What is Energy?

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SWBAT define kinetic energy and potential energy.

Big Idea

In this lesson students participate in an internet search to investigate the definition of energy and discover the two main types of energy, kinetic and potential energy.


5 minutes

I begin this warm up by asking students to brainstorm everything they know about energy. I ask students to brainstorm "What is Energy." I record all the responses on the board using smart notebook software so I can pull up their ideas in future lessons. 

Some prompts I use to keep students talking are: 
• Does your body use energy? When?
• Where does your energy come from?
• How do plants grow? What do they need in order to grow and be healthy?
• How do animals (other than humans) grow? What do they need in order to grow and be
• How does your body grow? What do you need in order to grow and be healthy?


30 minutes

Next, I distribute the internet research energy sheet students will work on for this lesson. Note that I guide students to the website they will use for research, and the questions on the worksheet are intended to guide their research. It's going to feel like a very "sophisticated" activity, but you'll know how much supports students are getting.

Students spend about 25 minutes working independently to answer the questions on the research sheet. As students work I circulate around the room and offer assistance as necessary. 

According to the Common Core State Standards, "Students who are college and career ready use technology and digital media strategically and capably. Students employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use. They tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline. They are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals."

This internet activity is a great way to allow fourth grade students practice gathering and analyzing information gained online. 





10 minutes

When most students are finished, I lead a brief discussion about correct answers and the definition of energy to do work.  I ask student volunteers for answers and help clear up any misunderstandings as they occur. 

 You can see in this photograph, this student needs some clarification about four forms of energy.  


In this photograph, you can see this student has a clearer understanding of forms of energy. 



15 minutes

Next, I show students this video to further their understanding of kinetic and potential energy. 


5 minutes

To wrap up this lesson and identify if students understand what energy is I show the potential kinetic review quick quiz.

In order to assess whether or not each student understands the difference between potential and kinetic energy from the slideshow, I use a free technology program called plickers. Plickers is a polling software that allows me to instantly see how my students answered a question. If you have ever used clickers in your classroom, it is similar to a clicker system. I've included a bit more information in the resources.

Each of my students has a plicker card (there are 60 unique cards on the www.plicker.com site). My students use this card all year long. Each card looks different and each card has a number that my student is identified by.

For example the first student on my class roster is student number 1, thus I give him plicker card number 1. The plicker software then shows me which students answered correctly or incorrectly by using a graph. 

In order to use the slideshow as a plicker formative assessment, I typed each question into my plicker account and identified the correct answers prior to this lesson.   

In this photograph you can see an example of the plicker card responses. This shows that 24 students believed the correct answer to be "A" while two students believed the answer to be "B."  The question asked students to identify if an unlight firecracker has potential or kinetic energy.