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TeachNet NYC: Lesson Plans

Magnetism and Electricity

Project URL:

How it works:
If you ask any of your young students what magnets are used for, they will probably say "To keep things on the refrigerator!"  They do not know that magnets are used in almost every appliance in their homes. They also have no idea that magnetism and electricity are related. This unit acquaints the students with magnetism and the properties of magnets, as well as how magnets are used in the home and industry. The students learn by reading books on the topic as well as by experimenting with magnets, and they make their own compasses and learn how to use them. They also become acquainted with the vocabulary related to magnetism. From there they explore the properties of electricity and become familiar with related vocabulary and the proper use and safety involved with electricity. They make a complete circuit to illuminate a light bulb and test materials for conductivity and insulation. The computer is used to create webs, complete databases, import graphics, perform research, and do online quizzes and assessments. The students also use a digital camera and a digital video camera to chronicle their work and add it to the lessons.

Standards addressed:  
The students demonstrate
an understanding of the properties, position, and motion of objects and materials, and of light, heat, electricity, and magnetism. They ask questions about natural phenomena, use technology and tools to gather and analyze data,  and represent that data in multiple ways. They show scientific competence by completing an experiment and demonstrating the writing of scientific notation, and meet ELA performance standards in producing an informational report.

Materials used: 
Materials used include magnets, compasses, circuits, batteries, wires, nails, light bulbs, flashlights, and various objects for testing (nails, paper clips, rubber, Styrofoam, wood, glass, etc.). Technology materials include a computer with Internet access (for graphing and  research), a scanner, and a digital camera and video camera. Various types of software and videos can also be used. 

The students:
Magnetism and Electricity is suitable for students of any ability. It can be simplified for slower learners and enhanced with advanced programs for students of above-average ability. It was designed for third and fourth graders, but it is appropriate for lower and upper grades as well, as long as the work is geared to their level. It is a good idea to group the students according to their abilities. They need to know how to conduct research on the Internet, or to access web sites provided by the teacher, and a knowledge of graphing is important.

Overall value:
This program's best feature is its use of the computer for research. The Internet is full of information and it brings visual and audio components that are not in textbooks. Employing the computer to graph their work and see their digital pictures of the work is exciting for the students. The interactive programs they complete give immediate gratification, and the unit addresses both cognitive and affective, as well as psychomotor domains. The students use materials to assemble an electric circuit and test materials, including magnets and compasses, and they use the knowledge gained to formulate bar graphs and pie charts, and to exercise and develop their reasoning skills.

Teachers must research Internet sites beforehand and find what is appropriate for what they want to teach. Have all materials on hand. Make sure batteries work, magnets are labeled with poles, and students are motivated. Read books explaining the topic beforehand to get them excited.


About the teacher:
Bonnie Glasgold is a science enrichment teacher at P.S. 101 in Brooklyn, New York. She has been a teacher for 23 years, with nine years in this subject field. She has been the UFT chapter leader in her school for ten years, and has been involved with TeachNet for over four years. She has published many science units, including a series on the world's biomes as well as this current unit on magnetism and electricity.


Subject Areas: 

Grade Levels: 



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