Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines Lesson Activity

The cover of the book Just Like Rube Goldberg by Sarah Aronson and Robert Neubecker is featured in this image. A Rube Goldberg machine surrounds the book, preparing to open the pages.


What did you love to do when you were a kid? Did that passion stick with you through adulthood?

Rube Goldberg loved to draw as a child. He especially enjoyed drawing cartoons. His passion stuck with him into adulthood, and he wanted to find work as an artist. This wasn’t easy. His parent’s discouraged the idea. Newspapers rejected his cartoons. But he persisted. He kept drawing and submitting his work until one day he was hired as a cartoonist.

Goldberg’s work was well received. Readers loved his drawings. They especially liked his Professor Butts’s cartoons. Professor Butts created convoluted contraptions to solve simple problems. His intriguing machines made everyone laugh.

Readers will enjoy this fascinating story about a determined man. The resonating message about getting what you want out of life can’t be missed. Captivating illustrations fill the pages. The double-page spreads are perfect for viewing audiences. Readers will especially love the three spreads dedicated to Professor Butt’s and his contraptions.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Collaborate/Think III.A.3 Learners identify collaborative opportunities by deciding to solve problems informed by group interaction.

Did you know that Goldberg never made any of his gadgets? He only drew the machines. Invite learners to work together to design a contraption of their own.

  • Show learners a Professor Butts’s creation from the book. Ask learners what they notice. Explain that they will draw a Rube Goldberg machine. What elements should they consider including in their drawings?
  • Tell learners that they will work with a group to draw one Rube Goldberg machine.
  • Ask what it looks like and sounds like to work with a group. Model group interactions and ask learners what they notice. Write helpful reminders and conversation starters on chart paper. Invite learners to practice different scenarios. Gather ideas on how to ensure everyone in the group has a job.
  • Notice great examples of group work as learners discuss and create. Share out what you see. “I’m noticing one group is making sure everyone has a voice.”
  • Gather as a group at the end of the session. Ask learners what problems they ran into while working together. Ask how they solved their problems. Discuss what went well during the process and consider tips for the next group project.

Wonderopolis has a page dedicated to Rube Goldberg. Watch the featured video that shows a Rube Goldberg machine in action. Give learners time to explore the other great resources on the page.

Want more ideas? Quest Academy made a human machine. Kids will love watching this video with fifth graders!

My Books

If you like the lesson ideas on this blog, you might want to check out my books!

I am an Amazon affiliate which means I will receive a small percentage of your purchase.

%d bloggers like this: