What our Electricity lesson plan includes
Lesson Objectives and Overview: Electricity explores the basics of electric currents through hands-on activities. Students will learn how currents travel from one point to another to give power to certain objects, such as light bulbs. They will also discover and be able to define some terms that relate to the subject, such as transformer, conductor, and insulator. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.
Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. This lesson does not require any additional supplies apart from the worksheets.
Options for Lesson
This section of the classroom procedure page lists several ideas or suggestions for additional activities or alternative ways to approach different aspects of the lesson. One suggestion is to use hands-on experiments with actual wires, batteries, bulbs, switches and so on. This type of activity best assists students in grasping the concepts they will learn throughout the lesson. (You will need to obtain these supplies if you choose to incorporate this idea into the lesson plan.) If students have access to the internet, another option is to find interactive activities that relate to electricity online that will help reinforce the topic.
The teacher notes pages gives you a paragraph of extra information or guidance regarding the lesson. It notes that including hands-on activities to teach the basics of electricity, such as creating electric circuits or electromagnets, is ideal. This lesson does not provide a lot of hands-on opportunities, but you can benefit from using it as a review or precursor to a lesson that does. Refer to the “Options for Lesson” section for ideas. You can use the blank lines on this page to write down ideas or thoughts you have before presenting the lesson to the students.
ELECTRICITY LESSON PLAN CONTENT PAGES
The Electricity lesson plan contains three pages of content. The first page defines electricity as the transfer of electrons from one atom to another. This movement creates an electric current, which is what powers TVs, computers, light bulbs, and so much more. The current flows through electrical wires to power various electronic items. There are two types of currents: direct and alternating.
Direct current is the power that comes from batteries, fuel cells, and solar cells. There are both positive and negative terminals on batteries and cells. The power always flows in the same direction between the terminals, meaning that the electrons travel in a single direction.
The lesson displays a diagram that demonstrates how direct current works. A battery provides energy for the direct current that flows in the same direction through the wire. When someone flips a switch to turn on a light bulb, the electrons travel through the wire and provide the electricity. Several variables affect the amount of energy or electricity that reaches a light.
For instance, more batteries or a higher voltage will yield a brighter light. In addition, shorter wires also yield a brighter light because the path of the electrons is shorter. Therefore, longer wires yield a dimmer light. Another variable is wattage. The more wattage a bulb has, the more power the bulb needs. And adding a second bulb would cause both bulbs to dim. Finally, a thicker wire allows more of the current to flow, which makes the bulb brighter.
Alternating current is the power that comes from power plants and travels along the power lines along roadways and in fields. The direction of this current reverses or alternates between the plant and the destination of the power. The electrons essentially travel in a loop. The power plants provide the energy for the current to flow in both directions through the power lines and the transformer box on the utility pole.
Transformers increase or decrease the voltage that can travel through the power lines. When someone turns on a light in their house or plugs something into an electrical outlet, the power flows from the power plant to that lightbulb or outlet. Before it gets there, however, it passes through a transformer. Then it travels from the circuit breaker or fuse box to the outlets and wall switches in the house.
Power plants use different fuels to produce electricity across the country. Thermal power plants, for example, use coal, biomass, petroleum, or natural gas to heat water into steam to power a generator and produce electricity. Nuclear power plants use fission to produce heat. Geothermal power plants use the heat within the earth. Other sources include wind farms and moving water, which is what hydropower plants use.
Types of Electricity
Students will learn about a few types of electricity in this lesson. One is the electricity that magnets can produce. The reason magnets can produce electricity is that a magnetic field can move electrons. Power plants use giant magnets to create electricity via a generator. A generator is a coil of copper wire that spins inside the magnets. The electrons within the wire flow into the power lines. The lesson describes how students might make their own electromagnet using a battery, a nail, and some coiled wire. You could have students try this as an opportunity for a hands-on activity.
Static electricity is another type. Many of the students may be familiar with this kind and may have experienced it themselves after rubbing their feet across carpet and touching something metallic. Static electricity occurs when electrons move from one place to another. The electrons move more easily in some objects than in others. Rubbing certain objects together can transfer electrons, like rubbing a balloon on someone’s hair.
Another form of electricity is lightning. Lightning is an electric current itself. Small bits of ice bump into each other as they move around in a cloud. When they collide, they produce an electric charge. When the cloud fills up with these charges, it interacts with the opposite charges on the ground, causing what we call a lightning strike.
Conductors, Insulators, and History
Students will discover that some substances and materials allow electricity to flow through them more easily than others. A conductor is a material that allows electricity to travel through it. Examples include metals (such as steel, copper, iron, gold, and silver) and graphite (which is the substance that pencil lead comes from). Other conductors are water, people, animals, and trees.
Insulators are basically the opposite of conductors. An insulator is a material that prevents or blocks the flow of electricity. Plastic, rubber, glass, and porcelain are all examples of insulators. Most wires have a plastic or rubber covering because the insulation prevents the electricity from traveling into other objects.
The lesson ends by explaining to students that electricity is a natural form of energy. Nobody invented it. However, the Ancient Greeks first discovered static electricity about 2000 years ago, in 600 BC. In the 1930s, archeologists discovered ancient batteries that the Ancient Romans might have used. Ben Franklin conducted his famous experiment in 1792 when he attached a key to a kite and observed what happened when lightning struck. His experiment proved a connection between lightning and electricity.
Here is a list of the vocabulary words students will learn in the Electricity lesson plan:
- Electricity: the transfer of electrons from one atom to another; moving electrons
- Direct current: the power from batteries, fuel cells, or solar cells that flows in a single direction
- Alternating current: the power from power plants that travels through power lines along roadways and fields in both directions
- Power lines: the wires through which electricity travels from power plants to their destinations
- Transformer: a power box on utility poles that increases or decreases the voltage traveling along power lines
- Generator: a coil of copper wire that spins inside giant magnets
- Static electricity: a type of electricity that occurs when electrons move from one place to another
- Lightning: the result of the collision of small bits of ice that bump into each other as they move around in a cloud
- Conductor: any material or substance that allows electricity to flow through it
- Insulator: any material that does not allow electricity to flow through it
ELECTRICITY LESSON PLAN WORKSHEETS
The Electricity lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will help reinforce the concepts in the lesson. The guide on the classroom procedure page outlines when to hand out each one to the class.
MISS THE MOST ACTIVITY WORKSHEET
Students will work with small groups for the activity. First, they will review a list of items that use electricity or batteries as a power source. Then they will decide as a group which 10 items they believe society would miss the most if there were no electricity. Then they will write down the top 10 things society would miss the least. (Each student will fill out the bottom box for “Individual List” on their own during another point in the lesson.)
ELECTRICITY PRACTICE WORKSHEET
The practice worksheet requires students to review two circuits at a time and compare them to each other. They will then answer some questions. They may need to refer to the lesson content to remember what factors affect the brightness of a bulb. This assignment may be a little tricky for students to understand at first. You may want to demonstrate for them by comparing two circuits that aren’t part of the questions to help them better understand the assignment.
POTATO BATTERY HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT
For the homework assignment, students will get to create a potato battery. The worksheet lists the supplies necessary to complete the assignment. You can choose to have students work in pairs or small groups if you wish.
Worksheet Answer Keys
The last pages of the lesson plan document are answer keys for the practice and homework worksheets. The correct responses are in red for the practice worksheet answer key. The homework assignment answer key shows the correct words within the puzzle. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.