Struggling through unseen forces of motion

In grade 2, a challenging concept for students is ‘forces influence the motion of an object’. This is a Big Idea in BC’s new curriculum for grade 2 (BC Ministry of Education, 2015). Through observations, experiments, and evidence of student learning, it is clear that many students struggle with the concept of force and motion because they hold faulty beliefs derived from living in a world where unseen frictional forces operate (White, 1983). For example, in a grade 2 unit we learned about ‘push and pull’, specifically how force always occurs in pairs, Newton’s third law. After many lessons, videos, and examples, one student came to me and said, “If I push a door open, it’s pushing me with the same force? How can a door push me?”

A digital technology that can work to improve this concept is STEAM, an app that teaches the basics of force and motion. The app uses simulation to help students investigate force and how it affects motion. Students can use the simulation to work through the main concepts with 4 different interactive lessons. I would like to use this next year with my grade 2’s in partnerships. (

In my design of a 3-step T-GEM cycle for this concept, I wanted to include student observations and investigations on force and motion, as well as iPad use with the STEAM app for digital experiments.


I would have students use a KWL chart (Know, Wonder, Learn) to fill out what they already know, or think they know about force and motion. Then I would have them compare in small groups. This will be used as an assessment tool for me as well to see what their pre-existing beliefs are, as well as to see the growth in their learning at the end of the unit. As a class we will watch the introduction Brain Pop Jr videos to force and motion. Students will share what they think the relationship is between force and motion. In partnerships, students will predict, compare, and explain different examples of force in a hands-on activity.

Video from BrainPopJr.


Students will test their predictions in a hands-on activity. Students will use the STEAM app to investigate force and motion. Students will compare their predictions and observations after both hands-on experiments and virtual experiments. Students will come up with “I wonder” questions to help further guide their inquiry. As a class, we will work through a number of picture books to reinforce the concept of force and motion, as well as incorporate different visual videos. Computer simulations enhance concepts and allow students and teachers the opportunity to view visual representation  in more concrete ways which may lead to more accurate conceptual understandings (Khan, 2011).

Students will take pictures of their experiments to later document in Book Creator.


Students will use Book Creator app on the iPads to reflect on their observations, taking into consideration their original predictions. Students will share their books with the rest of the class. As a full class we will discuss their observations, ideas, and further questions. Structured inquiries will occur to help guide and prevent any misconceptions surrounding the concept of force and motion to answer any “wonder” questions that were not answered.


Khan, S. (2007). Model-based inquiries in chemistryScience Education, 91(6), 877-905

Khan, S. (2010). New pedagogies for teaching with computer simulationsJournal of Science Education and Technology, 20(3), 215-232.

White, B. Y. (1983). Sources of difficulty in understanding Newtonian dynamics. Cognitive Science, 7(1), 41-65. Doi: 10.1016/S0364-0213(83)80017-2


  1. Hi Danielle,

    What I really liked about your post this week was the amount of varied resources you have incorporated into your T-Gem design. Not only have you considered using video resources such as Brainpop but you have also reinforced the importance of finding information through reading various picture books, again, solidifying an important learning milestone for students in this age category as they continue to not only learn to read, but read to learn. This reminded me of the following quote from the third reading by Khan, “This contributes to poor up- take in science classrooms and “click- ing without thinking” among students. T-GEM addresses these shortcomings with internet-based technologies,” because many of my fifth grade students would not read information while online! By teaching students to use a variety of resources, and especially picture books, this begins to develop stealth researchers! I wonder if you publish these stories for future grades to use as resources? Also, I was curious as to how your students organize all of their digital work they create? Does your school use freshgrade or Seesaw?



    1. Hi Christina. Thanks for the comments 🙂
      My class uses FreshGrade as an ePortfolio to share evidence of their learning. We also have 1:1 iPads on a cart so the students can save projects on iPads for easy retrieval. We use an app called Book Creator. It allows the students to create their own eBook which they can add pictures, text, audio, and videos to. It’s a great way for students to refer back to experiments, discussions, and their thoughts throughout a unit. It encourages students to take ownership over their learning because they add what they deem important. Many students will add definitions, diagrams, etc. Others will do the minimum requirements. I have a number of picture books that I use with my students that reinforces force and motion. Unfortunately I am out of town until next week so I can’t get the names of these, however I do tweet out the books we use throughout the year!

  2. Hi Danielle,

    I really like your ideas for your T-GEM – so much hands-on learning! Using Book Creator to capture artifacts throughout and then reflect on their original predictions and their new observations is a great idea. Allowing students the opportunity to share out to others and provide opportunity for discussion is very important.


    1. Thanks Natalie. Yes, I think it’s so important to encourage students to take ownership over their learning. Students love sharing their eBooks with parents in our Student-Led conferences as well. I find that students take greater pride in this rather than duotangs or small paper-based examples of their learning. It almost becomes a portfolio of their learning, which you can save as a PDF and upload to their digital portfolio, in our case Fresh Grade.

  3. Hi Danielle

    I like the fact that you brought in a personal perspective — “grade 2, a challenging concept for students is ‘forces influence the motion of an object’”. A few senior physics students have a difficult time with concepts such as this.

    I wonder if a student only had teachers who only cared about their paycheck every two weeks and did not go the extra mile for their students. What would happen to the student’s beliefs on simple math and science concepts as they moved into more senior classes? What would happen to the student’s motivation to KWL?

    A good next step might be to share how teachers are selected for the primary grades? I know seniority and education come into play — but should that be the only two things? I have seen administrators with their hands tied — and they are forced to take teachers that are qualified, but not motivated or engaging.


    1. Hi Christopher,
      I have found in my experience and in talking to students and parents, that teachers play a huge role in a students understanding of science concepts. I think the reason many students “hate” math and science is because they didn’t understand the concept, it was outsize of their zone of proximal development, and they were rushed through when they probably needed deeper learning and meaningful opportunities to construct their own knowledge. I have had grade 3 students say that this year science became their favourite subject and that they never liked it before. It’s disappointing when students come into my class with the impression that science is boring or difficult.

      I have a difficult time with the process of hiring teachers for positions. In my opinion, seniority shouldn’t be a deciding factor, but unfortunately it is often the case. Younger teachers who are passionate about science are not hired because a teacher with ten more years of experience will be hired before them. Administrators are definitely left with their hands tied because teachers can grieve their decision with the union. There are many administrators that I have personally spoken to, who would rather hire a teacher with one or two years experience over a stagnant teacher, because of their passion for teaching and engaging lessons.

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