ALEX Lesson Plan

Investigating Friction

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Doris Cureton
System: Perry County
School: Francis Marion School
The event this resource created for:GEMS
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 23807


Investigating Friction


Students will experience friction in action. Students will work actively in small groups to promote socialization and teamwork. Students will experience different types of matter and materials to explore the impact of friction.
This lesson plan was created as a result of the Girls Engaged in Math and Science, GEMS Project funded by the Malone Family Foundation.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
MA2015 (2016)
Grade: 4
22 ) Make a line plot to display a data set of measurements in fractions of a unit (1/2, 1/4, 1/8). Solve problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions by using information presented in line plots. [4-MD4]

Example: From a line plot find and interpret the difference in length between the longest and shortest specimens in an insect collection.

Local/National Standards:

National Standards were found at Education World
•Unifying Concepts and Processes: change, constancy, and measurement
•Science as Inquiry: abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry; understanding about scientific inquiry
•Science: Physical Science — understands forces and motion
•Science: Nature of Science — understands the nature of scientific knowledge; understands the nature of scientific inquiry
•Mathematics — understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of measurement
•Physical Science: motions and forces; position and motion of objects

Primary Learning Objective(s):

The students will: •demonstrate an understanding of the terms: force, gravity, friction, and speed. •experiment with the effects of friction on speed and motion. •understand that friction and other forces have an effect on speed and motion.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

The students will use appropriate language to express their thoughts and ideas. The students will also work cooperatively in small groups.

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

31 to 60 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

•Books, blocks, or other stacking materials
•36" x 12" (1 m x 30.5 cm) pieces of smooth plywood or other sturdy, flat material, 1 per group
•Small toy cars with moving wheels, one per student group
•Pennies, washers, or other small uniform objects with weight, 6 per student group
•1-foot (30.5 cm) sheets of heavy duty sand paper, 3 per student group
•3-foot (1 m) sheets of wax paper, 1 per student group
•3-foot (1 m) sheets of bubble wrap, 1 per student group
•Pencils and erasers
•Science journals or writing paper
•Stop watch (or watch with second hand), 1 per student group
•Meter stick, 1 per student group

Technology Resources Needed:

Forces and Motion with Sasha and Zoe video from YouTube(see attached)
You could also order Discovery Education's DVD Forces and Motion. The DVD can be ordered from the Discovery Education website
You will also need a VCR, or DVD player, as well as a computer with Internet access. Also, the following is an optional resource you may wish to use: Virtual Laboratory: Kinetic Energy


The teacher will be familiar with force, motion, gravity, and speed. The teacher will posses basic knowledge of the above terminology. The students will have a basic understanding that objects have the ability to move independently or be placed in motion by some other object or force. The students will have the basic understanding that objects move on different surfaces.
Students should be familiar with the following vocabulary: acceleration: The rate of which an object changes its velocity. Context: Acceleration can be positive or negative depending on whether the object is speeding up or slowing down.
force: A push or a pull exerted on an object. Context: The ball was hit with enough force to send it into the bleachers.
friction: A force that resists motion between two bodies in contact Context: Rougher surfaces create more friction than smooth ones when an object comes in contact with them.
gravity: The natural force that attracts any two objects with mass toward each other. Context: Earth's gravity pulls on anything that is not held up by some other force.
speed: The rate of motion. Context: The speed of the ball is determined by measuring how far it travels in a certain amount of time.
velocity: The speed of an object moving in a specific direction. Context: The car's velocity was 55 miles per hour, eastbound.

1.)The teacher will introduce the concept of motion by showing the YouTube video Forces and Motion with Sash and Zoe. Ask the students: How do objects move? Make note that another good way to introduce this topic is to view the video Forces and Motion from Discovery Education (see link in technology resources). After watching either program, ask the students: How do the different forces help or hinder motion? Ask students to describe examples of gravity and friction.
(Kinetic Energy)
In a series of experiments, students will control the action of three different forces and three different masses.

2.)Tell students that they will be conducting an experiment with motion and forces. Demonstrate to students how to make a ramp (place one or more books under one end of the plywood. Gently push the toy car down the ramp. Show students how to measure the speed and distance the car traveled with a meter stick and stopwatch. Talk about ways to make the car travel faster or go farther. Discuss the forces at work on the car. Discuss the effects of gravity and friction on the toy car.

3.)Divide the class into cooperative groups of 4-6. Give each group 5 books, blocks, or other stacking materials, along with the plywood, a toy car, and the data record sheet (see attachment).

4.)Ask them to find an open space in the classroom to set up their ramps. Allow the groups to engage in "free exploration" with their ramps and toy cars by gently pushing the toy cars down the ramp.(Observation Question #1-see attachment) Have them record a drawing of their ramp in their science journals or on a piece of paper; and, then have them write the amount of stacking materials they used to create the ramp and the height of the ramp.

5.)Tell them to gently push the car down the ramp three times and record the distance and speed at which it traveled each time. (Observation Question #2-see attachment) Have them find the average speed and distance their cars traveled down the ramp and record the numbers on their data sheet.

6.)Have the students hypothesize whether they think the surface on which the toy car travels will make a difference in speed and distance. Now, give each group pieces of sand paper, wax paper, and bubble wrap. Tell the groups that they will be investigating friction. Have students tape the wax paper to the ramp. Ask them to refer back to their earlier recordings of the speed and distance their cars traveled down the ramp made of plywood. Have them hypothesize whether the car will move faster or slower on the waxy surface? Will it travel as far or farther than on the plywood?

7.)After recording their hypotheses, have students conduct three trials on the wax paper ramp, recording the speed and distance their cars traveled each time. Then have them find the average speed and distance. (Observation question #3-see attachment)

8.)Have students remove the wax paper and attach the sand paper to the ramp. Ask them to hypothesize whether the rough surface will create more or less friction for the car. Will their car move faster or slower on the sand paper? Have students conduct three trials on the sand paper ramp, recording the speed and distance their cars traveled each time. Then have them find the average speed and distance. (Observation question #4-see attachment)

9.)Repeat the tasks in Step 8, this time using bubble wrap instead of sand paper. Did the toy car move faster or slower when riding on the bubble wrap?

10.)Once groups have finished the activity, allow students to continue the experimentation with kinetic energy online by clicking the link listed below. At the end of the computer lesson, conduct a whole group discussion using the What We Have Learned attachment.

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Assessment Strategies

Teacher observation
Rubric (see attachment)
Cooperative learning group data form
Teacher Interview / Observation Questions
What We Learned (wrap-up discussion questions)


The teacher could allow students to make the ramp steeper or higher by adding more books or blocks. Also, make the ramp wider and use larger toy cars. Then all students to test other appropriate objects on the toy cars to see the impact or effect on the different surfaces. Moreover, the teacher could change the surfaces (i.e. grassy surface or bumpy surface).


The teacher could give struggling students the vocabulary listed above one or two days earlier than other students. Suggest to parents to review these forces and motion terms at home whenever there is time. While driving in the car would be a great time for parents to discuss terms with their child as well.

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.