push or pull) to make them move. They will then circle the correct force in the box.

For example: If I were walking down the hall and needed to go into the restroom, I would need to PUSH the door open to go in. So I could draw a picture of the bathroom door and I would circle the word PUSH on my form.

The students are asked to do this for 10 different things around the building. (You could also have them do this within the classroom or out on the playground if you were worried about disturbing other classrooms.)

I have several adults on hand for this activity so that students are supervised at all times.

I instruct students to fill out their forms completely and to meet me back in the classroom when their form is complete.


10 minutes

When all students are back in the classroom, I have them meet me on the meeting place rug with their forms.

I ask students to turn knee to knee with the person sitting next to them and share out what 10 objects or people they have added to their forms.

I give a few minutes for them to complete this and the I bring them back together to review the definition of force.

The last 5-10 minutes of class is so important because this is were they get to solidify and make sense of what they learned today.