Magnet Investigations

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Students will be able to determine if a magnetic force can travel through space and time.

Big Idea

Much of the student's excitement around magnetism is what it can do through space. The actions magnets cause to happen are appealing to students. This lesson will guide them towards understanding why these things happen.


5 minutes

To begin our lesson, I will write the following four questions on the board and have the students copy them in their notebooks, with space in-between for their responses. 

1. How do magnets and iron objects work together?

2. Can the force of magnetism go through materials?

3. Can you use a magnetic force to make something happen?

4. Do you have your own question?


Mini Lesson

10 minutes

Again, I will show the students a tray of various objects and tell them that they will investigate and find the answers to the focus questions. 

I refrain from telling them how or what to do, as the science and engineering practices tell us to help students become competent in planning and carrying out investigations. I have supplied them with the questions, they must work together to find the answers through tests.

During the mini lesson, however, I will review the information we have gained over the past couple of days.

  • Magnets can attract or repel each other. 
  • Iron (and steel) are attracted to magnets.

Active Engagement

20 minutes

As students work, I will be listening and watching for them to use investigations to answer questions, not just their predictions. I will also be listening for evidence, precise vocabulary use, and strong written reports of their tests. 

This young girl explains with wonderful modeling and evidence, her answer to one of the questions. Listen to how she attributes some of her learning to another student in the classroom. 

I was fascinated with this student, as he continued to work through building a temporary magnet, though he doesn't know that is what it is yet. However, he tried to recreate a test until he could get it to work for me. I had to then give a bit of wait time in order for him to make sense of what was actually happening. Listen in...

As I stood in the middle of the room with my iPad, students kept coming right to the camera with their findings.  I was so pleased they were motivated and were using evidence to lead them through their thinking. 

This student was beginning to understand the restructuring of atoms in the metals.  (Of course, that will be a later lesson, but it is great information to use as a model!)

Remember this guy?  As he was trying to get his model to work again, another student off to my side is talking to me.  I added this video so you could hear the precise vocabulary words he is using while making sense of his work. As I turn to him, more students come!  Sheer joy and love of learning:)

Closing and Sharing

10 minutes

As this students shared with me something a little different, I decided to use his learning as a springboard for a lesson on interrupting a magnetic force. 

He is expressing an idea that speed may be a component in breaking a force. I allow him to create his theory and tell him we are going to explore more of his thinking tomorrow. 

Next, to end the lesson, I simply collect the notebooks to read over and look for misconception or other ideas for lessons. I did not have the students share out their findings as a close today because the whole session was about sharing.