Simply Unique

3, 4, 5

In this lesson, students explore the various simple machines--their unique functions and specific applications. The purpose of the lesson is to make the connection that just as each machine is unique and valuable, so is each person unique and valuable. The students will work cooperatively and deliberately respect others and listen and accept the contributions of the others.

Lesson Rating 
PrintSeven Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • identify the simple machines and their functions (lever, inclined plane, wheel-and-axle, screw, pulley and wedge).
  • define "simple machines" and "work."
  • compare and contrast the simple machines by their functions and applications.
  • recognize the contributions and value of each member of the group.
  • demonstrate selflessness for the common good of the group.
  • show respect for the members of the group.
  • Journals for each student (at least 6” x 9” with 10 pages)
  • Several examples of all the simple machines
  • A load for a machine to move
  • Music selection (with a mechanical sound) and a CD or tape player. See Bibliographical References for suggested music.
  • Two Hula-hoops or other large rings (string tied into a circle works fine)
  • Small pieces of paper for sorting activity
  • Drawing paper
  • Drawing materials (colored pencils, crayons, markers, etc.)
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:With the help of their families, students will search through their homes for examples of simple machines. They will make a list to bring back to school (see Simple Search, Attachment Two).


Anderson, LeRoy. The Syncopated Clock. Sleigh Ride & Other Original H. Jasmine Music. ASIN: B00005OLC8

Inquiry Almanac Archives (Franklin Institute): “Simple Machines” 

Science Learning Network: Inventor’s Toolbox “The Elements of Machines,” 1997.

Simple Machines Learning Site (University of Houston) 


  1. Anticipatory Set:Before you give any instruction, ask the students to answer the following question: “What is a simple machine?” They should respond to the question in their journals. They must write (and draw if desired) for five minutes. Ask students to share their written responses and discuss their initial thoughts. Help the students define a simple machine as a tool that makes work easier. Simple machines have few or no moving parts.

    Day One:

  2. Theater:Arrange the class into two groups. Each group will create a compound machine using their bodies as the parts. Give students five minutes to brainstorm possible sounds and movements (crank, lift, push, twist, bend, etc.) as well as a purpose for their collaborative machine (open a door, kick a ball, etc.). The students in one group will get in line and one by one move to the front of the room where they construct their machine spontaneously. The first student will perform a sound and motion. The next student must connect to the first student’s motion in some way and add a sound and motion. As each student is added, the machine parts will repeat their motions and sounds consecutively. When all the students are “connected,” the students in the other group try to hypothesize a purpose or function for the machine. They may make three-five guesses. Then the second group creates their impromptu machine.

  3. Discuss how the parts work together for the whole machine. Relate that concrete example to a more abstract philanthropy concept of individual rights and contributions relating to the common good. How are individual rights related to community responsibility?

  4. Write the objectives of the lesson on the board. Have the students copy the objectives in their journals.

  5. Days Two-Four:

  6. In three days, the students will explore the six simple machines and their functions.Arrange the class into six groups. The groups work together to explore each of the simple machines by working with the examples and reading. You may wish to assign two simple machines to each group each day. (Refer to the Bibliographical References for Web site references.) Also, provide the students with books from the library about simple machines as well as actual examples of simple machines for them to explore.

  7. For each simple machine, the students will need to use Simple Machines—A Study Guide (Attachment One). The students follow the study guide and write their observations and answers in their journals.

  8. Dance/Creative Movement: At the end of each day, have the students demonstrate the movement or function of the simple machines they studied.

  9. After the fourth day (three days of exploration), send home the Simple Search homework page (Attachment Two).

  10. Day Five:

  11. Dance/Creative Movement: Put the students into groups of two-three. Play some music and have the students move around the room with their groups. Call out a simple machine. Each group creates the simple machine and moves (to the music) to show the work done by the machine. Repeat with the other simple machines.

  12. Using a Venn diagram, have students compare and contrast two simple machines at a time. Use two Hula-hoops as the rings for the Venn diagram. Write the name of one simple machine on each of six index cards. Put one index card above each ring of the Venn diagram. Give each student some small pieces of paper to write on. They may place their papers in the appropriate place of the diagram as they finish. Discuss their comparisons. For example, a screw is like an inclined plane that is rolled up. A screw is a fastener and an inclined plane is not. (You may divide the class into three groups and give each group a Venn diagram, labels and papers for writing. You will have three discussions going on at once. Change the cards so they discuss different comparisons.)

  13. Brainstorm useful machines and name simple machines that make up their working parts. Explain that each simple machine is valuable and no part of the machine is more important than another. All parts are needed to get the job done. (Each member of the class is valuable and has an important, valuable contribution to make.)

  14. Days Six-Seven:

  15. Review the important elements of a cooperative grouping: 1.) Each group member knows his or her responsibilities. 2.) Everyone listens and respects the feelings of others. 3.) Take turns and accept ideas of others (demonstrate selflessness).Discuss why it is beneficial to the common good of the group to have a cooperative group as opposed to an uncooperative group.

  16. Language Arts and Theater: Divide the class into six groups. Students will write, practice and present a short skit on one of the simple machines. Each group must meet the following objectives:

    • Story Elements:
      • A clear beginning, middle and end
      • Developed characters, plot (problem and solution) and setting.
  17. Scientific Knowledge:

    • A demonstration of how the machine works
    • A demonstration of the purpose and function of their machine
    • The machine solves an everyday problem.
  18. Group Work:

    • Cooperation
    • All group members participate in the presentation.

Assess the group skits according to the objectives outlined above. Students can earn points for each component for a possible total of eight points: The scene shows: The student: all story elements ___ was active involved ___ how the machine works ___ shared ideas ___ an everyday problem ___ listened to other’s ideas ___ machine solves the problem ___ showed respect for others ___ Assess journals for complete information on the simple machines. Observe student participation in discussions, Venn diagram activity and creative movement activities. Additional assessment: Have each student create a poster displaying the six simple machines and their functions.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Define and give examples of selfishness and selflessness.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
      3. Benchmark E.5 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibility.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.8 Describe classroom behaviors that help the students learn.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.5 Give examples of actions students can take to improve the common good and list or describe responsibilities that go with those actions.