Energy Transfers

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SWBAT understand that energy moves from one form to another

Big Idea

By understanding that energy changes forms, students will be able to explain their own examples of energy transformations through self-created diagrams.


5 minutes

Note to teachers: This lesson is designed to help students to make the connection between energy transfers and conservation of energy.  Students make a diagram/model of an energy transformation and describe how this happens in detail.  This address SP2 Developing and Using Models, in particular:

  • Develop and/or use a model to predict and/or describe phenomena.

  • Develop a model to describe unobservable mechanisms.

MS-PS3-5 is addressed as the students are working to understand that energy moves from one form to another through transformations. 

  • When the motion energy of an object changes, there is inevitably some other change in energy at the same time. 

To start, students take the first five minutes of class to respond to the following prompt:

Can mechanical energy change to heat energy? If so, explain how.

Students will think about this for a minute or two and then will respond in writing on their student notes sheet After a few minutes, I ask a few students to share with the class and explain their reasoning, "Why do you think this can or can't happen?." 


10 minutes

Next, I project this image of energy transfers onto the SMARTBoard for the children to see up close.

Students also have it in their notes.  I ask them to consider how the energy changes from one form to another by responding to the following prompt:

Explain the energy transfers that you see below.

Example of response I'm looking for: The light energy from the sun changes to chemical energy when the carrot uses the sun’s light to make food.

The students work in small groups to accomplish this task, writing their responses in their notes. After about five or six minutes, I ask each group to share a response and ask others if they agree or disagree and to explain why.  


5 minutes

I teach in a special education setting, so my lessons are intended to convey information and make connections using multiple modalities. To explain how energy can change from one form to another in more detail, we watch a quick video and respond to the following:

Answer the questions below based on the video of electricity and energy transformations.

  1. What does food get turned into?

  2. Do people make energy?

  3. How does the pinwheel turn?

  4. What is one more way to turn the pinwheel?

Note: For more details on how to access the video, watch the clip below. I stop the video after he talks about the various way the pinwheel can be  moved. We discuss the answers as a class after I have stopped the video and provided the students with a few minutes to respond to the questions. 


20 minutes

Students now work individually to choose their own example of an energy transfer. I show them a model of what their's should look like.  They then create a diagram/model by following the steps on their note sheet:

Diagram your own example of an energy transfer.

Think of something in this room that changes from one form of energy to another. On a separate sheet of paper, draw a diagram including the following:

  1. Object showing the energy transfer

  2. Labels for the original source of energy and the second form of energy

  3. An explanation of how it changed from one form to another

Note: Students may need help coming up with their own example.  Ask them to think about things in the classroom or their house that use electricity.  I move around during this time making sure the students know what's expected of them and that they're following the steps properly. 


5 minutes

For the last part, I have the students answer the following question as a wrap-up to the lesson: 

Explain what an energy transfer is and provide an example.

An energy transfer is…

An example of an energy transfer is...

Students will share their responses as they finish.