Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Roll On

Linda Kitner
Bay District Schools


This is a structured inquiry lesson on force and motion. Students observe how forces such as gravity, friction, equal, unequal forces and change in direction cause marbles to move. Small groups develop and present models to explain the forces they observe.


The student knows that a successful method to explore the natural world is to observe and record, and then analyze and communicate the results.

The student knows that an object may move in a straight line at a constant speed, speed up, slow down, or change direction dependent on net force acting on the object.


-Poem “The Marble King” by Tom Allen (See Weblinks)
-6 Marbles for each student
-Rope or yarn to make a large circle for each group of 2 or 3 (This keeps the marbles in their own space. Hula hoops also work well.)
-Directions for marble game (See Weblinks)
-Chart paper
-Motion and Forces checklist (See Associated File)
-Drawing paper


1. Acquire enough marbles for everyone to have six.
2. Collect rope, yarn, hula hoops or some way to make a large circle for groups of two.
3. Learn how to play a simple marble game in case none of your kids know how.
4. Provide enough time for game playing and exploration.
5. Provide chart paper so that you or the students can write down their observations.
6. Provide a clipboard and drawing paper for the movement diagrams.
7. Discuss good speaker and good audience skills.
8. Develop a chart with the students which shows what good speakers do and what good listeners do.
9. Provide a copy of the Motion and Forces checklist (See Associated File) for each child.
10. Gather rulers and ramp-making material for the extended activities.
11. Set up the cooperative rules that need to be followed.
Stay in group
Work with partners
Take turns
Listen to each other's ideas
12. Allow time for presentations.


1. Read the poem “The Marble King” by Tom Allen. (See Weblinks)

2. Discuss the game of marbles and have students share their experiences with it.

3. Pass out a bag of 6 marbles to each student.

4. Teach them the game of marbles if needed and allow them to play for 10 minutes.

1. Let them “play” with the marbles within the area of the rope circle while you observe for any prior knowledge of what makes marbles move, what stops them and how to make them change directions.

2. Write on a clipboard questions or vocabulary words the students use during this time. Focus on words that describe movement. These will be used at a later time.

3. Students also need to draw diagrams of the movement of the marbles. Give them paper and instruct them how to draw a circle for the marble and arrows pointing in the direction of movement. X the spot where the marble stopped. If you are outside in sand, let them draw the diagram in the sand.

4. Allow 10-15 minutes for observations and recording movement on paper. Allow talking about the movements and ask them to prove or demonstrate what they are saying.

5. Encourage the students to use the marbles and observe the movement and the stopping of movement. Remember not to give them answers or show them how to make a marble stop, etc.

This is discovery time. Refer to the questions:
a. What happened when you hit one marble with another?
b. What happened when you just let the marble go?
c. How can you make the marble go faster?
d. How can you stop the marble?
e. How can you make the marble change directions?


6. Allow enough time for play and exploration. Walk around monitoring the exploration and asking open-ended questions. Write down any questions the kids ask as they explore. Using a notepad for these observations is easier to manipulate than chart paper. Use this time for formative assessment of whether they are understanding the concepts and whether they are able to explain them orally and draw them as well as demonstrate them.

7. Vocabulary words can be introduced at this point to the individual or group who made the observation. The “big words” for what they see happening can be written on chart paper for future reference. Examples: force, movement, friction, gravity, work. (It is important that the exploration is not interrupted by a whole-group lesson in vocabulary. If a student needs the “big” word to explain something then give it to him. Come back later as a whole group to discuss the vocabulary as tied to the experience.)

8. Stop playing after 10-15 minutes. Put marbles back in bags and collect. Good management requires that the marbles be put away for the next part of the lesson.

EXPLAIN (Whole-group discussion)
1. The students should have been observing the motion of the marbles in reaction to different forces.

2. Call on students to share their observations and put them on chart paper. Older students could write them in a journal. Help them to develop questions that arise from the observations. Make sure the questions come from the students and are based on their observations. Make sure they are testable and that the students can gather evidence from their experiences.

3. Guide them to eliminate any questions that are not testable, focusing on those that lend themselves to investigation or proofs.

4. Tell them they are to devise a way to show or demonstrate their observations.

5. Possible yes or no, prove it investigations could be:
Will a marble move without a force acting upon it?
Will a marble travel in the same direction until another force changes or stops it?
Will a marble slow down and stop if no force acts upon it?

These questions are samples that speak to the specific benchmarks being studied. Allow the students to come up with these questions and any others that might encourage further inquiry into force and motion.

6. This is the time to discuss the forces of gravity, friction and how they act upon the marbles. The idea of equal and unequal forces should come up in the demonstrations and this would be a time to connect the vocabulary with the event.

7. Develop a good presentation skills chart if needed. Review with students how to be good listeners and good speakers.

8. Allow 10-15 minutes for the students to choose an investigation and plan how to demonstrate it. Give students the Motion and Forces checklist (See Associated File) so they will be aware of what is expected of them.

9. Students are required to report back with a drawing or diagram of the movement of the marbles. They are expected to demonstrate and explain orally as well. A statement about how their partner groups worked together can be done at this time.

10.These investigations are more like proofs or demonstrations of the phenomena observed. For example: State the question as a fact--“A marble moves without a force acting upon it.” Decide yes or no. Then prove it. They do not need to be set up like an experiment.

1. The students may be interested in further exploration. Give them rulers, with the ridge down the middle, and textbooks to make ramps so they can begin to devise tests to answer other questions.


The students describe motion of an object when a force such as gravity, friction, or an equal and unequal force is applied by:

1. Demonstrating the motion and the forces behind it.
2. Drawing the motion and the forces on a diagram.
3. Explaining the motion and the forces to the class.

The students are also expected to:
1. Demonstrate good listening and speaking skills as the models are presented.
2. Self-evaluate cooperative skills of the group by stating something good and something that needs to be worked on.

Use the Motion and Forces checklist in the associated file to formatively assess student understanding of the concepts of force and motion as well as their ability to observe, record, analyze and communicate the results of their exploration.


1. Art: Using a cardboard lid, place a piece of art paper on the bottom. Drop marbles into different colors of paint and let them roll around on the art paper. This is a beautiful illustration of movement in straight lines and changing directions.
2. Reading: The directions for the marble games could be used as a guided reading lesson for reading for understanding.
3. Writing: Students could teach someone at home how to play marbles and then write about the experience.

Web Links

A great set of poems and stories about marbles are on this site.
Land of Marbles

Directions with drawings for playing a number of marble games. There is also a section on how marbles are made that could be used for guided reading.
Land of Marbles

Great Website about teaching science through inquiry.
Inquiry Page

Attached Files

This file contains the Motion and Forces checklist.     File Extension: pdf

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