Lesson Plan: Simple Machine WebQuest

by Ella Baldwin

Edit 6400

Dr. Orey

Fall 2002




Statement of the Problem  

Students either cannot or have difficulty with identifying and comparing simple machines and how they work. Mastery of this goal is required by Georgia in the state QCC's (Quality Core Curriculum). Mastery of the goal will be evaluated not only by the teacher but also by the state on the mandatory CRCT state test. Scores will be compared in our school as well as to third grade scores across the state.  This problem could be solved with meaningful instruction.  In the past, instruction has mostly been from an out of date textbook that is boring to the students. My experience with teaching this topic is weak. I have mostly depended on the textbook and some old videos to get the job done. A new, interesting approach is needed to teach this skill.  Using technology will spark their interest and involvement in the task. A WebQuest will tap into the interest students have in computers, technology and building and creating things from their imagination.

Target Audience

This problem occurs in a third grade classroom with an average class size of 20 students.  Most of the students in this class are 8 or 9 years old with a couple that are 10 years old.  It is a heterogeneous group with different abilities as well as a diverse group representing our community population.   There are about an equal number of boys and girls.  Students are primarily Caucasian with a few African-American and Hispanic students. The students' academic abilities include slightly below average, average, above average and gifted  with a few in the special needs category.  There are a total of 4 heterogeneous third grade classrooms and one EIP (Early Intervention Program) third grade classroom at our school. The EIP classroom serves the lowest performing students.

There is a wide range of backgrounds. Approximately 6 out of 20 fall in the lower economic range. Parents tend to work in factories as laborers, receive welfare of some type, and have little or no education. These students tend to receive free/reduced lunch.   Approximately 7 out of 20 fall in the lower middle class. Parents tend to have at least a high school education.  Approximately 7 out of 20 fall in the middle/upper middle class range. Parents tend to be professionals with a college education.  

The students enjoy sports, dance, music, clubs, art, and church activities. Many have computers at home and routinely use them for fun and educational purposes. They love to use the computers and do well on projects in the computer lab. They also enjoy ěhands-onî activities and are very enthusiastic about learning experiences that include this approach. The level should be easy enough for lower level students to accomplish with enough flexibility to challenge the higher level students.

A WebQuest will tap into the students interest and enthusiasm for computers.  There are a variety of activities in a WebQuest that will inspire the interest of the learner.  Internet activities, hands-on projects as well as visual and listening activities will appeal to students with a variety of learning styles. Students at this age love to create things whether with crayons and paper or blocks or string and glue. The invention activity allows them to choose their means of expressing what they learn in the WebQuest.

 Theory Proposed as Solution

Problem Based Learning in the format of a WebQuest will be used as the instructional model in this lesson plan.

Explanation of the Theory

ěProblem-based inquiry is an effort to challenge students to address real-world problems and resolve realistic dilemmas. These problems create opportunities for meaningful activities that engage students in problem solving and higher-ordered thinking in realistic settings.î (http://itstudio/coe.uga.edu/ebook/ProblemBasedInstruct.htm, p. 3)  A relevant situation is much more meaningful for the learner. The goal of Problem-based learning is to involve students in content that is relevant to their lives. Emphasis is placed on communication, cooperation and resources to form ideas and increase reasoning skills.

A WebQuest is ěa web-based, inquiry-oriented activity where students examine evidence about a particular topic and then respond to an issue or make a decision from a particular point of view.î (ebook p. 18) The lesson starts with an open-ended question using a realistic situation or applied context. Sometimes WebQuests address problems but in other cases they promote awareness and representation. WebQuests are teacher created and include an introduction, task, process, resources,  evaluation and conclusion. The Introduction sets the purpose and arouses the students' interest and curiosity. The Task spells out exactly what the students' goals are for the lesson. The process gives step-by-step directions for the students to follow in order to accomplish the set goals. Resources are just that, resources that the student will use to complete the WebQuest. Many times these will be Internet links that take the students out to appropriate sites. Evaluation is the section that determines how well the student learned or completed the goals. A rubric is often used to determine if the student has met the goals of the WebQuest. The final component is the Conclusion. In the Conclusion the lesson is summed up and the student reflects on what has been learned.

Students will use the WebQuest to answer the question ě What are simple machines and how do they help us in our daily life?î

Detailed Explanation of My Solution: A WebQuest



What are simple machines? How do they help you in your daily life?  What  simple machines do you use every day?  Can you invent a machine to help do a task? Letís go on a quest for answers to these questions.  

In this WebQuest you will:
explore the different kinds of simple machines
identify examples & uses of simple machines
invent a new machine


In this Simple Machines WebQuest you will:
1.  Gather information about the following types of simple machines: wedge, screw, inclined plane, pulley, lever, wheel and axle.

2.  Define related vocabulary: motion, work, simple machine, compound machine, force, gravity, speed, weight.
3.  Explore your environment for examples of each type of simple machine. 
4.  Use your knowledge to invent a new machine.


1.     Locate the definitions of a wedge, screw, inclined plane, pulley, lever, and wheel and axle by clicking on each word. Write these definitions on the matching sheet in your simple machine notebook. Click here to see pictures of the six simple machines. Print it out and place it in your notebook with your definitions.

 2.   Go to the listening center. Listen to the narrator as he reads the simple machine chapter in your Science Book p. F78-F81. (be sure to rewind for the next person!)

 3. Use the dictionary glossary in the back of your science book to look up the definitions for motion, work, simple machine, compound machine, force, gravity, speed, weight. Record the definitions in your simple machine notebook.

4. Complete the Simple Machine Scavenger Hunt. Record your answers in your notebook.

5.  Do the interactive playground activity at www.harcourtschool.com (password protected- go to Science-Grade 3-Unit F-Chapter 3-Let's Go Work on the Playground)

6.   Have you ever wondered how simple machines make life easier?  Your job now is to locate or identify examples of each simple machine in the world around us. You will need to get into your group. (divide class into 6 groups- a class of 18 will have 3 in a group).

    Group 1-wedge,  Group 2-screw, Group 3-inclined plane, Group 4-pulley, Group 5-lever, Group 6-wheel and axle.

Group Challenge: List everyday devices that contain your assigned simple machine. Use magazines and pictures to make a collage showing items that contain the simple machine. You may also include devices that ARE simple machines (example: ramp). Post these in the classroom for others to study.

7.   Inventor's Corner!  Now it's time for you to put your knowledge into practice.  Be an inventor!  Design your own machine that will make work easier. Go to the invention center. ( the teacher sets up a center with various materials for students to use in this assignment)  Create a drawing or model of a brand new contraption using at least two simple machines.  Label the simple machines.  Include a short paragraph to explain this new machine's uses.

8. Visit BrainPOP: Simple Machines.  Watch the simple machines movie and take the quiz. (This will be done in the lab because of BrainPOP rules)

Extension Activity: Ramp Search-A ramp is a useful inclined plane. Keep a record of all the ramps you see in your community for 1 week. Be sure to write down how they are being used.



*Simple Machines for Kids
*Simple Machines

*Inventor's Tool
*The Elements of Machines: Simple Machines
*Exploring Leonardo Homepage
*Work Is Simple With Simple Machines
*Marvelous Machines
*BrainPOP: Simple Machines

*Harcourt Science Series- Grade 3
*Listening center headphones, and chapter 3 tape from Harcourt Science Series-Grade 3.
*Simple Machine Notebook created and provided by teacher. Contains worksheets needed and lined paper.
*Art Center-paper, scissors, glue, markers, crayons, wood scraps, spools, straws, string, etc....
*Collage Materials-poster board, glue, scissors, markers,  catalogs, magazines, any other picture resources.



Check off each item on the rubric as you complete it. Ask the teacher to initial each item.  (Assessment is completion of the items listed above. The teacher would go over each completed item to make sure it is correct and initial the studentís rubric)



Wow! You are now a simple machine expert.  Write a paragraph in your Simple Machine Notebook about what you learned in this WebQuest. What did you enjoy the most/least? What was too easy/hard? How do simple machines help you?


 Rationale for My Solution

I chose a WebQuest because it actively involves students in their learning. It is a good way to incorporate technology into the learning process.  Students learn basic information then use that to create a new machine.  It provides guidance and structure for the students but allows them to make choices in some areas. Resources are provided so students can spend valuable time learning rather than searching.  This model will work well in a classroom or lab.  WebQuests address many learning styles. There is written work, an auditory activity, research, technology, and hands-on activities. Cooperative learning occurs and students learn to work together. Students will be excited  and put effort into the learning process.  Learning will be meaningful to them when applied to their world.
     Conceptual change did not seem to be a good choice for this goal because the students really do not have misconceptions about simple machines.  Behaviorism was not appropriate because there were no behaviors to change.  Cognitive apprenticeship didn't seem to fit either because there was not a specific skill to be demonstrated. This problem seemed too small for Learning by Design or Project-based learning. Although there are some elements of the Six-C's of Motivation such as choices and collaboration, this task was not open-ended. I thought a WebQuest, which falls under Problem-based instruction, was the best choice for this educational goal. A WebQuest helps the teacher change roles from an instructor to a facilitator.  A WebQuest gives the students guidance and structure so that required information is learned, QCC objectives are met and state guidelines are adhered to while at the same time emphasizing students' abilities to analyze, synthesize, evaluate and extend information. Best of all a WebQuest makes learning fun and gets the job done!