Simple Machine Summary





Name of Activity

Simple Machine Summary


Kelly Clark


Simple Machines, pulleys, screws


Simple Machines

Grade Level

K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


1 Hour Total

Brief Description

This lesson is a review of simple machines and their use in the real world.

Lesson Objectives:

– Introduce pulleys and screws.

– Review real world applications of simple machines.

Materials Needed:

– ‘Screws and Pulleys’ Powerpoint

– ‘Simple Machines’ Powerpoint

– Household materials that consist of simple machines

Preparation and Set Up:

Be sure that there is some way to present the Powerpoint information (projector, TV, overhead, as handouts etc.).

Necessary Background


Simple machines




  1. Review simple machines and any activities where students have used simple machines.
  2. Introduce the concept of pulleys and screws as extensions of more basic machines – respectively, the wheel and axle, and the inclined ramp.
  3. Show and narrate the ‘Screws and Pulleys’ Powerpoint (attached).
  4. Show the ‘Simple Machines’ Powerpoint and have students identify where simple machines are being used on a piece of paper (numbered 1 – 25). The answer to some pictures may be none.
  5. Tell students to keep in mind that even if a simple machine is present in an object (such as a screw), it does not classify as a machine if it is not performing its function.
  6. If there is time and equipment, let students research household objects that use simple machines and present their findings.

Reference 1

Reference 2

1 comment on this post.
  1. Jake Hellman:

    In our 5th grade classroom in JQS, we did a similar activity based around simple machines and mechanical engineering. It didn’t warrant a separate activity, but it was significantly different than the above activity. An outline of what we did:

    The overall purpose of the lesson was to understand the concept of a few simple machines and how their function can be used to our advantage.

    The lesson was taught with regular legos (we brought several large boxes with assorted pieces). We began by introducing the challenge which was the following:

    Use the objects given to you to build a machine that will travel the farthest distance without being pushed.

    This challenge was vague intentionally. The hope was that the students would realize they needed to build cars of some form (with wheels and axles!) and ramps to get the cars started. Therefore, the simple machines covered were wheels, axles, and inclined planes.

    Before handing out our simple worksheet and letting the students plan and build, we discussed several key ideas. The first was gravity. What is gravity? How does it affect what you build? Then we discussed friction. What is it? How does friction affect what you build? Then we let the students build!

    After they finished and tested, we brought the class together and discussed wheels, axles, friction, and inclined planes. This way the students had experience with the simple machines we were discussing even though they had not known them by name while building.

    After the above lesson we decided that the students struggled a little which the challenge as it wasn’t defined well and didn’t quite grasp the simple machines we were trying to teach.

    Therefore we came in for our next class with some concrete examples. We defined the terms machine, inclined plane, wheel, and axle. In addition, we brought hand on examples for the students to play with such as CDs (which can act as wheels when spun around your finger) and a cardboard wedge.

    We continued to work with the same challenge now that the students had a little more background information. However, we phrased the challenge differently (as follows), and the students were much more receptive.

    The Little Mango moving company needs to move several mini staplers from one end of the classroom to the other over and over. However, the movers are very lazy people and they’ve hired you to make a system to move the mini staplers for them. They need the design by 1:00 today, so go!

    This activity was more successful and we believe the students understood wheels, axles, and inclined planes by the end.

Leave a comment

You must be