Curriculum Archive: Activity Two

Circuits and Electricity!

What's This All About?

An activity I designed for my Instructional Design class. This activity is about circuits and electricity, a science standard for fourth graders in North Carolina. It includes using wires and batteries to making light bulbs light up!

Artifact C

a. Electricity lab [kit]

b. Citation: Fresno, Calif. : AIMS Education Foundation, c1993

c. Category: Physical Artifact/ Kit

Artifact D

a. What is a Circuit?

b. Citation: Weingarten, Ethan. (2013). What is a circuit?. Gareth Stevens Publishing.

c. Category: Document/ Book

Activity Description

Purpose/ Goals

To begin this activity, the teacher breaks up the students into pairs or small groups of three. Each pair or group gets a wire, a battery, and a light bulb. The students are then instructed to put the three pieces together in an attempt to make the light bulb light. They are to pay attention to which strategies work and which do not. After about 5 minutes, the students stop their experimentation with the configuration of the three, and as a class we discuss what we noticed happening. The teacher writes up on the board the observations that students made about what worked and what did not, defining any new terms one or two of the students might bring up.

Once the student observations are all shared the teacher will get out a copy of What is a Circuit? and begin reading. As the teacher reads the book, she pauses to highlight new terms, such as circuit and current electricity, as well as any terms that the students discussed in their observations. She makes sure to connect parts of the book back to the experiment as she reads through the book.

Once she has finished reading, the class has another discussion. This time they talk about how their observations related to book, giving technical terms such as, closed circuit and conductors, to explain their original observations. The students will then draw a picture of a closed circuit and in the middle of the circuit write down two of their original observations using the technical terms from the book.

Method/ Learning Style

This activity is founded in constructivism, more specifically inquiry- based learning. With constructivism, the students make a personal construction of meaning, using an “ill-structured,” real-world issue, while the teacher acts as a colleague who helps support the students. The goal of this exercise is for students to create a personal meaning for electricity and circuitry. Their initial instructions do not explicitly state what is going to happen and why, the students are able to work hands-on and figure out the why the light bulb does or does not light on their own. The teacher will answer and ask questions that can lead students in the right direction as they create the meaning.

This particular approach to inquiry-based learning that the activity takes is called, learning cycle. With learning cycle, the students experiment and gain an understanding of a new topic before being formally introduced to the formal jargon. In this case, the students try to make the light bulb light, and figure out the importance of a closed circuit before being told about them. It gives the students a better framework for understanding the new topics.

Student Product

The student product for this activity is the picture of the closed circuit, with the two observations in the middle. By connecting the original observations to the new terms, the students are working on their higher level thinking by creating real-life connections between the information in books and their personal experiences.
by: Caitlin Tharpe