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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Teaching Primary Science: Physics. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds RACHEL: All forces come in pairs, as no force exists by itself. Some force must be applied to get something moving, and a force applied to an object already moving can send it travelling in a different direction. Commonly known as pushes and pulls, forces can cause a change in speed, direction, or shape of an object. In simple terms, children playing with Play-Doh are changing the shape of an object by applying force. At primary level, children are often asked to identify the type of force that has caused a change in the shape, movement, or direction of an object.

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 seconds This is shown on a diagram using a dot or the end of the arrow to show where the force starts from, and an arrow to show the direction the force is acting in. Forces are vectors, which means they have size as well as direction, with size being shown by the length of the arrow. At primary, it’s enough to name and to show the direction of forces. But as children develop understanding of forces into secondary education, then they will be expected to show the size of a force.

Introduction to the week

This week the focus is on forces, you will develop your understanding and look at some common misconceptions that children and adults may hold. We will support you throughout this week to further your knowledge of forces and look at ways of introducing this topic in your lessons. Following the format of last week, you will also explore some of the common misconceptions around forces and find out how to elicit these from the children that you teach.

You will then look at some ideas for activities which you can use in class to help correct children’s incorrect ideas, or even prevent them from developing these misconceptions in the first place.


Think about your own knowledge of forces. Which area of forces do you find the trickiest to teach to children? Share your ideas below.

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching Primary Science: Physics

National STEM Learning Centre