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Motion

Lesson Plans by Oliver Smith

Find these Common Core aligned lesson plans and more like them in our STEM Category!

Motion Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Motion Include:

Motion has been studied by scientists for millennia. Mathematics is often used as the language to describe many things in science, and this is especially true in kinematics, or the study of the motion of objects. An understanding of kinematics is essential in a range of industries as diverse as sports and aeronautical engineering. There are different ways to describe motion including charts and vector diagrams.


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Motion Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Vector or Scalar Quantities

Vector or Scalar
Vector or Scalar

Example

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In this activity students will demonstrate their knowledge of examples of vectors and scalars by creating a T-Chart. As well as researching and sorting the terms into the categories of scalar and vector, students will also create illustrations.

Scalar quantities only have magnitude (size) and no direction. Examples of these are distance, time, energy, and length. Vector quantities have both magnitude and direction. Vectors can be represented by arrows. The length of the arrow represents the magnitude of the quantity and the head represents the direction. Examples of vectors are velocity and forces. In order to completely understand a force, you need to know both the size of the force, but also the direction the force is acting in. Give students a list of quantities and have them sort them into either vector or scalar quantities, or let students choose the quantities.


Examples of Vectors and Scalars

VectorScalars
ThrustLength
DisplacementTemperature
WeightVoltage
AccelerationTime
MomentumPower
DragArea
LiftEnergy
MovementPressure
VelocitySpeed

To support students who need help, print out the example storyboard, cut it up, and have students put it back together as a card sort.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

In this activity you are going to identify examples of scalar and vector quantities.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Label the first column as Vector and the second as Scalar.
  3. Think of three examples of each and write them in the boxes underneath each cell.
  4. Use a combinations of scenes, characters, and props to create a visualization to represent each example.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


T-Chart 3 Rows
T-Chart 3 Rows

Example

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Vocabulary for Motion

Motion Vocabulary
Motion Vocabulary

Example

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Have your students put key vocabulary into practice. One of the things students can find really difficult is using scientific vocabulary correctly and in the appropriate context. Using a visual representation or visual examples as well as a written one can really help students understand abstract concepts.


Example Motion Vocabulary


Acceleration

Acceleration is a measure of the rate of change of speed, measured in m/s2.


Average Speed

Average speed is calculated by dividing the total distance by the time taken to travel that distance.


Stationary

If an object is stationary, it is still and not moving.


Terminal Velocity

Terminal velocity is the maximum velocity reached by a falling object. This happens when an object’s weight is equal but opposite to the drag force.


Gradient

A gradient is the slope of a line on a graph. If the gradient is high, then the line is steep.


Other terms include:

  • Air Resistance
  • Arrows
  • Atmosphere
  • Average
  • Balanced Forces
  • Brakes
  • Constant Speed
  • Descend
  • Drag
  • Falling
  • Faster
  • Lift
  • Lubricant
  • Maximum Speed
  • Meters
  • Motion
  • Newton
  • Oil
  • Parachutes
  • Pedals
  • Performance
  • Proportional
  • Pulling
  • Pushing
  • Race
  • Ramps
  • Resistance
  • Skating
  • Sliding
  • Slope
  • Slower
  • Spacecraft
  • Speed
  • Streamlined
  • Tangent
  • Thrust
  • Ticker Timer
  • Unbalanced

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of key scientific vocabulary by creating visualizations.

  1. Choose five vocabulary words and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary and write it under the cell.
  3. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to give examples of the words.
  4. Save and submit your storyboard. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


5 Word Vocabulary Template
5 Word Vocabulary Template

Example

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Displacement

Displacement-Time Graph
Displacement-Time Graph

Example

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Have your students label a displacement-time graph using Storyboard That. Students often get displacement-time graphs and velocity-time graphs confused. Use final activity as a way to help students who get confused between the two.

Distance and displacement are slightly different from each other. Distance is a scalar quantity which describes how much ground an object has covered. Displacement is a vector quantity which describes how far an object is from its starting position.

A displacement-time graph normally puts displacement on the y-axis and time on the x-axis. Using S.I. units, displacement is measured in meters and time is measured in seconds.

On a displacement-time graph, the gradient, or slope of the line, represents the size of the speed. A positive gradient relates to a positive velocity and a negative gradient indicates a negative velocity.


Interpreting the Displacement-Time Graph

SectionDescriptionExample
AThe object is moving at a constant speed.Sandy is a park ranger. She is patrolling the park at a constant speed in her vehicle.
BThe object is stationary.She sees a goose in her way and stops to let it pass.
CThe object moving at a constant speed in the same direction as section A, but not as quickly.She continues again, but this time more slowly in case there are other animals.
DThe object is moving at a constant speed (more quickly than A and C), but in the opposite direction. There was another animal, but not a goose! She quickly turns her vehicle around to go back to the ranger station at a high speed.

As an extension, give your students a description of a journey and then have them create the graph themselves. This activity would also work if you got your students to label a velocity-time graph.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Label and interpret a distance time graph. Provide an example scenario to accompany it.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Label the axes, making sure you include units.
  3. Label each color section of the graph and explain what is happening to the object in the description box.
  4. Come up with a narrative scenario to match the relative velocities and direction of travel.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Displacement Template
Displacement Template

Example

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Motion Discussion Storyboard

Discussion Storyboard - HS - Motion
Discussion Storyboard - HS - Motion

Example

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Discussion storyboards are a great way to get your students talking about their ideas in Science. They allow students to critique and evaluate different viewpoints without upsetting other students. This activity can be used at the start of the topic to elicit any misconceptions students may have.

At first, show students a discussion storyboard like the one below. Ask them to look at the problem on the discussion storyboard. It shows four students who all have an idea about the problem in front of them. Students should think about whom they think is the most correct and be prepared to explain why that person is correct. Students might support their position by creating visuals, including text and images, on Storyboard That. These visuals can easily be exported as PowerPoint slides. After students have prepared their argument, have your students discuss their ideas. This discussion can be carried out in a range of different formats. Students could discuss in pairs, small groups, or even in a teacher-led, whole class setting. It is important to agree on a list of discussion rules with students before they start so everybody gets a chance to participate. Students will also be able to practice adapting their speech to a formal debating context and can demonstrate their grasp of formal English.

Here are some other ideas to use these discussion storyboards in your lessons.

  1. Students add another cell on the end of the example you’ve given them to explain whom they think is correct and why.
  2. Students create a storyboard to describe why a student is incorrect, and then "teach" the concept.
  3. Students create their own discussion storyboards to share with peers on the current topic.

Note that the template in this assignment is blank. After clicking "Copy Assignment", add your desired problem and solutions to match the needs of your students.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Read the discussion storyboard that shows four students who all have an idea about the problem in front of them. You are going to give your opinion on whom you think is correct and explain why. You will use your created storyboard to engage in discussion with your peers.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Add another cell at the end of the row.
  3. Use text and images to explain whom you think is correct and why.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Discussion Storyboard - Blank
Discussion Storyboard - Blank

Example

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Comparing Displacement and Velocity Graphs

Comparing Graphs
Comparing Graphs

Example

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Students often find it difficult to tell the difference between displacement-time graphs and velocity-time graphs. In this activity students will be able to demonstrate their knowledge about how motion can be described using displacement-time graphs and velocity-time graphs.


Motion TypeDisplacement-Time GraphVelocity-Time Graph
Acceleration (Positive Acceleration)A curved line where the gradient is increasingA line with a constant positive gradient
Constant VelocityA line with a constant positive gradientA horizontal line
Deceleration (Negative Acceleration)A curved line where the gradient is decreasingA line with a constant negative gradient

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create displacement-time and velocity-time graphs for different situations.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Use a combinations of scenes, characters and props to create a visualization for the following situations: Positive acceleration, constant speed, and negative acceleration (deceleration).
  3. Use lines to show what the displacement-time and velocity-time graphs look like for the following situations: Positive acceleration, constant speed, and negative acceleration (deceleration).
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Comparing Graphs Template
Comparing Graphs Template

Example

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Acceleration and Velocity Vectors

Acceleration and Velocity Vectors
Acceleration and Velocity Vectors

Example

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In this activity students will demonstrate their knowledge of acceleration and velocity vectors using Storyboard That. Students often find it conceptually challenging when acceleration and velocity vectors aren’t in the same direction.


Spacecraft in Orbit

The spacecraft moves in a circular path around the Earth. Its velocity vector is constantly changing, even if its speed is constant. The acceleration vector arrow points towards the center of the Earth, in the same way the force due to gravity would act.


Car Slowing Down

The velocity arrow changes as the car slows down. The direction of the arrow remains constant, in the direction the car is moving. The size of the velocity arrow decreases as the car gets slower. The acceleration arrow acts in the opposite direction to the velocity arrow. This is known as negative acceleration or deceleration.


Ball Thrown in the Air

The velocity vector points in the direction of travel and changes as the ball follows its path. The acceleration vector arrow remains constant as the ball is in the air. The arrow points directly downwards towards the Earth.


Alternatively, have your students create these diagrams for other situations, such as a car going around a corner or a cannon ball being fired out of a cannon.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment to Account", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create acceleration and velocity vector arrows in different situations.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Use a combinations of scenes, characters and props to create a visualization for the following situations: spacecraft in orbit, car slowing down, and ball thrown in the air.
  3. Use arrows to describe the acceleration and velocity vectors in each situation.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Blank Storyboard - 3 Cells
Blank Storyboard - 3 Cells

Example

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Kinematics Background Information

Kinematics is an area of study in classical physics that deals with motion. Some people could even argue it is actually an area of Mathematics. We can describe the motion of objects by looking at the different measurable quantities such as displacement, velocity, and acceleration. Displacement is distance with a direction. Velocity, or speed, is how fast something is moving. In order to calculate the average speed you need to know two things: the distance the object has traveled and the time it has taken the object to cover that distance. Science uses the S.I. units for speed, m/s (meters per second). In everyday language, we can also describe speed in the units of mph (miles per hour) or km/h (kilometers per hour). The equation for speed is distance divided by time taken. Instantaneous speed is the speed at a particular moment, whereas average speed is the mean speed across a large distance. Acceleration is a measure of the rate of change of speed. Acceleration can be positive, meaning velocity is increasing, or negative, meaning velocity is decreasing.

The motion of the object can be described using charts. It is important that students can interpret velocity-time graphs and displacement-time graphs. In both of these graphs, time runs along the x-axis with velocity or displacement on the y-axis. For a displacement-time graph the gradient or slope of the line indicates the direction and the speed an object is travelling. A line with zero gradient (a horizontal line) means the object is not moving. If the line curves, this indicates the object is accelerating, either negatively or positively.

There are two types of quantities in Science: vector quantities and scalar quantities. A vector quantity is a quantity that has both size and direction. An example of a scalar is time. Time has no direction, but does have magnitude. Velocity is an example of a vector, where both the magnitude and the direction of the quantity are needed.

Velocity and acceleration are both vector quantities and can be represented by an arrow. When the acceleration vector is in the same direction as the velocity vector, the object will increase in velocity in that direction. When the acceleration arrow is in the opposite direction to the velocity vector, the object’s velocity will decrease. If there is no acceleration, then the object will travel at a constant velocity; it will not increase or decrease.


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Velocity and Acceleration
Velocity and Acceleration

Example

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Be sure to check out the lesson plans for introductory forces too!


Essential Questions for Motion

  1. What is a scalar/vector quantity?
  2. How can we describe motion?
  3. How can we calculate speed?

Other Motion Lesson Plan Ideas

  1. Create a narrative storyboard showing one's motion throughout the day. Make a displacement-time graph to accompany it.
  2. Plan an investigation into velocity or displacement using Storyboard That investigation planning resources.
  3. Compare different scalar and vector pairs, like velocity and speed, in a T-Chart.

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