To begin our simple machines unit, I had my students take a pre-test showing me what they already knew about the different types of machines. This was great information to have, because when I introduced our force and motion unit I heard many, "WE ALREADY DID THAT LAST YEAR!" Now, after their pre-test I have proof of whether or not they remember. :)
After the pre-test, students filled in a pie chart showing their mastery of simple machines. Some were filling in 1-2 slices of pie, where others were able to fill in the entire pie! [email me and I will share the pie chart with you! firstname.lastname@example.org] Since I found that I had several resident experts of simple machines. I wanted these students to have a chance to teach their peers a little thing or two on simple machines. Today, I had my experts leading the building and assembling of simple machines.
A few years ago, our 5th grade purchased a Simple Machines kit to build examples of each type of machine. Each kit has enough materials for you to assemble one example of each simple machine at time - which makes it great for students to move around to different stations and build each one.
Purchase the kit here.
While I was doing a mini-training with my experts, I had my students logging examples of simple machines disguised as common household items on the whiteboard. (This was an extension activity from the previous day)