Parts of a Pen and Its Properties

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SWBAT identify the parts of a pen and explain how the parts' properties support the function of the pen.

Big Idea

Material engineers decompose a ball point pen to discover how the parts support the function of the pen.

NGSS Connections and Class Preparation

30 minutes

NGSS Standards

DCI PS1 A - Different properties are suited to different purposes

Students examine the materials and associated properties of the parts of pen to conceptualize how materials have properties that support the pens' purpose.

List standard

Science Practices

- Asking Questions and Defining Problems (SP 1)

Students ask questions about the parts and materials of a ball point pen to discover what material properties help the pen work.

- Analyzing and Interpreting Data (SP 4)

Students make diagrams to help explain how materials and their properties help a ball point pen to work

Lesson Preparation

collect ball point pens that are easy to disassemble; 1 pen/pair of students

copy the lab pages


12 ball point pens

12 paper plates


Question for the Day

5 minutes

Science starts with a question, usually written on the board. This allows students time to consider today's topic before the lesson has officially begun. I have established this routine with the kiddos to keep transition time short and effective and redirect student's attention back to content while allowing time for focused peer interaction.

Question for the Day: What is a ball point pen?

Students discuss their answers with their shoulder partners. When students have indicated they have finished sharing by turning to face me, I call on a few volunteers to share their partner's answers.

Students are familiar with this request which helps promote active and respectful listening.

I write students answers on the board.

"Materials engineers today you will work with your table partner and take apart a ball point pen to discover what parts are in the pen and what properties these parts have to help the ball point pen work."

"Please return to your seats and I will pass out your lab page and ball point pens. When you get your pen, observe what you see on the outside. You can try the pen, but do not take it apart yet."


Ball Point Pen Diagram One

20 minutes

After the ballpoint lab, paper plates and pens are passed out, I signal for students' attention and direct students to place the pens on the paper plates in the center of the table.

Each student has their own lab pages, to help keep individuals engaged and accountable.

I hold up the pencil diagram that I made with the class in a previous lesson. "Just like the pencil diagram that we did as a class, you will make a diagram for the pen to show the material properties that help the pen work."

"The first diagram you make will show material properties on the the outside of the pen."

"Then you will take the pen apart to discover the material properties on the inside of the pen that help it work. You will make a diagram for these materials too."

"Lets do the outside diagram together. Start by drawing a pen. What shape does the pen have? Right an oval!"

 I draw my diagram under the document camera while the students develop their diagram on their lab page.

Some students chose to trace around their pen.

"After students have drawn the pen, I ask about the shape and if this is a property of the pen that helps it do its job?"

I model how to label the material, property and its purpose, i.e. oval shape - makes it easy to hold

Not all the students have the same type of pen, so I create a shapes and names word bank for students to utilize.

I used the following questions to guide students to consider material, property and how the property of the material supports the function of the pen.

"What material was used to make the cover of the pen? What is a property of this material helps the pen? Let's label the material and property and how it supports the pen."

After the key material properties of the pen have been identified, I ask, if the color of the pen is a property, and if it helps the function of the pen. I encourage students to support their answer with reasons. The students choose to add 'color of pen' or not to their diagram.

Ball Point Pen Diagram Two

20 minutes

Before students open their pens I suggest that since there is one pen for 2 engineers that one student takes apart the pen and the other puts the pen back together.

I direct students to place pen pieces on the paper plate and to handle the pieces carefully so when they put the pen back together it will still work.

"Each of you will draw a diagram for the pen part. Discuss with your partner the material you think the part was made out of. Then label the material and its property that helps that part do its job.

On the revised lab form, students are directed to explain how the property helps the material do its job for the pen.

"After you and your partner have diagrammed all the parts, then you put your pen back together."

I move around the room and help students decide the name of some of the materials. I ask questions to help students think about the properties that help the part do its job.

Possible parts to discuss with the groups

What helps the button to pop back up?

- spring:      Material - steel wire      Property: holds is shape; can be compressed (springy)

How does the spring stay in the right place and not bend out?

- tube to hold spring:    Material: plastic       Property: smooth, small enough to fit inside

Where is the ink?

- tube with ink:     Material: plastic       Property: hollow, ink can be put inside

What is used to put the ink on the paper?

- ball:   Material: metal    Property: round, rolls on paper;  rough, helps to hold the ink


Ball Point Gallery Walk

10 minutes

Teams finish putting their pens back together and place them in the center of the table. Diagrams are set our for a gallery walk.

I will collect the diagrams to check if students identified the working parts of the pen and that materials and properties are noted.

Some of the students could not put their pen back together. One of my more reticent students, who can second guess herself, spoke up that she could put the pen together. In seconds Lindsey had a working pen in her hand and a large smile on her face. 

She confidently assembled the pens as other teams asked for her help.  It is so fun to watch a student gain that realization that they can succeed. It makes confronting that next challenge a little easier for them.