Energy systems

Fantastic Elastic

How to Build a Balloon Car


Based on the steps actually followed in making one, each student writes an illustrated Instruction Manual that could show someone how to make a balloon car. The teacher and other students test each student’s manual by following each step literally.

Advance Preparation

  • Photo copy “Instruction Manual for Making a Balloon Car”.


  • Balloon cars already made by students


  1. Class meeting:
    Review the purpose and format of an Instruction Manual, based on Lesson 4.

  2. Writing instruction manuals:
    Provide time for each student to write his or her own illustrated Instruction Manual. They can do it in the Science Notebook or on the Worksheet (download below). Students number the steps and make a diagram and write a description for each step, showing how they made their balloon cars.

  3. Testing instruction manuals:
    After students have finished writing, demonstrate how to test an Instruction Manual. Select an instruction that is vague, such as “Attach the wheels to the car” and deliberately interpret it in a way that is obviously wrong; for example, by taping the wheels on top of the body, rather than to the axles. Review the need to be precise in giving instructions. Then ask students to exchange manuals in their groups, and test them to see if they give all the information that’s needed.

  4. Revising instruction manuals:
    Ask students to revise their instruction manuals to provide all the information that is needed. This could be a homework assignment.

  5. Outcomes:

    • Students develop ideas about why instruction manuals are useful.
    • Students explain procedures they have invented through diagrams and text.
    • Students come to see the limitations of writing that is vague or lacking in detail.
    • Students revise their own writing to make it more specific.


Instruction Manual for Making a Balloon Car.doc