2. Using games and brainstorming to learn about forces

Forces and motion are part of the games and sports children play.

You can use this to determine what your pupils already know and to encourage them to challenge their own thinking. By doing this, they will be extending their understanding.

Case Study 2 shows how pupils can learn things about force and motion through games and competitions.

Activity 2 builds on pupils’ identification of forces from Activity 1. We integrate science and language work to help us describe forces and their effects more accurately in a brainstorm activity. (See Key Resource: Using mind maps and brainstorming to explore ideas [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .) There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers in a brainstorm, but you are challenging pupils’ thinking by encouraging them to speak their thoughts. An important part of learning in science is communicating ideas and practising using scientific vocabulary.

Case Study 2: The class force Olympics

Mr Peter Osumba set up a series of games and competitions one Friday. He thought carefully about how these games would show aspects of force. He realised that wrist wrestling would show how forces work in pairs and that, if opposing pushes are balanced, there is no movement. He thought how he could use blow football to illustrate forces acting on a moving object – air blown through the straws would cause movement, change of direction and slow or even stop the table-tennis ball. Tug-of-war would get the pupils thinking about balance, and being pulled off balance.

Before each game, Mr Peter asked his pupils to predict what the game would teach them about force. Then, as the game took place, he took the role of commentator, describing what was happening and providing extra information about the effects of forces. In this way, they were thinking about the forces involved as they experienced the effects directly.

The next week, Mr Peter and the pupils reflected on the ‘force Olympics’ and made notes and drawings to show what had been learned. (See Resource 2: Force games.)

Activity 2: Force action words

Space out the words ‘Pulls’, ‘Pushes’ and ‘Twists/Turns’ on the chalkboard (or on separate sheets of newsprint).

Brainstorm all the force action words the pupils can think of and form word spiders (word burrs) for each term. (See Resource 3: Force word spiders or burrsfor examples of pupil’s work.) Encourage your pupils to use all languages they understand and use. Do any words sound like their action? Think of words like ‘prod’ or ‘thump’ and even ‘stretch’ or ‘smear’.

Discuss the words and actions with pupils, using mime to demonstrate (e.g. what are you doing when you ‘wring’ out a damp cloth to squeeze out the water?). Check if the words represent pushes, pulls or circular movements. Expect some healthy disagreement. Give your pupils time to discuss conflicting ideas and praise their logical contributions.

Finally, organise your pupils to display the selected words alongside pictures or objects that illustrate the force action (e.g. ‘screw’ could show a screw or screwdriver, ‘tear’ could show torn fabric, ‘crumple’ could show a crumpled drinks can).

1. Discussing Forces in everyday life

3. Organising investigations into friction