Physical Science

The motion of an object can be described by a change in its position over time.

Benchmark: Describing Position

Describe an object's change in position relative to other objects or a background.

For example: Forward, backward, going up, going down.

Benchmark: Variety of Motions

Demonstrate that objects move in a variety of ways, including a straight line, a curve, a circle, back and forth, and at different speeds.

For example: Spinning toy and rocking toy.

Another example: Construct objects that will move in a straight line or a curve such as a marble or toy car on a track.


Standard in Lay Terms 

MN Standard in Lay Terms

Students will use positional words (up/down, in/out, above/below, etc.) to describe an object's position in terms of its relationship to another object.

Big Ideas and Essential Understandings 

Big Idea

Knowing how and why things move is important because so much of everyday life depends on motion.  We have to judge the amount of force to use when causing things to move, stop, or change direction.  We are able to make those decisions because we learn how things move when forces act upon them.  If the motion of objects were random or not easily predicted, we would be living in an unsafe and chaotic world.  But we do know how forces affect objects.  If we push something, it moves away from us.  If we pull it, it moves toward us.  If we apply force to a moving object, it will change direction and move in the opposite direction from the force.  Knowing how things move allows us to work, play, get around, and complete everyday tasks.

Benchmark Cluster 

MN Standard Benchmarks  Describe an object's change in position relative to other objects or background.  For example: Forward, backward, going up, going down  Demonstrate that objects move in a variety of ways, including a straight line, a curve, a circle, back and forth, and at different speeds.  For example: Spinning toy and rocking toy.  Another example: Construct objects that will move in a straight line or a curve such as a marble or toy car on a track.

The Essentials

This is a wonderful animation about how things move: back and forth, zig-zag, up and down etc... A great introduction to these terms.


NSES Standards:

Content Standard B

As a result of the activities in grades K-4, all students should develop an understanding of:

  • Properties of objects and materials
  • Position and motion of objects
  • Light, heat, electricity, and magnetism


AAAS Atlas:

Things move in many different ways, such as straight, zigzag, 'round and 'round, back and forth, and fast and slow. 4F/P1 (ID: SMS-BMK-0212)

The way to change how something is moving is to give it a push or a pull. 4F/P2 (ID: SMS-BMK-0213)

Grade range: K - 2

Benchmarks of Science Literacy:

Things move in many different ways, such as straight, zigzag, 'round and 'round, back and forth, and fast and slow. 4F/P1

See this page.

Common Core Standards



Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., read a number of books on a single topic to produce a report; record science observations).


Student Misconceptions 

From AAAS Science Assessments:

  • A force is required to keep an object moving. Objects slow down and stop if a force is not maintained.
  • Moving objects stop when they run out of force.
  • A moving object has a force within it that keeps it moving.


On Monday, Mrs. N. told her class that they were going to be discovering if they could change the way things move.  First she had them recall different playground activities.  For each activity, she asked her students: What moves when you do this activity? How does it move?  (For example, for the merry-go-round, children should realize that the platform is the moving part and that it spins, or moves in a circle.)  She  guided her students to name activities in which things move up, down, toward them, away from them, back and forth, in a circle, and in an arc.  The class then went outside and volunteers demonstrated each of these motions on the playground.

They returned to the classroom and she explained that moving something often involves forces, such as pushes and pulls.  Then, she introduced the following vocabulary words:

  • force: an action that can make an object change its speed or direction.
  • pull: a force that moves something closer to you.
  • push: a force that moves something away from you.

In their discussion, she made sure the children understood that forces, including pushes and pulls, change the way things move.

She then posed the Discover question: How can you change the way things move?  She guided children to refer to their experiences on the playground to come up with answers, which they recorded in their Science Journals.

On Tuesday, she divided the class into groups of 2-4 and they watched an animated video of how things move. They looked at balls, merry-go-rounds, seesaws, slides, swings, and a wagon. Each team discussed similarities and differences in the ways the different objects moved.

On Wednesday, the class reviewed their observations from Tuesday. Mrs. N. then asked them to list different objects that they push (the merry-go-round and swing), and had them name things that they pull (the wagon). She explained that they give themselves a push to start themselves going down the slide and also for going up or down on the seesaw. She pointed out that throwing a ball, making it go up or forward, involves giving the ball a push. 

The class then brainstormed that some things, such as the pencil in an electric pencil sharpener, a ball that you roll, and a Frisbee are designed to be pushed; other things, such as the spout of a milk carton, are designed to be pulled. Some things, such as the handle of an old-fashioned pencil sharpener, are designed to be pushed and pulled. The class also discovered that almost anything can be pushed or pulled, even if it was not designed to be moved in that way.

(Modified from Things That Move.)

See this page.


Instructional Notes 

Suggested Labs and Activities Describing an Object's Position

In this lesson, students will observe and identify changes in an object's position. Students will describe an object's position in terms of its relationship to another object. Leaps and Bounds

Students explore the properties of objects as they observe, describe, and classify types of animals, tracks, patterns of movement and attributes.  They create and interpret pictures and stories of tracks, signs, and patterns of movement to develop clues that tell a story about an animal's or person's activity and purpose. Following Directions

Students will listen to directions to make pattern block figures in order to practice arranging and describing objects in space by position and direction. Balancing the Day Away in Grade 2

Students spend the day learning about balance by playing with and making balancing toys.  They discover how varying the amount and position of mass affects the toys´ balance.  This second-grade lesson includes links to art, mathematics, and social studies. How Things Move: Roll, Slide, and Bounce

Students will explore the concept of motion by discovering that differently shaped objects move in different  ways. Race the Track!

Students and their teachers are introduced to basic physics concepts and the idea of variables through use of MattelTM Hot Wheels tracks and steel balls.  Students will use the design process to explore force and motion. Making Objects Move

In this lesson, students study the motion of objects in order to create a structure that can be used to move an object from one place to another.  They are encouraged to observe and test their structures, revising them as needed. Ramps 1: Let it Roll!

Students explore and measure the rate of spherical objects rolling down a ramp. Ramps 2: Ramp Builder

Students plan, build, and test a ramp that allows objects to roll far. Real Life Application

Ask one student at a time to move across an open space by using an interesting way of moving (e.g. sidestepping, crawling backward, spinning).  Challenge each subsequent student to cross the same space without using the style of movement used by any prior students. What makes things move and stop?

Students use transport vehicles, toys, and playground equipment to explore the action of forces in everyday situations.  They use appropriate scientific vocabulary to describe and explain their observations and investigations.  They include the words "push" and "pull" in discussing how objects can be moved and stopped.

Students also construct simple working models, such as helicopters and parachutes, to show forces in action.  They use a range of appropriate methods to record observations, including annotated drawings of their model or labels on parts. Toys that Move

Children will learn to identify differences between the movements of different objects and make suggestions about how objects can be made to move.  Children will investigate to see if their predictions are right.  Children will be able to sort objects into different groups. Tinkering with Tops

In this lesson, students build spinning tops out of everyday materials.  Their challenge is to design a spinning top that can spin for at least 10 seconds within a circle 30 cm. in diameter. Exploring Ramps

This hands-on event will help children explore the following science concepts:

  • When placed on a ramp, some objects roll, others slide, and others stay put.
  • The shape of an object and its placement on a ramp affects how the object moves.
  • The steepness of a ramp affects how far and fast an object will roll.
Instructional Resources 

Instructional suggestions/options

From the outset, students should view, describe, and discuss all kinds of moving things - themselves, insects, birds, trees, doors, rain, fans, swings, volleyballs, wagons, stars, etc. - keeping notes, drawing pictures to suggest their motion, and raising questions: Do they move in a straight line?  Is their motion fast or slow?  How can you tell?  How many ways does a growing plant move?  The questions count more than the answers, at this stage.  And students should gain varied experiences in getting things to move or not to move and in changing the direction or speed of things that are already in motion.  

See this page.          

5 E Lesson Plan Example: In What Ways Do Objects Move?

  • ENGAGE: Use a variety of materials and move them across a table and ask the students to describe how each of the objects move.  Record responses.
  • EXPLORE: Distribute a group of 7-10 objects to each group.  Ask students "When gently pushed, will the objects have the same movement?"  Students respond to the question and then test their predictions by gently pushing each object and recording the observed movement.
  • EXPLAIN: Ask: Do all the objects have the same movement?  Ask: Did you notice any patterns in the discoveries?
  • EXTEND AND APPLY: Ask: If the objects had been pulled, instead of pushed, would the results be the same?

Display a pinwheel, yo-yo, ball, globe and a toy top.  Allow students to be scientists and observe what happens when you make each object move. 

See this page. Do All Tops Spin Alike?

Challenge students working in groups of three to use the materials available to design and build a top that spins.  Allow each group a prototype and then a revision of its first model.

Discuss the changes students made and the effect the changes had on their tops' motion. Making Objects Move

Students will make many discoveries about how and why objects move.  They will explore and manipulate the motion of objects and the forces required to control that motion (pushing, pulling, throwing, dropping, rolling, and so on). Vroom! Vroom! What Makes Cars Go? 

Module Description: Students explore gravity and energy using objects and model cars.  They investigate and define the concepts of motion, force, and energy, using simple hands‐on activities with vehicles as well as online interactives and videos.  At the end of the module, students apply the knowledge they have acquired about motion and energy to design a functioning model car.  Then, students share the cars with their classmates in a model car show. What makes things move?

Students will use an inquiry based approach to discover how things move.  They will discover that a push and a pull are forces that put things into motion. The Rolling Race

Students bring in objects from home and compare/contrast the differences in rolling them. Commotion About Motion

Students are introduced to different types of motion.  They make rolling spider toys and race them on different surfaces to investigate forces and motion.  Pupils make glue "spider webs" for their spiders after testing different glues and "spinning" surfaces.

New Vocabulary 


Above: in or to a higher place.  Context: Put the car above your head.

Behind: in or at the back of; on the other side of.  Context: Please put the car behind the box.

Below: in or to a lower place.  Context: Put the car below the box.

Beside: next to; at the side of.  Context: Put the book beside the box.

Force: strength or energy exerted.  Context: Both teams know that getting their vehicle up the hill will require a great deal of force.

Gravity: the force by which all objects in the universe are attracted to each other.  Context: The glass fell off the table and gravity made it hit the floor instead of floating up.

Motion: a change in position of an object.  Context: The ball stayed in motion as it rolled down the ramp.

Pull: to move or try to move something toward oneself.

Push: an act of moving something away from oneself.  Context: He closed the door with a push.

Roll: to move forward along a surface by repeatedly turning over.  Context: We rolled the bowling ball down the lane.

Slide: to move over a surface maintaining smooth continuous contact.  Context: Can you slide your feet across the floor?

Top: the highest part of anything; on top of.  Context: Put the car on top of the box.

Technology Connections Simple Animation

Students explore how animated cartoons are made by doing this simple animation project.  They create a Kid Pix slide show using a minimum of 25 pictures that when played shows a moving object. Motion of Objects!

Thirteen wonderful interactive web lessons focus directly on this standard - and they are available in more than 15 different languages!

Promethean/Smartboard Activities Force and Motion

Explains gravity, sound, simple machines, magnets, and other areas of force and motion. Online Games

A fabulous resource of online science (and other content area) games. Fun for everyone. Teaching Science with Toys

This lesson provides a day of hands-on activities involving different kinds and sources of motion and the variables that affect moving objects.


Assessment of Students

  • Imagine you sit down in a child-sized rocking chair.  Predict how the rocking chair will move.  Answer: Rocking chairs move back and forth.
  • Imagine you are sitting and rocking in the rocking chair.  What are you doing to make the chair rock?  Think of two different ways you could sit and make the chair rock.  Answer: You can make a rocking chair rock by pushing down on the floor with your feet or by pushing against the upright part of the chair with your back, shoulders, and/or head.  Both of these actions will make the chair rock.
  • Have students complete the Roll, Slide, and Bounce Chart by drawing at least one object in each column.  Or they may complete this activity in their Science Notebook.

See this page.

Assessment of Teachers

A fact of motion is that once something is moving, it keeps moving until a force stops it.  But moving things stop all the time without people doing anything to make them stop. What makes a moving object stop, even though nothing touches it?

While you may not be able to see them, forces are at work on everything that moves. Friction between a moving object and the air helps to slow the object.  There also is friction between objects and the surfaces they move across, even if the surface seems smooth.  So a marble rolling across a floor will eventually stop because the forces of gravity and friction will slow it down.  Additionally, gravity is always pulling objects toward Earth, affecting the forward motion of objects parallel to the ground.  Finally, when the energy source causing something to move is removed - such as the force of the wind that had been carrying a dandelion diminishing, or the force of pedaling a bike being stopped - the forward motion will succumb to the other forces acting on the object, including gravity and friction.

Discuss some of the different ways that objects move.  In addition, explain why the shape of the object affects this motion.

Think about what you know about ramp building.  Now answer these questions:

  • If you wanted to make an object go down the ramp more slowly, what would you do? Draw and label the ramp that you would build.
  • If you wanted to make an object go down a ramp more quickly, what would you do?  Draw and label the ramp that you would build.



Struggling Learners 

Struggling and At-Risk

Modifying the Activities

When students are doing their investigations, they can draw pictures, or work with a partner, instead of writing in their notebooks.

Provide multiple opportunities for them to share their ideas with classmates.  The sharing part of the inquiry is very important and they will also learn other things from other students.

Remember that any inquiry at the primary level can be guided and not all of it needs to be completed by the student him/herself.  Using a Science Notebook creates a record of the student's learning and helps you as a teacher understand the learning that has happened with each individual student.

There are many appropriate activites for the struggling/at-risk student under the "Extension" label on this site.

English Language Learners 

Provide students with an assortment of objects or pictures.  Students are able to identify things that move.  Examples: wheels, swings, bicycles, bodies. 

Students are able to explore magnets for examples of movement.  Example: Use a variety of magnets (horseshoe, donut, bar, ball/marble, wand) to test attraction.  Test on wood, paper, water, metals, etc.

How Does It Move?

How do objects move?  In this literature-based lesson, students use illustrations and phonetic principles to understand that different things move at different speeds, learn words and vocabulary, as they explore how forms of transportation move.

How to modify the shared activities

Modify the aforementioned activities for ELL learners (e.g. record with a partner, using visual prompts, record what happens to the movement of a vehicle released from a ramp if the size of its wheels is changed) by asking those students to also record relevant observations, findings, and measurements, using simple written language, drawings, charts, and concrete materials.

Motion of Objects!

Thirteen wonderful interactive web lessons focus directly on this standard - and they are available in more than 15 different languages!

Extending the Learning 

Soccer Observation

Suggest that interested children watch or participate in a soccer game to observe the many different ways that soccer players move the ball.  Challenge children to note at least ten different ways that soccer players can change the motion of a soccer ball.  All of the ways should list the body part that makes contact with the ball and tell whether the player pushes or pulls the ball.

Structures Around the World

A good website for students to visit to see more activities that involve using different kinds of materials for making a particular thing is Structures Around the World, by the Exploratorium. One set of activities involves using clay, paper, or newspaper to construct bridges.  Have students create another design showcasing movement, and then share it with the class.

See this page.


Sky Paths

By using these activities, K-4 students will have the concrete experiences of observing, organizing, comparing, and describing the movement of objects that they observe in the sky.  Students will also learn how early cultures viewed objects in the sky and created stories to explain the objects they observed.  Then, students will create their own stories to explain their own observations.

Toys from Around the World

Share an assortment of spinning and rocking toys from other countries.  Compare/contrast with the ones that were used in the class experiments.

Video Tops from Around the World

Tops were developed that would move around a lot, rather than spin quietly in...videos of tops from around the world.

Special Education 

Directional Words

Students list directional words such as above/below, up/down, inside/outside, on/in, right/left, horizontal/vertical, and middle.  Students are then given a Directional Words Bingo Card in which they must match the direction/positional word to its corresponding picture.

Causes and Effects of Motion, Gr. 1

NOTE: These lessons focus on very similar lessons already shared but are geared for students who are developmentally younger.  Students will discover what makes things move and what causes a change in speed and direction.  Investigation occurs when students use marbles and a variety of other objects to explore movement.

See this page.


Classroom Observation 


An administrator observing a lesson would see students interacting with objects in a wide range of ways to see how they move (e.g. straight line, a curve, a circle, back and forth, at different speeds).  They would be discussing with each other these results and also recording them.  In addition, the students might be building ramps using classroom materials and then experimenting with those ramps (i.e. rolling different balls down the ramp and timing how fast each ball travels).


Making Spinning Tops

Spinning tops have amused children and adults alike for centuries, and while they serve as functional toys, they also teach a lesson about physics.  As you're helping your young artist to create a top, you may also ask him/her to observe the movement of the top, the direction it's spinning, and the visual illusions noticeable as it spins.

Let the Good Times Roll: Marble Maze

Have fun learning about how objects roll on your own...make this awesome marble maze at home!

Feel the Wind

You and your young scientist can use these simple activities to explore the wind and make some interesting discoveries.

Explore Ramps with Your Child (handout/activity sheet)

Science for Kids

How do objects move?  How far can a rubber band stretch?  How does energy affect what we can see, hear, or feel?  Discover the science of motion and energy.

See this page.