Creating A Visual on Forces and Newton's Laws

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Students will demonstrate their understanding of forces and Newton's laws of motion by creating a visual.

Big Idea

Obtaining and communicating information about how Newton's three laws of motion work is a great way to learn about physics.


The goal of this lesson is to help students construct explanations about forces and Newton's three laws of motion. This lesson addresses the RST.11-12/9 and HS-PS2-1 standards because it asks students to use information from multiple sources to create a conceptual model for Newton's laws of motion. It aligns with the NGSS Practices of Developing and Using Models (SP2), Using Mathematical and Computational Reasoning (SP5), and Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information (SP8) for Science because students use both text and interactive images to craft a conceptual understanding on Newton's laws of motion. One goal of this lesson is to help students learn that forces do not cause motion, forces instead cause changes in motion.

Students then use our digital textbook and note-taking skills to gather information and create a visual representation of Newton's laws of motion. During the closure activity, I ask students to discuss the most important and challenging parts of today's lesson on Newton's laws of motion. I assess student understanding throughout the lesson using informal check-ins and assess each student's work at the end of the school day. I want students to learn to integrate information from various points of this course into a conceptual understanding of forces and Newton's laws of motion. Within this lesson, students have to use skills like note taking and logic to recognize patterns while developing an understanding of how objects either maintain a constant velocity in the absence of a net force or accelerate in the presence of a net force.


10 minutes

This portion of the lesson begins with a routine where students write the objective and additional piece of information in their notebooks as soon as they enter the classroom. I project a slide with the date, the objective and an additional prompt  on the interactive whiteboard with a red label that says "COPY THIS" in the top left-hand corner. Sometimes the additional prompt is a BIG IDEA for the lesson or the Quote of the Day or a Quick Fact from current events that is related to the lesson. The red label helps my students easily interact with the information as soon as they enter the room and avoids losing transition time as students enter the classroom.

Today's additional piece of information is a Big Idea which states that obtaining and communicating information about Newton's laws is a great way to learn about physics. The objective of the bell-ringer is to give students a clear understanding of the focus of today's lesson. I want students to learn that applying Newton's laws of motion can be helpful in solving real world problems.

EDpuzzle: Newton's Laws Review

20 minutes

Within this lesson, I review Newton's three laws of motion. I include a set of notes that I project at the interactive whiteboard in the front of the room. This part of the lesson focuses on the conceptual models of forces and Newton's three laws of motion. For the first ten minutes, I play the notes at the front of the room for the entire class and pause at the pause points, embedded as green question marks in the video.

During the first ten minutes, students take notes in their notebooks during the pause points. I ask students if they have any questions or concerns about the methods discussed in the video. We have a whole class discussion for 2-4 minutes. Some student queries include, "Is there a way to recognize when a problem needs Newton's second law instead of Newton's third law? " and "What happens if I confuse the direction of a force?" During the last minute of this section of the lesson, I email this video and notes to the entire class so that students can watch, pause and replay the video outside of class. During the next section, students are given a set of activities related to these notes to complete in pairs.

Creating a Visual: Newton's Laws of Motion

35 minutes

At this point in the semester, students have created several types of visual work products and are comfortable working in small groups. During the first minute or two of this section, I project a set of instructions on the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room. Students work in pairs and spend twenty minutes creating a visual on forces and Newton's laws of motion.  

Each visual must include:

  • The physics of the problem: A summary of each of Newton's Laws of Motion
  • Illustrations of Newton's three laws
  • Tips for other students studying forces and Newton's laws of motion

After twenty minutes pass, students take turns using the "Sage on The Stage" strategy to give mini-lectures on the differences between Newton's three laws of motion to a pair of students. Each turn is 1-2 minutes long, students assess each other using a the Consortium Physics Project Rubric. This part of the lesson includes an exchange of visuals between groups and involves a fifteen-minute discussion of ideas and feedback. While each student is conducting a mini-lecture, the audience listens quietly, taking notes on the rubric to discuss after each student presents their viewpoint of the information. 

I choose this strategy to help students layer their current understanding of forces and Newton's laws of motion with visuals and small-group discussion to help students prepare for an upcoming understanding check. Click here to see an example of student work. I assess these visuals using this consortium physics rubric found here on the representation domain.


10 minutes

The closure activity uses a 3-2-1 strategy with a share out. Students spend 5-7 minutes writing three ideas they feel proficient in understanding, two concepts they still would like to learn more about, and one puzzle that remains confusing to them in their notebooks. We follow this activity with a share out where students volunteer their responses and share them verbally with the entire class.

Some student comments include, "I still want to know how we know that the Earth is pushing up on us with the same force we push down on it," "I know that forces come in pairs that are equal in size and opposite in direction", "and "I understand that unbalanced forces cause objects to accelerate". To wrap up, I ask students to review the post on study guide creation on our class Edmodo wall.