Conductor Vs. Insulator

6 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT build a circuit and use it to determine what items are conductors and insulators.

Big Idea

Using the circuit they built, students will determine if various items conduct electricity or not. Students will then use what they have learned to write their own definitions for conductor and insulator.

Preparing Our Journal

5 minutes

I ask the class to get out their science journal. For this lesson, they are going to start by drawing a T Chart. We use this chart often to sort. I have them label one side lights and the other does not light. Students are then ready for the activity. I randomly draw pairs using Popsicle sticks. These groups will get their materials to build circuits.  

Circuit Building

5 minutes

Each group will now get into their groups and build a circuit. I do have them build on with the switch but have them build one where the circuit can be open between two wires. I explain that this opening is needed in order for them to conduct the experiments. I then explain that the groups will be using the same random item bags that they used for the magnet activity. Students will need to place the item between the wire and then decide whether the item lights up the bulb or not. 

Sorting Conductors and Insulators

15 minutes

Students are now going to go through the bag and sort the items based on whether or not they light the bulb. I do remind the groups to let everyone in the group have a chance to pick and item to test. I really stress the importance of taking turns. They can get very excited and forget that they need to make sure that everyone is included. 

Every time they test an item they need to decide which side to place the item. They are sorting whether the item lights the bulb or not. They will continue through the bag and I walk around to monitor how the groups are doing. 

Fixing the T Chart

5 minutes

When every group has been through at least 90% of the bag, I go ahead and ask for them to clean up. Students will go back to their desks but need their science journal. They will help me create a master list of the items and what the result was from their tests. Once we make the list I ask the class to tell me what they noticed about the items. Some connect their learning back to the magnets experiments we have done. Others explain what properties they think make it possible for the circuit to become closed. 

This is when I give them the vocabulary words conductor and insulator. I explain to them that a conductor will allow electricity to flow through it. Insulators however, do not let the current flow. I then ask the class to relabel their T Chart with the correct words.