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Lesson Plans
Friction Fun
3rd–5th Grade
  • Students will understand Newton’s First Law of Motion.
  • Students will understand friction’s effect on moving objects.
Materials Needed
  • “What Is Friction?” information page and experiment sheet
  • Books
  • Sandpaper (one strip, approximately 4"–5" long, for each group)
  • Tape measure (one for each group)
  • Toy cars (one heavier car and one lighter car for each group)
  • 2" x 4" wood boards (each approximately 6" long for each group)

Explain to students that Newton’s First Law of Motion states that an object at rest will remain at rest and an object moving in a straight line will continue to move in that direction unless an outside force interferes.

Demonstrate this by setting a toy car down on a table. Ask, “Is the car moving?” (no) Reinforce that it will not move until an outside force moves it. Then push the car gently with your finger to make it roll forward, and ask students to explain what happened. (The car rolled forward because it was pushed.)

Point out that the car eventually stopped rolling because it encountered friction. Tell students that friction occurs when two surfaces rub against each other. In this case, the wheels of the car rubbing against the surface of the table eventually slowed the car’s movement and caused the car to stop. In addition, heavier objects, or objects with more mass, create more friction when they come in contact with another object or surface.


  1. Tell students you are going to have them test which conditions create more friction.
  2. Explain that they will use a wood board and two toy cars for the activity. One car will be lighter, or have less mass. The other car will be heavier, or have more mass. In addition, students will test how the cars respond to rolling on sandpaper versus rolling on a flat, smooth surface.
  3. Give each student a copy of the information page and read it together.
  4. Give each student a copy of the experiment sheet and read the procedure.
  5. Before each trial, have students write down their predictions of what will happen.

Guided Practice

  1. Divide the class into small groups of three or four students.
  2. Give each group a stack of books, a wood board, sandpaper and two toy cars (one lighter than the other).
  3. Instruct students to set up the wood ramp by stacking the books, resting one end of the wood board on top of the books and resting the other end on a flat table or floor.
  4. Encourage students to follow the directions in the “Condition” column of the “Observations/Results” chart on the experiment sheet and release the car from the top of the ramp.
  5. After each trial, have students use the tape measure to measure the distance the car traveled and record it on their experiment sheets.
  6. Finally, have students share what they learned. Which car traveled the farthest? Why? (The lighter car with no sandpaper traveled the farthest because it encountered the least amount of friction.) Which car traveled the shortest distance? (The heavier car with sandpaper traveled the shortest distance because the car’s mass and the sandpaper’s rough surface created more friction, stopping the car sooner.)

View the 3rd–5th Grade lesson plan. (Includes all printable materials.)
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