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Send Your Elementary Students on a Webquest: Simple Machines

written by: Pam Cannon • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 10/31/2013

Students are always interested to hear that they use simple machines every day. By using a simple machine webquest students will be able to identify the six different types of machines. They will then be able to match them up with the ones they use, e.g., scissors are an example of a lever.

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    Elementary students may find the official definition of a simple machine difficult to understand, but they will be able to relate the examples Webquest to their use in everyday life, and in stories. This simple machine webquest is based on familiar children's literature.

    Begin with a list of the six simple machines and discuss with the students examples of each one.

    • Screws: lid on a jar, corkscrew, swivel piano stool
    • Inclined Plane: ladder, stairs, dump truck
    • Wheel and Axles: roller skates, fan, bicycle
    • Pulleys: clothesline pulley, cranes, window shades
    • Levers: scissors, fork, see saw
    • Wedges: chisel, door stop, car tire wedge
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    We are going to find examples of simple machines in some of our favorite stories. You will work in small groups to find out the information. It must be recorded either by writing, pictures, or using a tape recorder. You may like to look up this article about presenting book reviews to give you some ideas that would make your written presentations more interesting.

    Choose three books and questions from this list.

    • In the book Little Red Riding Hood what simple machine does the woodman use? Is it dangerous? Why or why not? Are there Little Red Riding Hood any other simple machines in this story?
    • What simple machine would have helped the people in the story of The Enormous Turnip ? What is it? Does it work efficiently? Is it easier to use a short handle or a long handle?
    • Cinderella uses a broom. What kind of simple machine is that? What other simple machines does she use?
    • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs use several simple machines. Which ones helps the dwarfs with their work? Which simple machine did Snow White use? ( Hint, hint "wishing well")
    • Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman shows us a grandfather using a simple machine to make many things. What did he use and what did it help him make? Who copied him?
    • The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas show the little wolves using simple machines to build houses to ward off the Big Bad Pig. Tell about them.
    • Old Bear by Jane Hissey What simple machines did the toys use in this story ?

    When you have completed the information for your three books from the list you may work on a 'bonus' point. Choose any book from the classroom library and tell about a simple machine that is in the story OR tell about a simple machine that you use very often.

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    Provide the necessary equipment for recording. Schedule sufficient schedule computer time. If you do not have enough copies of the books, make sure students know they can access the books on the internet. Here are some additional resources:

    What Is a Simple Machine?

    Simple Machines

    Simple Machines Spotlight

    Inventors Toolbox






    More Books:

    • Tool Book by Gail Gibbons. No-one produces non-fiction books for young children any better than Gail Gibbons, and this one is no exception.
    • Tools by Ann Morris
    • Simple Machines by Deborah Hodge

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    Invite students to create a simple machine that would help them. Suggest that they work together in their groups and choose two or three of the simple machines and try to combine them and invent a 'fantastical' machine a.k.a Willie Wonka's machine or Junk Pile Jennifer's creations.

    Provide junk materials or just ask them to draw pictures and write an explanation.

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    • Did the students follow directions?
    • Did the students co-operate with their group?
    • Did the students use the resources provided?
    • Did the students make a good presentation to the class? Did the students use innovative ideas to make it more interesting?
    • Did the presentation answer the preset questions?