The Free-Body Diagrams Interactive is an adjustable-size file that displays nicely on smart phones, on tablets such as the iPad, on Chromebooks, and on laptops and desktops. The size of the Interactive can be scaled to fit the device that it is displayed on. The compatibility with smart phones, iPads, other tablets, and Chromebooks make it a perfect tool for use in a 1:1 classroom.


Teaching Ideas and Suggestions:

This Interactive is intended for use near the early to middle stages of a learning cycle on Newton's second law of motion. The construction of free-body diagrams is a critical skill for beginning physics students. Considerable practice is required to master the skill. Identifying the forces that act upon an object is often troublesome if other misconceptions regarding force and motion exist in the mind of the learner. The most troublesome misconception is the insistence that an object that is moving rightward must be experiencing some type of rightward force. Students who own such a misconception will often place a rightward force on their free-body diagram even when such forces do not exist. This Interactive utilizes several situations in which an object is moving in a particular direction without any forces acting in that direction.

This Interactive was intended as an in-class activity. After some instruction regarding the types of forces and how to recognize them and after a few examples of drawing free-body diagrams, a classroom could navigate to Free Body Diagrams Interactive and use the Interactive as an assessment/learning tool. The availability of the stars on the main menu allows a teacher to quickly check-off progress on a per-student basis (if desired). For those with teachers with Task Tracker accounts (and Physics Interactives with Concept Checkers enabled), this activity can be assigned and added to students' assignment board and we will track and report student progress.

Our Free-Body Diagrams skill building exercise is equipped with Task Tracker functionality. Learn more.

We now have a second free-body diagram construction tool in the Physics Interactives section. It is named Free-Body Diagrams ... The Sequel. It operates the same as this one but includes 12 different scenarios to analyze. It is intended as additional practice for those who need or want it.

Related Resources

There are numerous resources at The Physics Classroom website that serve as very complementary supports for the Free-Body Diagrams Interactive. These include:
  • Minds On Physics Internet Modules:
    The Minds On Physics Internet Modules include a collection of interactive questioning modules that help learners assess their understanding of physics concepts and solidify those understandings by answering questions that require higher-order thinking. Assignments NL2, NL3, NL4, and NL5 of the Newton's Laws module provide great complements to this Interactive. They are best used in the middle to later stages of the learning cycle. Visit the Minds On Physics Internet Modules.

  • Curriculum/Practice: Several Concept Development worksheets at the Curriculum Corner will be very useful in assisting students in cultivating their understanding, most notably ...

    Recognizing Forces
    Free-Body Diagrams
    Drawing Free-Body Diagrams

    Visit the Curriculum Corner.

Additional resources and ideas for incorporating Free Body Diagrams into an instructional unit on Newton's Second Law can be found at the Teacher Toolkits section of The Physics Classroom website.  Visit Teacher Toolkits.

Visit: Interactive | Teacher Preview Version (for Task Tracker teachers only)