Simple Machines Offer Language Learning Opportunities - MindWing Concepts, Inc.

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Simple Machines Offer Language Learning Opportunities

by Sean Sweeney August 01, 2010 2 min read

This week I am blogging to tell you about a tech resource that is really simple to use - Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry’s Simple Machines Game. This site is a perfect example of how resources that were not designed for SLPs actually provide wonderful language-learning opportunities. It is also one of the best-designed- and totally one of the cutest- sites I have seen of late. Additionally, it presents the perfect blend of narrative and expository structures as a context for intervention, and concerns a key and oft-tested (on state assessments) curriculum topic- simple machines such as lever, wheel-and-axle, etc.

So let's start with the narrative piece. The "plot" of the game involves some adorable aliens (I think?) whose need to assemble a robot at the museum is complicated by some missing pieces (the Kick Off!).

Blue boss sends Twich off to find the missing items, and our fun with simple machines begins! Along the way, Twitch deals with out-of-reach parts by using various simple machines (kids will need to make choices in order to work them) to do his job with a minimal amount of force. Choose incorrectly and he will run out of energy or miss his mark!

The machines are ultimately pretty "simple" to construct (with your help), so don't worry-- this is not an impossible game that will take hours. The plot actually comprises a complete episode that you can map with students during or after the activity (note that the tasks can be accomplished in any sequence). See below for a sample SGM map!

Link to handout on issuu:

As this site is primarily designed to inform kids, it would also be a good opportunity to use Thememaker™ information maps, particularly the “List map.” Lists abound on this site, such as examples of simple machines given after each level is complete:
  • inclined plane-staircase
  • lever-shovel
  • wheel and axle-steering wheel
  • pulley-elevator
 Other List topics include missing robot parts, items lying about the museum (great word retrieval activity, too) or items used to create simple machines. The site would also lend itself to exploring Cause-Effect and Descriptive structures as well.

Hope you enjoy using this site! For more ideas on how to integrate technology in your speech and language interventions, please check out my blog, SpeechTechie. 
Sean Sweeney
Sean Sweeney

Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Needham, MA, and as a clinical supervisor at Boston University. He consults to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie (, looks at technology “through a language lens.” Contact him at

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