Teaching Force and Motion in the Upper Elementary Classroom

Many elementary classrooms have to teach about force and motion, whether you teach the Next Generation Science Standards or a different set of standards that your school requires. Students love force and motion because it is engaging and exciting. Teachers love that it provides a great opportunity to teach cause and effect. In what ways can you teach the concepts of force and motion besides the classic “car down the ramp” activity?

Using Sorts to Reinforce Force and Motion Concepts

One thing that really helps students are sorts. Sorts help students develop important brain skills such as memory, attention, and problem-solving. When you provide students with these sorts below, not only are you helping develop these skills, but you are also engaging them because they are not just traditional sorts.

These force and motion sorts can be laminated, placed in a center, and used repeatedly to help practice and review the important force and motion concepts. You could also have students sort the materials and then glue them to a large piece of construction paper (12″ x 18″) for a cute craftivity to display in your classroom. Either way, this is a great way to quickly assess how well your students are understanding the differences between push and pull, force and motion, or balanced and unbalanced forces (as shown below).

Using a Scavenger Hunt to Practice Force and Motion Ideas

Students need to move around the room. Recent research suggests that direct instruction be only 12 minutes long or less for elementary school students. Why not reinforce force and motion concepts with a scavenger hunt? In this activity, students move around the room, looking at cards that have questions on them about concepts related to force and motion. After they have answered the question on their sheet, they move around the room looking for another card that has that answer on it. Once they find that card, they look at the same card to read the next question. They continue doing this through all the questions. Once they finish, they should return back to the card they started with. This kinesthetic activity is engaging and a great way to review important concepts. It’s also self-checking and frees you up so that you can assist students, take note of any students who are struggling, and so much more.

Click here to check out the Force and Motion Scavenger Hunt. And while you are there, don’t forget to follow my store so you can grab all my freebies and new resources as soon as they are posted. Click here to follow my store.

Explore Force and Motion Causation Cards

Force and motion causation cards are one of my favorite activities to use when teaching science. These cards help reinforce the science concepts while also help students practice their listening skills and reading fluency! Here’s how they work: Each student in the classroom is given a card randomly. The cards have three parts to it. The first part is what the student prior to them says at the end of their part. Another part is what they say and the third part is the action they perform. The cards are interactive. This is always a bonus since students need to be up and moving so much! I provided an example of the cards below. These are some cards in order:

These cards are engaging, fun, and students always beg to do them again and again! Students remember the content and it’s a great way for students to practice reading fluency! For fun, you could even have students go through the cards again and see if they can beat their previous time! This requires students to focus, pay attention closely so they know when it’s their turn, and so much more!

When it comes to teaching force and motion in elementary, there are lots of ideas to help understand the concepts beyond just the traditional car on a ramp. Don’t get me wrong- these activities need to be done, but there are other great activities to go along with it too! For instance, during Halloween, you can have students explore catapulting pumpkins! You can learn about my flying pumpkins activity here and grab a freebie!


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