What is Energy Anyway?

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Students will be able to gain background information regarding the topic of energy.

Big Idea

Energy is a complex concept and students will need time to explore and create a background schema before delving more deeply into the concept.


2 minutes

In order to guide our investigations and our session, our question for the day is, "What is Energy?"

Mini Lesson

15 minutes

To engage the students in this series of lessons, I get them up and moving!  To do this, I ask students to stay at their desks and not to move their bodies at all while they try to complete the tasks I give them.

I ask them to:

  • Open their desks
  • Create heat 
  • Light up the room, which is dark
  • Push a book across their desk

Of course, they aren't able to make these things happen, as ENERGY MAKES THINGS HAPPEN.

I ask the students why they couldn't accomplish the tasks.  As they respond, I listen for fragments of thought around the true definition of energy.

Next, I run the students through the same set of activities and allow them to use their energy to be successful. After each task, I ask what they had to do and what energy was used.  

Then I have the students write in their science notebooks their answers and thoughts regarding the following prompts.  The reason for doing this is to activate their prior knowledge and to prepare them to think about upcoming concepts. 

1.  What is energy?

2.  Give examples of energy you have seen or know of.

3.  Can energy be created?  How?

4.  Are there different types of energy?

I have these activators prewritten, so students can write their responses and glue the sheet into their notebooks, thus saving "copying" time. 

Active Engagement

30 minutes

At this point, I have introduced some terms and have the student's interest around the topic of energy.  Now, I will give them an opportunity to explore various resources in order to better define energy.

As the students have completed their first thoughts of what energy is in the mini lesson, I will explain to them that they will travel through 3 stations, each offering information in a different way, about energy.  They are to use the note taking organizer I give them to record their learning, which we will discuss at the end of the lesson. 

The stations are a SchoolHouse Rocks song, on the iPads, and three different books that I have placed around the room.  

Energy: Heat Light, and Fuel by Darlene Stille, Eyewitness Energy, by Jack Challoner, and Energy by Christine Webster.

I will place the names of the student for each of the groups on the board, along with the order they will travel around the tasks. I have 2 smaller groups for each station, as I have duplicate of the Energy book and enough iPads for 2 groups of 4.  The third station will comprise of the Eyewitness book and the Energy: Heat, Light, and Fuel book.  

As the students explore and take notes, I will simply circulate the room and listen in and watch how the students work in their groups with the resources.  

Currently, we are working in our reading and writing workshops with informational text.  Students have been practicing skills of previewing, predicting, paraphrasing, and note taking. This lesson will require the students to use these skills in order to be successful.  

Sharing and Closing

10 minutes

To close the lesson, I will again ask the students to explain what energy is.  Now, I will expect to hear them state that energy makes work happen.  I also believe they will be able to explain that energy can be created in some way and that it can be in different forms. 

I will also ask the students to turn in their notes for my review, which I will then use as a springboard in tomorrow's lesson.