Force Arrows
Forces and Motion

Selecting and developing activities for finding forces

Classroom Activity for 5-11 Supporting Physics Teaching

Things to think about when selecting and developing activities to aid the teaching of 'finding forces' based on the Physics Narrative and the Teaching Guidance.

Ideas to emphasise here

  • Connect interactions between objects with the idea of a force
  • Adopt consistent conventions about where and how the arrows are drawn
  • Relate floating and sinking to forces, not to rules about displaced fluids
  • Relate 'friction' to the mechanisms of friction
  • Focus on the physical reasons for placing arrows
  • Giving real experiences of forces acting at a distance
  • Exploiting the tangible effects of magnets in regions of space around the magnet
  • Relate electric, magnetic and gravity forces, without conflating them
  • Separate the mass of an object from the force of gravity acting on the object, without being dogmatic

Teacher Tip: Work through the Physics Narratives to find these lines of thinking worked out and then look in the Classroom Activities for some examples of activities.

Strategies for supporting learning

  • Draw on learners' conceptions of their own actions and relate these to force
  • Explore and expose children's ideas of forces
  • Draw out children's everyday ideas about motion and the forces required
  • Introduce children to a new way of seeing – with forces
  • Convince children that inanimate things can push, just like they can
  • Develop the idea that a mechanism underpins the interaction that is replaced by force
  • Convince children that air can exert forces
  • Draw on children's own experience of action at the distance, probably through experiences with magnets
  • Draw on children's experiences, some of which will be vicarious, to establish the reality of gravity in space
  • Explore something of the mystery of action at a distance

Teacher Tip: These are all related to findings about children's ideas from research. The teaching activities will provide some suggestions. So will colleagues, near and far.

Avoid these

  • Drawing arrows next two objects, or near objects, when you intend the force be acting on the object
  • Don't act as if the placing of arrows is obvious and open to a simple inspection
  • Don't refer to forces cancelling out
  • Avoid using complex objects on which forces might be acting (with internally moving parts – bicycles, cars, people.)
  • Using friction as a blanket term, without reference to its physical origins
  • Treating contact forces exerted by inanimate objects as obvious
  • Stating, without sharing the appropriate experiences that give the statements meaning
  • Treating action at a distance as obviously acceptable
  • Acting as if the similarities between the three non-contact forces always have been obvious
  • Over-emphasising the similarities
  • Conflating the terminology and representations for the three different forces

Teacher Tip: These difficulties are distilled from: the research findings; the practice of well-connected teachers with expertise; issues intrinsic to representing the physics well.

Force Arrows
can be used to represent Force
IOP DOMAINS Physics CPD programme

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