I call students to the gathering area. I have posted a poster of the different types of circuits we drew yesterday. I ask students to identify the different components of the circuit. As they identify them, I label the poster. I ask students to also identify the different types of circuits. I label each diagram as well.
I tell students that today we are playing with play dough. I hold up two different colors of play dough in my hands. Usually there are some groans and some yelps of excitement. Once that has died down, inevitably one student will remind me that I told them that they were going to build circuits today. I thank the student to keeping us on track and tell them that they are going to use the play dough to build circuits.
I hold up battery packs with wire leads attached to them. I also hold up diffused light mini-LED bulbs with the two wires extending from the bottom. I tell students that today they will need to figure out how to light up the bulb making a circuit with the dough. I tell them that they will need to experiment with the different doughs to see which one conducts the electricity.
I make the dough ahead of time, using the recipe and directions from Squishy Circuits. http://courseweb.stthomas.edu/apthomas/SquishyCircuits/index.htm This dough requires cooking, so it should be made at home ahead of time. This site also provides some ideas about how to build circuits.
With the basic information I have just given them, I divide students into partners and I give them one battery pack, two batteries, two LED lights, and two balls of dough – one conductor and one insulator.
Students know how to construct a circuit from the previous lesson and they have the anchor chart to follow. I allow about 10 minutes of free exploration with the materials and monitor and observe students in the room. I ask clarifying questions if I see that students are stuck, but I try to allow students to be completely free in their exploration.
After about 10 minutes, I call students attention and ask them what they have discovered. Most students will have discovered that one type of dough will allow them to conduct electricity and one type of dough will not. Some will have caused their circuit to short-circuit and some will have successfully lit the circuit. I ask students to demonstrate their learning. I ask students what they think the dough that does not conduct electricity does. Some students usually know that this dough is an insulator.
I ask students if they tried both a series circuit and a parallel circuit. If they have not, I give a few minutes for them to build both types of circuits.
I ask students if they had the correct type of dough, but were unable to light the bulb at any point. Usually, at least one group has had this problem. I ask them to replicate their circuit. This issue is usually a short-circuit, where the two conducting wires (or rolls of dough) touch one another causing a short circuit. If there is no student example, I build a circuit with a short circuit to show students.
Students put their dough away into airtight bags so we can use it during the next lesson. We review the circuits we built today and we make three new puzzle pieces for our anchor chart. We make a puzzle piece to show a series circuit, a parallel circuit, and a short circuit. We add these pieces to our puzzle anchor chart.