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Simple Machines: Force and Motion

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The Foundational Reading and Language Standards Resources Package for Grades 3–5

Use this guide to build additional literacy blocks alongside the module lessons.


In this module, students engage in reading, writing, listening, and speaking to build knowledge of simple machines and how they impact force, effort, and work. Students begin by reading some basic informational text. They then read out loud and perform a short Readers Theater (written for classroom use) about simple machines in order to continue building background knowledge about simple machines while also learning the structural elements of drama and practicing reading fluently.

In Unit 2, students examine an extended science text, Simple Machines: Forces in Action (870L), which gives them a chance to examine the structure and text features, as well as analyze concepts in scientific writing. Several sections of this science text will be structured as close reading experiences. Students also will write routinely to explain how various simple machines work. They then will develop deeper expertise by working in small groups to read more about specific simple machines (inclined plane, levers, pulleys, etc.) as well as reading and conducting a series of science experiments using simple machines. They will synthesize their findings from the experiments by writing scientific conclusion statements. To appreciate just how prevalent simple machines are in daily life, students will conduct a simple machine “inventory” at home and school.

In Unit 3, students will continue to learn about simple machines, and will write an opinion about simple machines in an editorial to be submitted to a fictitious engineering magazine. They will explain what simple machines are and then form an opinion about which simple machine benefits people the most in their everyday lives. This performance task centers on ELA CCLS RI.4.1, RI.4.3, W.4.1, W.4.4, W.4.5, W.4.7, W.4.9, and L.4.3.


Each module is approximately 8 weeks of instruction broken into 3 units. The "week at a glance" chart in the curriculum map gives the big picture, breaking down the module into a detailed week-by-week view. It shows how the module unfolds, the focus of each week of instruction, and where the six assessments and the performance task occur.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How do simple machines impact our lives?
  • How do readers and writers form and support opinions?
  • Simple machines impact force, effort, and work.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies and Science content that may align to additional teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

Science Learning Standard 4: The Physical Setting

  • Students will understand and apply scientific concepts, principles, and theories pertaining to the physical setting and living environment and recognize the historical development of ideas in science. 

Key Idea 5

  • Energy and matter interact through forces that result in changes in motion.

Performance Indicator 5.1

  • Describe the effects of common forces (pushes and pulls) of objects, such as those caused by gravity, magnetism, and mechanical forces.


Texts to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
Take a Quick Bow!
by Pamela Marx
Teacher copy only
ISBN: 978-1596470835, 1596470836
Simple Machines: Forces in Action, Do It Yourself series
by Buffy Silverman
One per student
ISBN: 978-1432923174, 143292317X

Texts included in the module

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
"Who Cares about Polar Bears?”
by Expeditionary Learning
No More Junk in Our Schools
by Expeditionary Learning


CCS Standards: Reading—LiteratureLong-Term Learning Targets
  • RL.4.1. Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • I can explain what a text says using specific details from the text.

• RL.4.5. Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.

  • I can use literary terms to describe parts of a drama. 
  • I can describe the differences in structure of drama.
CCS Standards: Reading—Informational TextLong-Term Learning Targets
  • RI.4.1. Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • I can explain what a text says using specific details from the text.
  • I can make inferences using specific details from the text.
  • RI.4.2. Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
  • I can determine the main idea using specific details from the text.
  • RI.4.3. Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
  • I can explain the main points in a historical, scientific, or technical text, using specific details in the text.

• RI.4.4. Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.

  • I can determine the meaning of academic words or phrases in an informational text.
  • I can determine the meaning of content words or phrases in an informational text.

• RI.4.5. Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.

• I can describe the organizational structure in informational text (chronology).

CCS Standards: Reading—Foundational SkillsLong-Term Learning Targets
  • RF.4.3. Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

     a.  Use combined knowledge of all letter-sound correspondences, syllabication patterns, and morphology (e.g., roots and affixes) to read accurately unfamiliar multisyllabic words in context and out of context.

  • I can use a variety of strategies to read words.
  • RF.4.4. Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

     a.  Read grade-level text with purpose and understanding.
     b.  Read grade-level prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate, and expression.
     c.  Use context to confirm or self-correct word recognition and understanding, rereading as necessary.

  • I can read fourth-grade-level texts accurately and fluently to make meaning.

       a.  I can read fourth-grade-level texts with fluency.

CCS Standards: WritingLong-Term Learning Targets
  • W.4.1. Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.

     a.  Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer’s purpose.
     b.  Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.
     c.   Link opinion and reasons using words and phrases (e.g., for instance, in order to, in addition).
     d.   Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented.

  • I can write an opinion piece that supports a point of view with reasons and information.

     a.  I can introduce the topic of my opinion piece.
     a.  I can create an organizational structure in which I group together related ideas.
     b.  I can identify reasons that support my opinion.
     c.  I can use linking words to connect my opinion and reasons.
     d.  I can construct a concluding statement or section for my opinion piece.

  • W.4.4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • I can produce writing that is appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • W.4.7. Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
  • I can conduct a research project to become knowledgeable about a topic.
  • W.4.8. Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources.
  • I can recall information that is important to a topic.
  • I can document what I learn about a topic by taking notes.
  • I can sort my notes into categories.
  • I can provide a list of sources I used to gather information.
  • W.4.9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

     a.  Apply grade 4 Reading standards to literature (e.g., “Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text [e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions]”).
     b.  Apply grade 4 Reading standards to informational texts (e.g., “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text”).

  • I can choose evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • W.4.10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
  • I can write for a variety of reasons.
CCS Standards: Speaking & ListeningLong-Term Learning Targets
  • SL.4.1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

     a.  Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.
     b.  Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.
     c.  Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.
     d.  Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.

  • I can effectively engage in discussions with diverse partners about fourth-grade topics and texts.

     a.  I can prepare myself to participate in discussions.
     a.  I can draw on information to explore ideas in the discussion.
     b.  I can follow our class norms when I participate in a conversation.
     c.  I can ask questions that are on the topic being discussed.
     c.  I can answer questions about the topic being discussed.
     c.  I can connect my questions and responses to what others say.
     d.  After a discussion, I can explain what I understand about the topic being discussed.

CCS Standards: LanguageLong-Term Learning Targets
  • L.4.3. Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.

     a.  Choose words and phrases to convey ideas precisely.*

  • I can express ideas using carefully chosen words.
  • L.4.4. Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 4 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

     a.  Use context (e.g., definitions, examples, or restatements in text) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
     b.  Use common, grade-appropriate Greek and Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., telegraph, photograph, autograph).
     c.  Consult reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation and determine or clarify the precise meaning of key words and phrases.

  • I can use a variety of strategies to determine the meaning of words and phrases.

     a.  I can use context to help me to determine what a word or phrase means.
     b.  I can use common affixes and roots as clues to help me determine what a word means (e.g., telegraph, photograph, autograph).
     c.  I can use resource materials (glossaries, dictionaries, thesauruses) to help me determine the pronunciation and meaning of key words and phrases.

  • L.4.6. Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal precise actions, emotions, or states of being (e.g., quizzed, whined, stammered) and that are basic to a particular topic (e.g., wildlife, conservation, and endangered when discussing animal preservation).
  • I can accurately use fourth-grade academic vocabulary to express my ideas.

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