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Observing Objects
Administration Procedures

4th Grade Performance Task
Contributed by: New York State Education Department (NYSED)
NYS Alternative Assessment in Science Project (1996)


Students will observe the motion of both a pendulum and a spring pendulum, explaining the similarities and differences between the two types of motion.

This task assesses students' abilities to observe, describe, interpret data, and compare.

This task is designed to take students approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Physical Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Position and motion of objects

Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • using equipment
  • organizing and interpreting data

National Science Education Standards:

4 B PS 2: Position and motion of objects: Grades K-4
2.2 An objectís motion can be described by tracing and measuring its position over time.

2.3 The position and motion of objects can be changed by pushing or pulling. The size of the change is related to the strength of the push or pull.

4 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades K-4
1.3 Employ simple equipment and tools to gather data and extend the senses. In early years, students develop simple skills, such as how to observe, measure, cut, connect, switch, turn on and off, pour, hold, tie, and hook. Beginning with simple instruments, students can use rulers to measure the length, height, and depth of objects and materials; thermometers to measure temperature; watches to measure time; beam balances and spring scales to measure weight and force; magnifiers to observe objects and organisms; and microscopes to observe the finer details of plants, animals, rocks, and other materials. Children also develop skills in the use of computers and calculators for conducting investigations.

(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

AL4: Analyze change in various contexts :
Grades pre K-5 a. describe qualitative change, such as a student's growing taller

PS2: Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts:
Grades pre K-5

COM1: Organize and consolidate their mathematical thinking through communication:
Grades pre K-5

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take students approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

Students will be working individually during this exercise.

Students should be ready to work as soon as the period begins. The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible. A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible. All supplies should be clearly labeled.

Materials for "Observing Objects":

The teacher will need:

  • new, unsharpened pencils
  • florist or craft wire (thin)
  • fishing sinkers (1-2oz)
  • small springs
  • #4 or #5 black rubber stoppers with center holes
  • duct tape (heavy duty tape)

At each station students should have:

  • pendulum device
  • pendulum spring device (diagrams of devices are shown below)

Advance Preparation

  • Springs should be flexible enough that a 1oz. or 3/4oz lead fishing sinker will stretch the spring. Springs can be purchased from a hardware store.
  • The wire for the devices should be a very thin, flexible craft wire.
  • Assemble the pendulum and spring devices as shown below.

  Pendulum Device

  Spring Device


  • Wear goggles.
  • Be careful.
  • Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.


  • Task does not easily lend itself to including mathematical criteria in the rubric.


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