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20 October 2014
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Friction - lesson plan

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Toy car

  1. To understand that friction is a force that slows moving objects.
  2. To explain conclusions in terms of the roughness or smoothness of surfaces.
  3. To relate results to predictions.
  4. To begin to know how to plan a fair test.

National Curriculum

Sc1, 2d; Sc4, 2c.


You will need Adobe Acrobat reader to access the PDF files. BBC Webwise has a complete guide to downloading and installing Adobe Acrobat reader.

Teaching activities


  1. Place the anagram cards around the room. Ask the children to guess what the words are and what they are learning about.
  2. Watch How is friction created?
  3. Watch the clip again but this time ask the children to list the forces mentioned and to say what the key learning points are.
  4. Demonstrate pulling a brick with a Newton meter - first on the carpet sample and then on the vinyl sample.
  5. Ask the children whether it is more difficult for an object to start moving on a smooth or a rough surface. Ask them to explain their answer.
  6. Encourage the children to explain their ideas using words such as roughness, smoothness, grip and slide or slip.
  7. Explain to the children that where there is greater grip, there is a greater force of something called friction.


  1. Give the children the following question - Does the type of surface effect how the sleigh travels?
  2. Ask the children to consider the variables involved. Give the lower ability group the variables to choose from.
  3. Open the Bitesize friction activity on an interactive whiteboard and demonstrate how to select a different track surface, and how to start the sleigh moving. Ask the children to predict on which surface they think the sleigh will move the furthest? On which surface do they think the sleigh will move the shortest distance? Ask the middle ability group to write a two-part prediction. Ask the higher ability group to create a two-part hypothesis.
  4. Arrange the children in pairs or groups, with a computer for each group.
  5. Ask the children to work through the activity, following the tasks written (and spoken) at the top of the screen. Ask them to record distances travelled (or flags reached) on paper. Give the lower ability group a table on which to record the results.


  1. Ask the children if their predictions were right.
  2. Discuss why the sleigh does not travel as far on the carpet, even though it received the same size push as on the other surfaces.
  3. Encourage the children again to explain their ideas using words such as roughness, smoothness, grip, slide and slip.
  4. Ask the higher ability group to create a two-part conclusion.
  5. Ask the children if there is more friction between the sleigh and the carpet, or between the sleigh and the ice.
  6. Develop the link between grip and the force of friction. Ask the children what this indicates about road surfaces. How can cars and bicycles be made safe? What will happen in the winter when the roads are icy?
  7. Play the Digger and the Gang - Stuck on the tracks game.


Ask children to complete the Bitesize friction quiz or the friction worksheet (PDF 375KB).


Ask the children to investigate the following question - Does the type of material on the sole of your shoe affect the amount of grip you have?

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