Lesson Plan

Simple and Complex Machines


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Big Ideas




In this lesson, students will learn about the importance of simple and complex machines and their components. Throughout this lesson, students will learn about the different types of simple machines and complex machines. Students will:

  • identify examples of common technological changes, past and present, in the community.
  • identify simple and complex machines.
  • learn that complex machines are made up of simple machines.

learn that machines have changed throughout time by using simple and complex machines together to accomplish tasks.

Essential Questions

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  • Machine: A piece of equipment with a system of parts that work together to do or make something.
  • Simple Machine: Any of various devices that function in a manner basic to any machine, such as a lever, pulley, wedge, screw, or inclined plane.
  • Complex Machine: A device consisting of two or more simple machines working together.
  • Inclined Plane: A plane surface inclined at less than a right angle to a horizontal surface, used to roll or slide a load up or down.
  • Wedge: A piece of wood or metal shaped like a triangle with a thin edge. A wedge is driven or forced between objects to split, lift, or make them stronger.
  • Screw: A metal device that fastens. You push a screw into a surface by turning it while pressing down on the head.
  • Lever: A basic tool used to lift something or open something by lifting it out.
  • Pulley: A simple machine that is used for lifting. A pulley is a wheel or set of wheels that a rope or chain is pulled over.
  • Wheel and Axle: A machine consisting of a cylindrical drum to which a wheel concentric with and larger than the drum is fastened, so that as an attached rope unwinds from the wheel, another rope is wound onto the drum, exerting an increased force.


60 minutes/1–2 class periods

Prerequisite Skills


o   Lever: fork, baseball bat, scissors, and stapler

o   Inclined Plane: board for a ramp

o   Wheel and Axle: rolling pin, roller skates, and an egg beater

o   Screw: screw, screw driver, mason jar with lid

o   Pulley: rope, bucket

o   Wedge: shark tooth and plastic knitting needles

  • pencil
  • yarn
  • wire or plastic clothes hanger
  • paper clip
  • old magazines from past eras

Related Unit and Lesson Plans

Related Materials & Resources

The possible inclusion of commercial websites below is not an implied endorsement of their products, which are not free, and are not required for this lesson plan.

  • Click, Rumble, Roar: Poems about Machines by Lee Bennet Hopkins. T. Y. Crowell Junior Books, 2000.

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