Anchoring Phenomenon

Objects move in different ways during physical activities on the playground.

Lesson Concept

Analyze and interpret data to determine patterns and cause and effect to predict the motion of a soccer ball based on force strength and to apply the data to an engineering design.

Investigative Phenomenon

A kicked soccer ball on the playground didn’t make it all the way into the goal.


Click here for NGSS, CCSS–ELA and Math, and California ELD standards.

Time | Materials | Advance Preparation


4 hours 45 minutes

Part I30 minutesEngage
Part II45 minutesExplore 1/Explain 1
Part IIIa60 minutesExplore 2/Explain 2
Part IIIb45 minutesExplore 3/Explain 3
Part IV45 minutesExplain 4
Part V60 minutesElaborate/Evaluate


Whole Class


  • Whiteboard and markers
  • Poster board and markers
  • Math counting manipulatives



Advance Preparation

  1. Gather materials and make a copy of 3.3.H1: Coach’s Notes, 3.3.H2: Class Data, and 3.3.H3: Even Table for each student.
  2. Make large charts of 3.3.C1: Class Data and 3.3.C2: Even Chart or use them with a document camera.
  3. Prepare a chart page with the title Soccer Ball Movement Prediction.
  4. Have ready 3.1.C2: Soccer and 3.1.C3: Tug-of-war (from Lesson 1: Movement on the Playground).
  5. Review TalkScience resource to determine when best to use this resource in student‑to‑student discourse.
  6. Review 3.3.R1: Line Plot Example, 3.3.R2: Possible Teams Combinations, and 3.3.R3: Evaluation Rubric.
  7. Review these videos to see an example of a 4-touch soccer goal: Women’s Soccer video 0:17–0:27 or 1:54–2:04 and Men’s Soccer video 0:48–0:55.

Part I

Engage (30 minutes)

Communicate information about how unbalanced forces move a basketball and how the same cause and effect can predict movement in a soccer ball.

  1. Have students work in pairs to review their evidence from their science notebook about why a basketball sitting on a person’s hand doesn’t move and what has to happen to make it move.
    Expected Student Responses (ESRs):
    • I learned that there are many forces acting on the basketball.
    • I learned that a basketball sitting on my hand doesn’t move because all the forces around it are even. But if I drop my hand, the forces are not balanced, and the force (gravity) pulls the ball to the ground.
    • I learned when I throw the ball, I unbalance the forces to make it move.
    • If I throw hard, that is pushing the ball, and the ball will go farther.
    • From my evidence, I learned that other forces can change the direction the ball moves by pushing or pulling it.
  2. Show the students a soccer ball. Conduct a brief conversation about how soccer is played. Review 3.1.C2: Soccer (from Lesson 1: Movement on the Playground). Ask, “What were some of our questions and wonderings we hope to answer today?”

    If your students do not know about soccer, explain the game to them by showing one of the video clips of a soccer game (Step 7 in Advance Preparation) so that they understand the game.

  4. Have student pairs discuss what they can predict about how a soccer ball moves compared to how a basketball moves. Have several partners share their ideas and chart their responses on 3.1.C2: Soccer.
    • They are both balls, so I think if the soccer ball is just sitting there, it will not move (just like the basketball did not move) when the forces are balanced.
    • I think the soccer ball will move, speed up, or change direction when the forces are unbalanced.
    • In basketball, we use our hands to unbalance the forces to move the ball, and in soccer, we use our feet to do the same thing.
    • In basketball I push with my hands; in soccer, I push (kick) with my feet. In both, I unbalance the force to make the ball move.
    • Just like in basketball, if I push the soccer ball harder, it will go farther.
    • In both soccer and basketball, I can change the direction of the ball’s movement by pushing or pulling it.
  5. Review 3.1.C2: Soccer, focusing on what the predicted movement of the soccer ball was and how it would happen.

Part II

Explore 1/Explain 1 (45 minutes)

Make observations to determine the types of data and patterns that are needed to design a new soccer game.

  1. Remind students that they will be working on designing the new playground. Tell them, “Yesterday we worked on making a prototype for the basketball game using ping-pong balls. Today we are going to be working on a soccer prototype. Space will be limited for soccer, so the new soccer game is called touch soccer. In this game, four players must pass the ball in order to get it into the goal. Each person can only kick a certain distance.”
  2. Ask the students, “Using what you know about forces and movement, what data would you need to collect to design this new game?” Give students 30 seconds to think to themselves. Then have students pair-share their ideas. Select a few students to share with the class. Chart their ideas. ESRs: How big is the field? How far can each person kick? Can they kick in any direction they want? How many defenders will try to get the ball away from the player?
  3. Explain to students that they will have an opportunity to try out this new game. Remind students they will be in teams of four. Their job is to pass the ball to each person once (for a total of four touches) before the ball is kicked into the goal. They will try the game several times and then will return to the classroom to add to their list of data they need to analyze to create the game for the new playground.

    Set up two or three different soccer goals. Place each soccer ball in a different location 50 feet from the goal. If you don’t have a soccer ball, a kickball will work. If you don’t have a soccer goal, you can use two orange cones, two small trash cans, two brightly colored sticks, or anything else to create goalposts for the students to kick the ball between.

  5. Go outside with the students. Ask one group to play the game while the other students watch. Have the kicker start at the 50 feet mark and as a team of four, move the ball to the goal marks. Tell observers to watch for use of strength, direction, and balanced and unbalanced forces.
  6. Allow all groups to play, reminding students to think about what other data they will need to analyze before they can engineer the new game.
  7. Bring students back into the classroom and have teams debrief their play. Ask them to consider what additional data they need to add to their chart. Add to the chart as they share.
    • What is the amount of force each person needs to do for four touches to go into goal?
    • How does the change in direction affect the distance the ball has to go to reach the goal?
    • Is the movement better if each player balances the forces on the ball by stopping it before they kick, or should they kick it when it is still moving?
    • Does it matter in what order the players move the ball?
    • How can we draw a diagram that will show the movement of the ball?

Part IIIa

Explore 2/Explain 2 (60 minutes)

Represent data in tables to find patterns in the strength of a kick (force) on the soccer ball.

  1. Say to the class, “In order to determine the engineering design for the new soccer game, we need to gather data. One of the questions we wanted to answer was, ‘What is the amount of force each person needs to make four touches into the goal?’”
  2. Distribute 3.3.H1: Coach’s Notes. Explain that this data came from a coach who tested 18 players about how far they can kick a soccer ball that is on the ground and not moving. Each player was given 3 chances to kick the ball.
  3. Have student pairs discuss what they think they should do with this data and why. Have a couple of partners share. Listen for students’ ideas about organizing the data so that it is easier to understand. Ask students to determine good ways to organize the data. Hopefully, students will say to put the data into a table.

    If this is the first time students are converting raw data into a table, model how to create a table with a title and labeled columns. In this case, the labeled columns are: name, distanced (yards) traveled in kick #1, distance (yards) traveled in kick #2, distance (yards) traveled in kick #3.

  5. Distribute 3.3.H2: Class Data. Divide the list of 18 players into groups of 3 players (i.e. 1–3, 4–6; 7–9; 10–12; 13–15; 16–18) and assign one group of 3 to each set of partners. It is ok if there are multiple assignments to the same group. Have partners complete their 3.3.H2: Data Table using 3.3.H1: Coach’s Notes for their players.

    Alternatively, have students create their own data table to enter the data. Then select a few to put under the doc camera to discuss the variety of formats, entries on the data table, and what the tables reveals about patterns.

  7. Display 3.3.C1: Class Data on the document camera and ask different partner groups to fill in the data for their players. Ask the rest of the students to complete their 3.3.H2: Class Data, using the data on the class chart. If there are several groups working on the same people’s data, ask probing questions to make sure their data entries are the same.
  8. Conduct a discussion about 3.3.C1: Class Data. Ask these questions for student discussion:
    • “How easy is it to find patterns in what is displayed in the table?”
    • “Which of the three kicks should we use? Why?”
    • “Will that person kick the same way every time?”
    • “If the person was allowed a fourth kick, how far do you predict the ball would go? Why?”

    This discussion is trying to give students an intuitive sense of what an average is. Averaging is a sixth-grade CCSS, and third graders are not expected to calculate it. However, in real life, they have probably heard the term (e.g., in sports) and through a discussion of analyzing data, students can understand that they could “even” up the kicking distances.

  10. Distribute 3.3.H3: Even Table. Continue with the same groupings as in Step 14. It is ok to have multiple partners looking at the same kickers. Give partners math counting manipulatives and ask them to put the length kicked by each person into a pile, and then “even” the three piles. Have them enter the number on the “even” column on 3.3.H3: Even Table. Then call on partner groups to enter their data on 3.3.C2: Even Chart on the document camera. As students enter their data, ask other students to complete their 3.3.H3: Even Table. If there are several groups working on the same people’s data, ask probing questions to make sure their data entries are the same.

    If students don’t understand, work an example with them: Miquel kicks 20 feet, 19 feet and 18 feet. To make them three lengths even, you can take one of the 20 math counting manipulatives and put it on the 18 pile. Now all three piles are even, so the number in the “even” column would be 19. The answers are in the “average” column on 3.3.R2: Possible Team Combinations.

  12. Use 3.3.C2: Even Chart to ask students: “What patterns do you see in the “even” column? Why are there differences in the distances the ball traveled? (Some people kicked with a stronger force). Why is the “even” number an important data point?” ESR: You can predict that a strong force will move the ball farther, but it is hard to predict the exact distance–the “even” number gives an approximate distance.

    This discussion is important for students to understand the importance of conducting multiple trials. Scientists will look for patterns in the data collected. Patterns can be used as evidence to support an explanation.

Part IIIb

Explore 3/Explain 3 (45 minutes)

Represent data in a graph to find patterns in the strength of a kick (force) on the soccer ball.

  1. Ask students if they know a better way to display the data that might show the patterns more easily. Hopefully, they will suggest graphing. If not, explain that scientists graph data to find patterns.
  2. Ask table groups to use their whiteboards to graph their data and look for any patterns. Circulate to monitor students as they complete the line plot.

    If students have little experience with graphing, it is important to take the time here to discuss different types of graphs (e.g., bar, line, pie, line plots) and help students understand that this data is best displayed as a line plot because it is comparing categories (yards the ball traveled and the number of people who kicked that far). See 3.3.R1: Line Plot Example. Model setting up the graph with a title and labeling the axis, etc. For this graph, the horizontal axis (the x-axis) is labeled with the number of yards the ball traveled and the vertical axis (the y-axis) is the number of people who kicked at that distance.

  4. Select table groups to display their graph and explain any patterns that they noticed. “How does the pattern indicate a relationship between the strength of a force and distance the ball travels?” If a pattern was already mentioned, ask the group to find another pattern or share something else that was interesting on the graph. ESRs: no one kicked less than 8 yards; no one kicked more than 23 yards; the distance that the most number of people kicked was 19 yards–4 people could do that.
  5. Ask partners to summarize what they learned by creating a data table and graphing the data to explain force and motion. Have several partners share their ideas. Then ask each student to write their idea(s) in their science notebook.
    • Putting the data in a table made it more organized.
    • Graphing the data showed some patterns as to who could kick certain distances.
    • I knew that to move the soccer ball, people had to unbalance the forces by kicking (pushing) the ball.
    • I knew the harder the person kicked (the more strength of the force) caused the ball to travel farther.
    • I knew if the kick was a weak force, the ball didn’t travel as far.
    • I predicted that a ball that traveled a shorter distance was caused by a weaker kick.
    • I predicted that a ball that traveled farther was caused by a stronger kick.
    • Not everyone kicked the ball as hard so the ball traveled different distances.

Part IV

Explain 4 (45 minutes)

Analyze and interpret patterns in data to predict how to play the game using logic and mathematics.

  1. Now that the students have some understanding about force on the motion of a soccer ball as well as how to predict its movement, they are ready to try a prototype design for the new touch soccer game. Tell students," The field size of a soccer field for 9 year olds might be 40 yards long. Your challenge is to select 4 players for your team. These are the rules:
    1. Start at the end line (the line on the opposite side of the field) and get the soccer ball to the goal.
    2. Use 4 players listed on 3.3.H1: Coach’s Notes and assume they will kick their 'even or average' distance.
    3. Create a least one change in direction.
    4. The ball will start not in motion (balanced force).

    The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Any path that is not a straight line (has a change of direction) is more than the distance to the goal. Students should focus on how to select the teams that can kick more than 40 yards to accommodate the change in direction; for example, they may need to kick a total of 50 yards to complete the task.

    See 3.3.R2: Possible Team Combinations as an example of possible teams to kick at 50 and 70 yards. These are not the only combinations that work.

  3. Working in table groups of four, have students discuss, “Who would you select to be on a team? Why did you choose them? What can you predict about how the ball will be kicked?”
  4. Ask table groups to draw on a whiteboard the movement of the ball using the size of arrows to denote the strength of the kick (force) from person to person and into the goal. Have them discuss if the order of the kickers matters or if the direction of the kick matters. What is their evidence for their decisions?
  5. As students work, walk around the room, and select several tables to share their plan with the whole class. Pick different team selections and different strategies so that students can compare plans. As table groups share, have other table groups listen and ask questions about the plan. After each group shares, have the class determine what is similar and what is different in the plans. Make sure to explore these ideas: Does the order of the kickers matter and "How does the change of direction affect the distance."
  6. Conduct a whole-class discussion using these questions: “What were important patterns of movement to consider in deciding who to put on the team? What patterns of strength were important to reach the goal? What patterns of less-strong kicks were evident? Why do these patterns matter?”
    • We had to look for a pattern in how the force moved the ball (how far people kicked the ball).
    • The pattern had to contain either a combination of all strong forces (kickers), or some strong and some not so strong.
    • If the pattern was only less-strong forces (kicks), we couldn’t reach the goal.
    • Patterns matter to predict the best team.
    • Cause and effect make up the patterns–if the player uses a strong force when kicking, the ball will go farther; the player uses a weak force when kicking, the ball will not travel as far.
    • Predictions help determine the team, but the players might not do what was predicted.

Part V

Elaborate/Evaluate (60 minutes)

Communicate information about how the cause and effect of the strength of forces can be predicted and used to design a new soccer game.

  1. Tell the whole class, “Good news! The new playground will provide for a soccer field that is 70 yards rather than 40. And there is a new rule. The ball needs to reach the goal which is 70 yards from the end line only this time without a change in direction. You also want the ball to just get to the goal line–not past the goal line. Working with a partner, determine if and how this changes who is on a team and why it matters.”
  2. Have partners share at their table, and then have several tables share their ideas.
    • We need to select players who can provide a strong force when kicking the ball.
    • We must look at the data to find a pattern in the kickers and predict that a certain combination will move the ball exactly 70 yards.
    • Patterns matter to predict the best team.
    • Cause and effect make up the patterns–if the player uses a strong force when kicking, the ball will go farther; the player uses a weak force when kicking, the ball will not travel as far.
  3. Tell students that as an engineer, they will need to apply the claims and evidence that science provides for their design. Explain that when scientists observe patterns in data, they can make a claim that answers a question. Our question is: “How much force is needed in 4-touch soccer to get the ball into the goal?”
  4. Based on their data from the players, their prototype teams for the 40-yard game, and their ideas for the 70-yard game, pose this question: “What claims can you make about the science behind force and motion of a soccer ball?”
  5. Ask students to individually write a claim in their science notebook. ESRs:
    • A greater force is needed to kick the ball a farther distance.
    • A combination of forces (kicks) is needed to get the ball into the goal whether the goal is 40 or 70 yards away.
    • If there is a weak kick (lesser force), the ball will not roll as far.
    • I can predict the movement of the ball based on the strength of the force. A weak force doesn’t move the ball far; a strong force makes the ball move farther.
  6. Have students share their ideas in the table groups.
  7. Then tell the class, “Newsflash! The soccer field can now be 80 yards, and there can be different rules (e.g., a 5-touch game). Ask the table groups to:
    • write the rules of their game.
    • select a team that can accomplish making a goal and explain why you choose those players.
    • draw a diagram of the possible plan using your five players.
    • describe the execution of their plan in terms of balanced and unbalanced forces; strength of force; changes in direction; and how motion can be predicted.
  8. Sample student work:
  9. Have table groups share their ideas. Use 3.3.R3: Evaluation Rubric to evaluate/assess how they applied their understanding of analyzing data, force and motion, cause and effect to their new game rules.
  10. Close this lesson by referring the class back to the 3.1.C2: Soccer chart. Have students identify any wonderings/questions for which they now have explanations.
  11. Ask the class to share any new wonderings they would like to add to 3.1.C3: Tug-of-war chart for their next investigation. Add any questions that will help them gather evidence for their final design for the new playground or further their understanding of movement on the playground.


Download 3.3.C1

Download 3.3.C2

Download 3.3.H1

Download 3.3.H2

Download 3.3.H3

Download 3.3.R1

Download 3.3.R2

Download 3.3.R3