Middle School students may have learned a little about physics in elementary school but in 8th grade, they will dive much deeper into it. Through videos, readings, labs, demonstrations, and virtual learning, students will learn about the forces of motion. Here you’ll find a list of activities aimed at teaching about speed and how it relates to acceleration and velocity. Some are more self-directed than others, but all the activities will work together to enhance your students understanding of the topic.
1. Zooooooming with Force and Motion
Here’s a fun activity that looks at the motion of toy cars. Students will learn how different factors affect the speed of toy cars, which can be extended into learning about dependent and independent variables. Use it as an introductory activity to get students interested in learning about speed.
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2. Calculating Speed Worksheet
While I typically don’t like to give out student worksheets, this one provides word problem practice using real-life situations. It can be used as homework or to provide extra practice calculating speed to struggling students.
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3. Speed Challenge
Students get to create a “race track” and then record the amount of time it takes to move along it in different ways. Kids will have to calculate their speed and then determine which way of moving was the best. I’ve done this with students in the hallway and they had lots of fun.
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If you have access to a track, then this can be used as an extension activity. It helps some students to have different ways of looking at speed to understand it more deeply. It can also be used as a springboard for talking about constant speed and acceleration.
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5. Speed V. Velocity
This activity aims at clarifying the vocabulary terms speed and velocity using an interesting example. It requires some deep thinking and some students may need more practice with this prior to using this lesson.
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6. Timing a Speedbot!
Using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robots, students will determine the speed at which they move. Everything you need to complete this lesson is included, saving you hours of lesson prep, just print out the materials and you’ll be set to go. Student engagement is high with this activity since they are using materials they don’t often have access to.
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7. Interpreting Graphs
Another important skill is graph reading. Students will get to practice reading and interpreting the graphs, as well as learn how to create them. Knowing how to interpret graphs is an important skill for middle schoolers too. Printable graphs are included, along with all the directions you need.
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8. Speed Racer
Students can build a car using whatever materials they’d like to or have available. After recording their time, they’ll change one thing with the car and then race it again. This process will help them determine what is the best configuration for their car to go as fast as it can. Accurate time readings are key here to ensure accurate results.
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9. Rollercoaster Construction
Here’s another engineering activity that kids will love. You can either provide the materials or allow them to bring in their own in order to build a roller coaster. I would show some videos of roller coasters to remind kids of what they may look like. This lab activity will definitely help them understand the concept of speed.
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10. Marble Run
Students will use household materials to build a marble run. They’ll be able to see how friction affects speed while trying to guide their marble across the complete distance of their race track. They can make adjustments to see how they can increase their speed as well.
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11. Calculate the Average Speed
In this average speed activity, students will practice calculations of data gathered in class. They’ll also need to know how to read tables and graphs in order to complete the practice problems if they choose to use them. The sheets can be used independently as a data chart for other activities if you choose.
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12. Domino Dash
This activity is aimed at looking at the relationship between speed, time, and distance. Students will set up dominoes and time how long it takes to have them all fall when they knock them down. They will then do it again, but first, change the distance between them.
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13. Speed, Acceleration, and Velocity Video
This 2-minute classroom video sums up the differences between speed, velocity, and acceleration and gives some quick examples. This is a good review video for kids who may be struggling with differentiating between them. It’s fast-moving, so I wouldn’t use it early on in the unit.
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14. Virtual Car
This virtual activity will help students understand speed and velocity even further. They will drive the car and it will produce a graph showing speed versus velocity. It’s also a fantastic activity to review acceleration.
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15. What is Acceleration?
Understanding acceleration will assist with understanding speed. This activity gives and reviews the definition of acceleration using several relatable examples. The formula for calculating acceleration is also reviewed. Students can look at other aspects of acceleration through the other activities attached to this one as well.
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16. The Moving Man
Phet simulations are both fun and educational. Students will control the man as a graph is produced showing his velocity. It’s one of many great examples of acceleration that students will enjoy using.
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17. Card Sort
Students will read through scenarios and sort them by speed, velocity, and acceleration. This could be done independently or in a group depending on their needs. It will help clarify the differences between the three.
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18. Puzzle Activity
Instead of your traditional worksheet, this one provides a review in an interesting form. It will help deepen students understanding of speed, velocity, and acceleration. It can be used independently as an early finisher activity or completed collaboratively in groups.
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19. Reading Passages
This activity is broken down into separate sections for speed, velocity, and acceleration and includes real-life questions and an answer key. This is great for teaching students how to read science text and annotate while providing exposure to different resource types.
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20. Matching Units
Legends of Learning has many valuable and fun science resources available. This game has kids matching units with pictures that have to do with speed, velocity, and acceleration.
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21. Escape the Room
Kids love escape rooms, so this one won’t disappoint. It is a great way to review speed, velocity, and acceleration using an interactive resource. It’s a great follow-up to your middle school lessons on force and motion.
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Desmos allows you to create, upload and share slides with students and is perfect for remote students. It provides real-time student data that you can comment on while students are working as well.
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23. Online Games
Kids of any age love the chance to play an online game! This simple game will challenge your learners with questions on the topic of time, distance, and speed. They can play the games at home or independently at school to reinforce the vocabulary and key concepts within the unit.
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Jeopardy is an amazing way to review a concept in a fun way, especially in science class. Kids love watching their “money” increase every time they get an answer correct and the entire class will be engaged while playing.
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25. Virtual Velocity Lab
Students will use all they have learned so far about speed and velocity to investigate how they impact all motion. Depending on what your middle school science lessons look like, you may need to modify certain parts of this lab.
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