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C4.3 Developing Subject Knowledge and Pedagogy about Forces at KS1 and 2


This session uses a digital video clip as a motivating and fun starter activity to help primary trainees to focus on different ways that change in movement is brought about by forces. This is an elicitation activity in which attention is drawn to the vocabulary associated with developing an understanding of what forces are and how they are essential in causing changes in the motion of objects. The activity is designed as a precursor to developing more detailed subject knowledge about forces in action and is used to show that forces impact on our lives in a many ways and that there are many kind of forces that trainees will need to understand. This is then followed up by a practical challenge in which participants are required to use some of the movements identified in the video to produce their own chain reactions to last approximately 15-30 seconds. There is a PowerPoint presentation to support the workshop. The activity can be adapted by trainee teachers for use in the classroom and pedagogical elements can be drawn out about the use of discussion as a teaching strategy in science, resource implications and organisation for science. 

Keywords: Primary Science, Forces, Friction, Reaction force, Gravity, Air Resistance, balanced and unbalanced forces, Discussion, Elicitation

Standards addressed: Q10, 14, 22, 25 and Q26

C4.3 Forces - Developing Subject Knowledge and Pedagogical Understanding at Key Stages 1 and 2


1. Who are these materials for and what phase (primary or secondary)?
2. Describe content and format of materials.
3. Name of Digital Video clip
4. What are the expected learning outcomes?
5. What prior knowledge do student teachers and/or trainees need?
6. How do the learning and teaching materials assist teacher educators/student teachers and/or trainees in meeting the Standards?
7. Tutors' notes

1. Who are these materials for and what phase (primary or secondary)?

ITTstudents (primary) as they develop their own understanding of Forces further and learn how to help children to develop their understanding through the use of discussion as a strategy for learning in science.

2. Describe content and format of materials    

Content: Video from YouTube used to show a chain reaction which relies on a number of different forces. The lesson on Forces was given to Y2 trainee teachers and the PowerPoint presentation, provided supports the session.

The Powerpoint presentation is available as Download c4.3_2.0a_forces.

Format: 1.5 hour workshop for BA Primary Student Teachers on a 4year degree programme in a University in the Midlands. This was the first of three sessions on Forces on the Y2 Core Science Module: Accessing and Developing Children's Understanding of Science.

3. Name of Digital Video clip

Honda Cog Video  URL:

4. What are the expected learning outcomes?

Expected Learning outcomes: Participants should be able to:

  • explore some strategies for eliciting and developing understanding of forces
  • understand how Discussion as a teaching strategy might aid in the development of scientific understanding
  • describe a range of vocabulary that is associated with movement and explore which might be used by children at KS1 and 2
  • understand that forces are essential  in causing changes in the motion of objects.
  • begin to understand how science activity can help develop children's scientific concepts, skills and attitudes

5. What prior knowledge do student teachers and/or trainees need?

They would need some knowledge of Forces but since this is the first of three sessions that were used to help develop subject knowledge and pedagogical understanding a minimal amount is required.

6. How do the learning and teaching materials assist teacher educators/student teachers and/or trainees in meeting the Standards?

The learning point for the trainee teachers is to ensure that they begin to understand how such a lesson can be taught to KS1/2 classes and what practical implications they may need to consider. This session will also help them to better understand why discussion is a useful approach for teaching science.

Standards addressed:

Plan for progression across the age and ability range for which they aretrained, designing effective learning sequences within lessons and acrossseries of lessons and demonstrating secure subject/curriculum knowledge.

Q10 Have a knowledge and understanding of a range of  teaching... strategies
Q14 Have a secure knowledge and understanding of ...(forces) and related pedagogy
Q25 Teach lessons and sequences of lessons across the age and ability rangefor which they are trained in which they:
(a) use a range of teaching strategies and resources...
(b) build on prior knowledge, develop concepts and processes, enablelearners to apply new knowledge, understanding and skills and meetlearning objectives
(c) adapt their language to suit the learners they teach, introducingnew ideas and concepts clearly, and using explanations, questions,discussions and plenaries effectively
(d) demonstrate the ability to manage the learning of individuals,groups and whole classes, modifying their teaching to suit thestage of the lesson.

Assessing, monitoring and giving feedback
(b) Assess the learning needs of those they teach in order to setchallenging learning objectives.

7.0 Tutor Notes

7.1 Workshop outline

The Powerpoint presentation to support these notes can be found in 
Download : c4.3_2.0a_forces.ppt   Farhana Zaman Workshop plan

Introduction (15minutes approx)

Much of scientific activity at KS1 and 2 should be about using Discussion as a strategy to elicit children's notions of any topic, in this instance it is forces. Discussion requires interaction between peers and/or between peers and the teacher. If children's ideas are discussed and the teacher promotes an ethos of every child's ideas as being of value this may act as a spur for children to begin to unpack and reconstruct their scientific understanding about Forces with the help of the teacher.

  1. In order to find out what is known about Forces an elicitation activity is undertaken using  a video from YouTube.
  2. Allow trainees to have a first viewing without instructions - the video is short and enjoyable to watch.
  3. Explain to trainees that the activity they are about to undertake is designed to get them to discuss as a whole class the different types of movement that are shown on the video and that these when distilled down to their basic movements all constitute a push or a pull - i.e. a Force . Use the ppt to show scientific definition of a force  
  4. Explain that there are options available to the trainee when carrying out this activity with children and that they will be required to choose how to use the video with their KS1/2 classes.
  5. For KS2 this can be done as a whole class activity watching the video twice as suggested above and on the second viewing ( all the way through ) having  children calling out the words as a whole class activity.  I would suggest that this is done with the trainees in order to save time and with the tutor/ teacher acting as scribe. With KS2 classes, the teacher may want to allocate a scribe for the group; have the class divided into several smaller groups each coming up with their group ideas so that these can be compared across the class or have children working in pairs. Practical implications need to be considered such as how to organise access for children to watch the video clip. Remember the idea is to elicit vocabulary and get to the point that a variety of forces are acting to produce the chain reaction in this video clip.  Ensuring that ample time is given for discussion will be important.  For older children the teacher may wish to ask children to identify certain forces such as gravity, friction air resistance, reaction force as they are displayed on the video clip and further elicit their understanding of these before going onto the practical activity of producing a chain reaction themselves. In this way children's ideas about the various forces on the video maybe elicited and with the use of the ppt the scientific definitions maybe explained/gaps in knowledge identified and work undertaken later. Remember this session constitutes an introduction to Forces and needs to be supplemented with further work in session or in own time.

For KS1, depending on the age of the children, this same activity can be done by showing segments of the video and having the children identifying and noting down the movement vocabulary in pairs or small groups. Explain that again there are practical implications ( depending on the children's skills of writing at KS1 the teacher  may need to appoint a  notetaker for example a teaching assistant, parent helper , trainee or the teacher herself).
Main Activity  (45 minutes approx)

Trainees to have a go at producing a chain reaction that lasts for 15-30 seconds using a variety of resources from the ones provided possibly resulting in some kind of noise production at the end.  I would give the trainees a time limit of 15 minutes for this activity as they will be working in groups - adjust this if they are really struggling.        

Encourage trainees to work in groups, to plan through discussion, their ideas of what they might do and to produce rough drawings of their finished chain reaction machine/product. Encourage them to identify the forces in action at each point in their chain and to make a note of these so that they can share this with the rest of the class in the plenary session at the end.

Explain to trainees that again there are organisational implications when working with KS1 and KS2 classes - Encourage them to keep a note of these (see ppt slide) as they do the activity themselves. As a starting point encourage trainees to consider the following in all groups.

  • How might the activity need to be organised for the different Key Stages?
  •  Are there different resource implications?
  •  How much time should be given for this activity for each age group?
  •  How will they ensure that the focus is maintained on developing knowledge of forces rather than randomly producing a chain reaction?
  •  What other factors can trainees think of that might be relevant?
  •  These can then be compared across the class to see whether relevant points have been identified by the trainees for each key stage.

Give trainees time to make their chain reactions and keep the various notes as suggested above 
Plenary (30 minutes approx )
Give time for each group of trainees to show their chain reactions explaining in terms of forces which they used and how these might have been manipulated to produce the results they had planned for. 

Examine the implication for teaching that each group have considered 

Consider with Trainees: 

  • How valuable is Discussion as an approach for developing science subject knowledge/conceptual understanding?
  • How, if at all, does the use of Discussion aid in the development of scientific skills and attitudes? Which if any, is it most useful for?
  • What are its'  potential advantages and disadvantages when used with KS1/2 and  how might trainees lessen any disadvantages?

Give trainees time to identify which QCA units are relevant for KS1/2 and to examine what type of activities are suggested . Powerpoint slide can be used here -Relate to QCA units 1E (pushes and pulls), 2E (forces and movement), 4E (friction) 6E (forces in action).

Give trainees time to reflect on which Standards for QTt have been addressed during this session  (Show Powerpoint  slide). Brief discussion. 

 Also link to New Star Science and Nuffield Primary Science as schemes which suggest interesting elicitation activities -If possible have QCA Units of work , Standards ( Trainees should have own copies of these) , Star Science and Nuffield Primary Science available in the room  for the session so that if trainees have time to browse they are enabled to do so.
Give reading for next session

This section was produced by Farhana Zaman

Published: 23 Aug 2009