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Lesson Plan Activity

Title: Measuring Speed Lab

Author: Kellie Schneider

Grade level/Subject: 6th Grade General Science (Physics Unit)

Overview: Student will experience acceleration, speed, and velocity by conducting an


The learner will be able to explain how to measure speed and velocity.
The learner will be able to explain forces that affect motion.

Each lab group (2-3 students) will need:
 1 Ruler with a central groove
 1 Marble
 1 Stopwatch
 1 Meter stick (2 per group, if possible)
 1 Compass
 3 textbooks (measuring about 8 cm high when stacked)
 Science notebook to record data

1. Prior to activity students have previewed concepts to be explored by reading in
their textbook and viewing video clips about speed and velocity.
2. Students will:
 Create a ramp about 8 cm high by leaning their ruler on a stack of
 Create a table in science notebooks to record Time (sec), Distance (cm),
Average Speed (cm/sec), and Velocity (speed and direction).
 Roll a marble down the ramp, measuring how far the marble traveled
after 2 seconds.
 Calculate the average speed by dividing the distance the marble
traveled, by the time it took.
 Use the compass to determine which direction the marble rolled when it
left the ramp.
 Repeat this process by rolling the marble again and measuring at 3
seconds, 4 seconds, and 5 seconds.
3. Students will answer the following questions in their science notebooks:
 Compare the average speeds of the marble for the four trials. Use
numbers to interpret the data by identifying the pattern in the data.
 At what point did the marble reach its greatest speed?
 Draw a conclusion about the velocity of the marble. Did the velocity
change and time increased? If so, in what way did it change?
 Discussion:
 How would using a longer ruler affect the speed?
 Would the surface of the floor affect the results?
 What do you think caused the marble to slow down?

This lesson plan falls under the behaviorist theory. Wilson & Meyers article on Situated
Cognition provided a sample of behaviorist learning insights, a few of which helped me to
identify this lesson as behaviorist.
 Learn by doing: Students are actively engaged in experimenting with the
concepts of motion.
 Behavioral objectives: Students are expected to explain reasoning and
 Focus on results: objectives are focused on measurable behaviors.
 Task decomposition: the activity previous to the lab was for background
information and the lab itself was broken down into specific steps.
 Direct instruction: before the lab, I walked through the basic steps with
students and even showed them how to set up their lab.

This lesson is pretty typical of how I teach labs and I was a little surprised when I realized
that it was behaviorist. I don’t think behaviorism is necessarily bad, but it is not the way I
want to teach science. I believe science should be more about investigating and discovering
and developing an understanding of how the world works through experimentation. In the
past I have taught this lesson as an “investigation” in which students tried the lab before
they had exposure to the background material. This caused a lot of confusion. I think this
was partly because my students are used to being spoon-fed and that is what I want to get
away from. I want them struggle through and solve their own problems instead of quitting
whenever it gets difficult.

What I would like to try in the future is to turn the activity around and create it from a more
constructivist perspective. It will take some time to collect and create all the resources I
would need. I would like to present students with a task and let them create a project from
that. The general task would be:

Create a laboratory experiment which demonstrates and explains the concepts of

speed and acceleration and the possible forces involved. You will need to
demonstrate your experiment as well as create a visual to present your hypothesis,
materials, procedure and data collected. At the end of the project, you will share
your conclusions with the class.

I would provide the students with some materials to help them get started, but they would
not be limited to the provided materials. This could include the materials listed in the
original experiment as well as carts, wood planks, weights, and software for data collection
and analysis as well as textbook and online resources for researching. Student work would be
graded according to the requirements of the assignment and later would be tested on the
concepts explored.