Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Rube Rube

Kathy Lewis
Bay District Schools


Students design a Rube Goldberg Device using the six basic, simple machines. The students will make posters that illustrate the designs of their devices and that identify the simple machines involved. In addition, the students will write paragraphs to explain how machines work, mentioning the advantages and disadvantages of simple machines.


The student knows uses of simple machines.

The student knows advantages and disadvantages of simple machines.


-Drawing paper, one per student
-Markers or colored pencils, one set of 8, per 2 students
-Poster board – ½ sheet, one per student
-Picture of Rube Goldberg
-Transparencies or copies of Rube Goldberg cartoons and simple machines - 5


1. Review web sites listed to gather background information.
2. Collect visual aids regarding Rube Goldberg cartoons and examples of simple machines.
3. Make a transparency or obtain a picture of Rube Goldberg.
4. Make copies of the extension files, one per student.


Day One

1. Introduce the lesson by showing students examples of several items that could be identified as simple machines. These could be actual items or pictures. Have students identify the items.

2. Ask students to try to remember if they have had previous lessons that may have related to similar items. Steer the discussion to identifying the examples as simple machines.

3. Guide the discussion to complete a KWL chart about simple machines. As a class, fill in the Know part of the chart with information from the students about their knowledge regarding simple machines. When completing the W part of the chart make sure it includes, and the teacher emphasizes, the uses of simple machines and advantages and disadvantage of simple machines.

4. Through the use of Brain Pop, the text, or teacher-presented material, identify the basic simple machines as the lever, pulley, and inclined plane. Explain that, while the wheel and axle, wedge, and screw are identified as simple machines, they are actually an adaptation of the three basic ones. The wheel is actually a rotating lever with an axle, and the wedge and screw are adaptations of the inclinded plane.

5. List the six machines on the board and have students give real-world examples of each. As they do this, point out how the machine makes work easier by changing force or distance, or by changing the direction.

6. Distribute copies of the attached activity sheet and explain directions to students. Have students complete the assignment and turn in at the end of the period. Assess the chart as to whether the students can identify, describe, give real-world examples, and explain the advantages and disadvantages of simple machines. Provide written feedback on the chart. Students will make corrections as necessary the following day.

Day Two

1. Return activity sheet to students. Discuss any common misconceptions or problems with the class. Students should make corrections as needed. Provide individual assistance as needed. Students will keep the paper as a guide for the Rube, Rube lesson.

2. Display a copy of a Rube Goldberg cartoon or display one from the website listed below. Ask students if they are familiar with the cartoons and discuss where they might have seen them. Show a couple of examples and have students identify simple machines used. Also, direct their attention to the step-by-step directions presented to explain how the machines work. Guide the discussion to have students conclude that the machines were elaborate designs to accomplish a simple task.

3. Display a picture of Rube Goldberg and provide students with a brief biographical sketch. (If Internet is accessible, the Rube Goldberg site would be an excellent resource.)

4. Display several more examples pointing out simple machines, how they are used, and the advantages and disadvantages. Explain to students that they will be asked to design a similar machine that will use all six machines.

5. Now would be a good time to do a class Rube poster. Have students brainstorm and identify a need for something in the classroom, perhaps a way to turn on the light. Guide the students through the step-by-step methods that they will use to design their own machine.

Day Three

1. Review simple machines, advantages and disadvantages, and Rube Goldberg machines. Remind students of the class machine that was done the day before and expectations for the poster of the machine that they will design.

2. Give the directions and discuss the assignment and the rubric that will be used to assess the design. Give students an opportunity to ask questions and clarify any instructions not understood.

3. Circulate and assist where needed as the students work on and complete their assignments.


The Rube, Rube Chart could be used as a formative assessment. Assess the chart as to whether the students can identify, describe, give real-world examples, and explain the advantages and disadvantages of simple machines. Feedback is indicated on the chart. Individual students may be given further explanations as needed.
The posters might be used as a summative or formative assessment. A rubric is provided to assess the poster as to whether students can construct a diagram that illustrates the six simple machines, provide an explanation of how their machine works, and describe the advantages and disadvantages of simple machines.


Students present designs to the class. This could be very constructive in its demonstration of each of the simple machines, as well as a demonstration of all the machines added together.

ESE or ESOL students could be paired with a peer.

Attached Files

Rube, Rube KWL Chart, Activity Sheet, and Poster Rubric.     File Extension:  pdf
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