Lesson Plan

Simple Machines

How can simple machines make work seem easier?
Melissa M.
Computer and Science Teacher (Cluster)
P.S. 69 Daniel D Tompkins
Staten Island, NY
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My Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies

Students will be able to:

  • identify six simple machines
  • explain the function of six simple machines
  • create a model displaying how simple machines make work seem easier
Grades 3 - 4
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Engaging Activity

Activity: Exploring

Have a lever already set up on a demo table.  Use materials (like a ruler) that will allow the load (ring magnets/gram weights) to sit/balance without falling off.  

The goal with the demonstration is to have students predict if they would be able to lift the load with one finger.  Students should not be able to, based on where the fulcrum is placed.  

Ask for volunteers to come up to the lever and lift the load using only one finger.  ***The fulcrum should be as far away as possible from the load as the materials will allow.***

Ask inquisitively, "What is happening?  Why can't you lift this?  Is it that heavy?"

After some discussion ask if anyone has an explanation as to why the load cannot be lifted?  If the students have not yet suggesting moving the fulcrum closer to the load, suggest a design change.  Explain that they have been using a simple machine called a lever and that there are others they will explore and see how they can make work seem easier.

3 Guided Practice

Have students solve the 4th grade "Energy & Motion" mystery #9:  ​What would life be like without machines?"

4 Independent Practice-Presentation

In this Hands-On Activity, students will work in small groups and use the available materials to build a simple machine. You should conduct this activity after students are already familiar with the six types of simple machines. Divide the class into six equal groups. Give each group of students a box containing the above supplies. The supplies are designed to help students build all of the simple machines. They will need to innovate more for some machines than for others. Along with the materials, assign groups one of the six machines: lever, inclined plane, wheel, pulley, wedge, or screw. Students must then determine which supplies are best for building that machine. Allow them to brainstorm and work together to build the machine. After all groups have built a machine, have each group present their work to the class. They should describe their machine and how it functions, and discuss how they built it.

5 Wrap-Up

Students complete a brief constructed-response to further demonstrate their understanding. 

Using the Curiosity Machine resource, students looking for further challenges and explorations in the world of engineering will love these exercises.  This resource can be used as an extension, challenge or later review of machine concepts.