Magnetic or Not

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Students observe the properties of magnetic items and non-magnetic items by sorting them into two groups.

Big Idea

Students explore the properties of materials!


10 minutes

Students are asked to sit on the meeting place rug to hear the instructions for our science lesson on magnets.

I say to students, "Today, you are going to be sorting objects. You have a sorting mat (see picture) and you have a bag full of different objects. You have a magnet wand. Your job is to take one thing out of the bag at a time, use the magnet wand to see if they stick together. If they do, you will put that object on the sorting mat where is says magnetic. (I show students on the mat, where that word is.) If the object does not stick to the magnet wand, you will put it on the mat where it says not magnetic. (Again, I point that out on the mat for students)"

I ask students to go to their seats where their sorting mats and bags are waiting for them.

I purchased my magnet wands from Lakeshore. You can purchase them individually or in a set of 12.

Independent Work Time

15 minutes

When students get back to their seats, I explain, "As soon as you are ready, you can begin." 

During this time, students are working independently. In each bag, students will not have the same items. The bags are all different. I have chosen things from around the classroom and given each student 20 different things.

These items can be, but are not limited to: paper clips, pattern blocks, puzzle pieces, matchbox cars, letter magnets, erasers, etc.

I give students about 10 minutes to sort their items.

As they are sorting I walk around to monitor students progress and make sure they are putting magnetic items in the correct section on the sorting sheet. Sorting and grouping activities like this help students build the foundational understanding of data collection.


15 minutes

When students are finished, I ask them to stand up, push their chairs in and stand behind their chairs.

I then tell students that I'd like them to take a gallery walk around the room and look at other students' sorting mats. I explain that when they are looking, I want them to be looking for something that stands out to them or something that may be the same or different about all of them.

I give students about 4-5 minutes to do the gallery walk. When all students are back at their seats, I ask that they sit down.

To close the lesson, we have a class discussion about what types of things we sorted into magnetic and non-magnetic piles. During the class discussion I has students,

What item surprised you that was magnetic?

What surprised you that was not magnetic?

What makes an object magnetic?