I show students the different magnets they will be working with today. I ordered them from several online sources so that they would be in different strengths and sizes. (insert image here). Then I give them an example of what I expect them to draw in a diagram.
I let students explore with the standard (not neodymium) magnets for about a half an hour. I did let some of my more reliable rule-followers use one tiny neodymium magnet each. As the students moved around the classroom with the magnets, testing them out on different objects, I move with them. I ask guiding questions and prompt them to speak specifically. For example, I asked,
Most students have enough experience to assume that magnets are attracted to metals so when they observe that magnets are not attracted to all metals, I ask them to think about why this might be so.
When students make comments such as, “Wow, that was so cool! Did you see that?” I usually agree, but then ask them to frame it in specific terms.
Here is an example of one unusual observation made by a student:
Here is a short compilation of the types of observations students made about how their magnets interacted with ordinary classroom objects.