Force is a huge topic. That is one reason force lesson plans can be so overwhelming. Force covers everything from gravity to electric force to applied force. People have been thinking about why things move for thousands of years. Aristotle believed that objects moved if they were acted upon by a force. His beliefs matched what he saw around him, but they were wrong. Nearly two thousand years after Aristotle was thinking about force, Galileo and Newton discovered what he had been missing: friction.
Teaching your students about force can feel overwhelming because it is such a huge topic, and what we see doesn’t always appear to match what we are told. Newton’s first law of motion says that an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Any kid can tell you a box pushed across the floor will not keep going forever. We know friction is there, but it is hard to see. Your force lesson plans will want to address friction right away to prevent misconceptions like Aristotle’s.
Ice helps demonstrate friction because it has so much less of it. Pushing a box across a concrete floor and an ice rink would show how friction affects the box’s motion. If we could do a demonstration in space, students could see that without friction, the box would keep moving in the same direction until it met another force.
Using Video in Your Force Lesson Plans
I would recommend starting your force lesson plans with a video. Force is something students have to see to understand. In this case, a video is worth one million words. Here are a couple of videos you can use.
Other Resources for Your Force Lesson Plans
After introducing force to your students, you will want to give them the resources they need to understand the different types of forces and how they affect motion. Every student learns differently, so the more options you have ready, the more likely you will address all of your students’ needs within your force lesson plans. If you have a textbook, many of your students will be able to learn from that. Other students will do better with video support. Still, others will do their best learning directly from you.
If you don’t have a textbook, sharing information with your students can be more complicated. You may feel like you have to lecture to your students, and we all know lecture is one of the least effective ways to share information. To help with your force lesson plans, I have created a digital science unit that gives students all of the information they need to know about force. It also includes review activities to help students process what they learn from reading. Video links are also included because I want to make sure all of your students can access the material. Videos on a given topic are also a great option for early finishers because they are interesting and go into more detail and give more examples than a textbook or my written resources.
How to Help Students Process What They Learn
Once your students have learned about force, it is time in your force lesson plans to help them process what they learned. As I said, my digital science resource on force includes review activities, but you can also create your own. The most important part of reviewing new information is connecting it to existing neural networks. Connecting new ideas to existing neural networks makes it easier to remember the new information. It also helps students build a stronger understanding of the new topic. For example, connecting force to a game of tug-o-war helps students understand that a force can be a pull. They apply what they know about tug-o-war to force them to understand it better.
The review activities in your force lesson plans should encourage students to make these connections. For example, you can have students build a mind map that connects force to what they have already learned in science. You can also write questions that students have to answer about force. Your questions can force students to reflect on forces in their everyday lives or the connections between force and other topics. You can really get creative and have students draw what they learn about force or write songs or poems. You can also let students choose how they will reflect on what they learned. Remember to give them a menu of options to save time choosing their activity.
Helping Students Remember What They Learn
Once students have learned and processed the information about force, it is time to strengthen their new neural connections. Neurons that fire together wire together, and we want our students’ brains wired to remember what they learned. The best way to achieve this is repeated practice.
You can require repeated practice in your classroom by having quick quizzes at the beginning or end of each class period. Ask students about topics they learned about over the past few days. Being forced to remember the information will make it easier for them to remember the information later. You don’t have to grade or even collect these quizzes. The act of trying to answer the questions and hearing the right answers will build your students’ neural networks around force.
You can also encourage your students to study with flashcards. Towards the end of each unit, give your students flashcards that review all of the main information they learned. Give them time in class to practice with the flashcards in class and assign flashcard practice as homework. Just a few minutes of practice a day will make a huge difference in how much they remember about force for the final test. This might be the most helpful part of your force lesson plans because your students will see the benefits of flashcards and hopefully start using them as a tool in other classes.
Do You Have Anything to Add?
These aren’t exciting force lesson plans that require you to put on a show. These are simple things you can do in your classroom that will help your students be motivated to learn, process what they learn, and remember what they learn. How do I know they can do all of these things? These ideas are based on what brain science knows about how we learn. I know it will work because it has worked before in classrooms and laboratories all over the world. Do you have an idea to add? Drop a comment!
ARE YOU TEACHING ANOTHER SCIENCE TOPIC?
I am working on creating more science units so that every science teacher can get exactly what he or she needs for her students. You can also read about how I use brain science to teach other science topics on my blog. Click the pictures below to learn more.