Intro to Energy Concepts

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SWBAT summarize their prior knowledge on what "energy" means.

Big Idea

Use this opening activity to formativly assess your students ideas on energy concepts

Getting Started

I begin this unit by having students brainstorm  their initial ideas on the term energy. In all of my previous units, I began the same way. I use a tool called a mind map. If you've never used a mind map before please refer to my introductory lesson on the basics of mind mapping. 

it is important that you review the protocol and teach students the basics of mind mapping for them to learn this important skill of brainstorming. There are many strategies in developing mind mapping with students; I prefer the method developed by Tony Buzan, published in his book Mind Mapping. 


  • Poster paper
  • Markers 


15 minutes

 As students enter the classroom, have the following written on the board:

"What do you think about when you hear the term energy?  Take a few minutes to reflect in your science journal on the term energy and what comes to mind. Be ready to share with your table group."

Instruct your students to read the directions on the board, and then give them five to seven minutes to brainstorm and record their ideas.  When the time is up, bring the group back together and ask them to turn and talk with their neighbors. As the students are discussing their ideas, hand each table group a poster paper and a handful of markers. 


30 minutes

After a few minutes of discussion, call for their attention. Instruct each table group to create a mind map using the materials provided. The term energy should be at the center of the mind map, and they can use a word or images to represent this term. They should organize their ideas and logical groupings radiating from the center of the image. Encourage them to use words and pictures throughout. Some of the rules I like to stress at this point are that radio line should only contain one word or image. This forces students to condense their ideas down so that a word or image may represent a larger idea. 

As mentioned previously, if this is your first time using mind maps in your classroom I strongly encourage you to study the process and practice making a few yourself before teaching this lesson.

Once the students have had enough time to create their mind maps (15-20 minutes), ask for volunteers from each table to share their mind map with the class. After each group has presented, I like to hang the mind maps near the front of the classroom so that we can refer to connecting ideas from each groups map. Another strategy would be to use sticky notes and flag the concepts that are similar or relate to one another. 


10 minutes

Depending on the amount of time left in class, summarize the overall class ideas on energy. I facilitate this by using a blank sheet of poster paper and writing bullet points of the ideas I saw and heard on all of the mind maps. If you wanted to, you could generate a list of forms of energy at this time although that appears in the next lesson in this series.

I try not to correct misconceptions or provide any specific instruction regarding energy at this time. I'm using this has both formative assessment and to focus students ideas on the unit ahead.