Magnetic Energy Matters

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SWBAT determine properties of materials that attract magnets.

Big Idea

Students will use electricity and a magnet to create an electromagnetic device.

Lesson Overview

5e Lesson Plan Model

Many of my science lessons are based upon and taught using the 5E lesson plan model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. This lesson plan model allows me to incorporate a variety of learning opportunities and strategies for students.  With multiple learning experiences, students can gain new ideas, demonstrate thinking, draw conclusions, develop critical thinking skills, and interact with peers through discussions and hands-on activities.  With each stage in this lesson model, I select strategies that will serve students best for the concepts and content being delivered to them.  These strategies were selected for this lesson to facilitate peer discussions, participation in a group activity, reflective learning practices, and accountability for learning.

Unit Focus  

The Matter and Energy unit focuses on matter: anything that takes up space, has mass, and can neither be created nor destroyed, only changed.  To help students develop their understanding of these concepts, they take part in a variety of guided inquiries geared towards scaffolding this understanding.  This unit begins by defining matter and its properties. Students apply these properties throughout the unit as they explore how matter changes forms, how temperature effects solids, liquids, and gases, and how a mixture and solution differ. They need to develop an understanding of these forms of matter as the second half of the unit will focus on physical and chemical changes of objects and substances, reactions, and electrical and magnetic energy.

Lesson Synopsis

The Magnetic Energy Matters lesson students build off of yesterday's lesson on electricity. They use the same materials from yesterday-matchstick, paper clip, rubber band, string, nail, pull tab, plastic bottle cap, and a penny to test which ones attract or repel magnets.  Then, they use electricity and a bolt to create an electromagnet model and use it to test materials. Students are testing to see the electromagnet attracts materials. By the end of the lesson, students should understand how electricity can be used to create a magnet and that certain materials have magnetic properties which allow them to attract or repel the magnet. At the end of the lesson, students complete an open response question. This is collected as an assessment on their understanding of magnetism.

Next Generation Science Standards  

This lesson will address the following NGSS Standard(s): 

5-PS1-3. Make observations and measurements to identify materials based on their properties.

Why Do I Teach this Lesson?

I teach the day 2-Electrical Energy Matters lesson because many of my students have very limited background in science. Since the elementary school's within my district do not formally teach science prior to my students entering the 5th grade (the middle school). I find it important to expose my students to inquiry based investigations and apply their evidence to explain outcomes and phenomenons. Furthermore, providing my students the opportunity to practice this type of discourse will help to facilitate their scientific thinking for future investigations in any lesson.

Scientific & Engineering Practices

Students are engaged in the following scientific and engineering Practices

2.) Developing and Using Models:  Students use electricity and a bolt to create an electromagnet and test it on different materials.

8.) Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information: Students obtain and use information from their investigation to answer an open response questions. They use what they have learned in their investigation to summarize scientific notions.

Crosscutting Concepts

The day 2-Electrical Energy Matters lesson will correlate to other interdisciplinary areas.  These Crosscutting Concepts include:

2.) Cause and Effect:  Students use evidence from their investigations on electricity and magnets to explain if the object was attracted to a magnet.

6.) Structure and Function: Students identify and describe the changes the bolt underwent during the investigation. They describe how the structure of bolt changed when electricity passed through it and its function changed work as a magnet.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas within this lesson include:

PS1.A Structure of Matter:  Measurements of variety of observable properties can be used to identify particular materials. (Because matter exists as particles that are too small to see, matter is always conserved even if it seems to disappear.) 

PS3.A Definitions of Energy: Energy can be moved from place to place by moving objects, or through sound, light, or electrical currents. Energy can be converted from one form to another form.


Importance of Modeling to Develop Student

Responsibility, Accountability, and Independence 

Depending upon the time of year, this lesson is taught, teachers should consider modeling how groups should work together; establish group norms for activities, class discussions, and partner talks.  In addition, it is important to model think aloud strategies.  This sets up students to be more expressive and develop thinking skills during an activity.  The first half of the year, I model what group work and/or talks “look like and sound like.”  I intervene the moment students are off task with reminders and redirecting.  By the second and last half of the year, I am able to ask students, “Who can give of three reminders for group activities to be successful?” Who can tell us two reminders for partner talks?”  Students take responsibility for becoming successful learners.  Again before teaching this lesson, consider the time of year, it may be necessary to do a lot of front loading to get students to eventually become more independent and transition through the lessons in a timely manner.


15 minutes

Examining How Magnets Work

I begin the lesson by holding up a pair of magnets and asking: "What do I have? Who can tell us how these are used?"  Most students raise their hand, so I tell them I am going to do a countdown from 3,2,1 and when I get to the end, they can say the answer all at once.  I do this and as a class, they shout "Magnets."   I ask students to share ways magnets are used. As they share, I write these items on the board: magnets hold papers on the board, post things to a refrigerator, keep a refrigerator door or freezer door closed, are in toys. I notice the list is small, so I add on by sharing with students other ways magnets are used: in TVs, computers, speakers, cars, a compass, on bags (closing the flap).

Next, I hand out 2 magnets to students and ask them to explore them by trying to move touch the ends together.  First I say, "Try to connect the blue ends together- what do you notice?" Students try time and time again, but notice they do not stick together. Then I ask them to try to put two red ends together and they realize the same thing happens. At this point, I ask them to try and connect the red end to the blue end. Right away, students notice they stick together

I say to them: "We notice that ends of the same color push each other way. Then we notice that opposite ends of the magnets stick."  I think aloud: "I wonder why this happens?"  First, I share with the students, that each end of the magnet is known as a pole. One end is the North Pole and the other end is the South Pole, so when you try putting the same poles together, they push each other away. The reason it is called the north pole is because it is attracted to Earth's north pole, similarly the reason the end of the a magnet is called the south pole because it is attracted to Earth's south pole.

Defining Magnets and How Magnets Work

At this point, I explain, magnets have the ability to push and pull on other objects and exert an invisible force onto materials that contain or are made of iron.  I say: "We call this magnetism."  A push or pull on an object is known as a force and magnets create that force upon objects

I say: "Let's make a rule about how these poles work.  We notice opposite poles stick together, so let's use the word : attract.  Then we notice the same poles together can't stick together, the push each other away, so let's use the word repel."  I write these magnet rules on the board:

The Magnet Rule:  Opposite poles attract each other.    Like poles repel each other.



15 minutes

Setting the Goal for the Lesson

After discussing how we use magnets and examining how they work, I move students' attention to the standards board. I call on one student to read it aloud:

"Today we will identify properties of magnetic materials to determine which materials attract magnets, and use our understanding from yesterday's investigation on electricity to create a magnet using electricity."

Guided Inquiry

Students already have magnets, so I hand out a recording sheet to each of them. Then I remind them that they are working with their elbow partner and hand each pair of students the container of materials we used from yesterday: matchstick, plastic soda bottle cap, paperclip, copper penny, steel nail, rubber band, pull tab, and string.  I selected these materials because magnets attract some of the materials, but not the others. In addtion, some of these materials that were able to conduct electricity in yesterday's activity, do stick to magnets. I want students to determine which properties of the materials allow magnets to attract items and repel others.

Before testing each item, I ask my students to predict if the magnet will attract this item?  They make these predictions in a table on their recording sheet.   Then, my students work together and test each object by using the magnet to try and pick the object up. They record the results on the table with a Y (for yes), and N (for no).  


15 minutes

Reflecting on our Investigations

Once my students finish testing the materials,  I reconvene the class to discuss the outcome.  We identify materials that the magnet sticks to as the paper clip and nail. Then we identify materials that the magnet did not stick to as the pull tab, rubber band, string, plastic soda bottle cap, copper penny, and matchstick. (toothpick)

We discuss why they believe some materials stick to the magnet and others do not. They reveal to my that they are astonished that the copper penny and pull tab did not stick. When I ask why they tell me they thought metals would stick to the magnet.

I explain to the class that magnets pull on materials that generally contain iron and nickel, and not all metals contain these and therefore will not stick to a magnet. This is why the pull tab and copper penny did not stick to the magnet. While these materials can conduct electricity, a magnet does not attract them because they do not contain iron. 

Building On What We've Learned

At this point in the lesson, I hold up a bolt and ask students: "Do you think I can make this bolt magnetic?" I observe many perplexed faces and I hear students say, I don't think so and I don't know.  I use this to peak their curiosity and get them thinking. I add on and say, "Think about our lesson on electricity from yesterday.  We are going to use electricity to make this bolt magnetic.  But let me introduce you to the term, electromagnet so we can investigate this idea."

Next, I write electromagnet on the board and define it:

electromagnet- magnets that carry an electrical current.

Then I say, "they form by an electrical current flowing through a wire wrapped around a bar made of iron." I continue and explain that electrical currents produce a magnetic force which is why the bolt became magnetic. They can be turned on and off by disconnecting the electricity, which is why it is much different than a regular magnet.  

I hold up the bolt again and say, "Let's take a closer look at how we can turn this bolt into an electromagnet and test how it works." 



20 minutes

Directed Inquiry

I hand out the bolt (which is wrapped in wire) and a container of materials (matchstick, paperclip, rubber band, string, nail, pull tab, plastic bottle cap, and copper penny.) I ask students to take out the paper clip and try to pick it up with the bolt.  I use a paperclip because it has already been determined that a magnet attracts it (it contains iron material in it). I observe them try and pick up the paperclip with it.  I want them to see that the bolt itself does not attract the paperclip.

Noticing they cannot, I say, "let's see if we can use electricity to turn this bolt into a magnet."  I hand out the circuit boards again and tell students we are using the battery as our electricity source today.  I instruct students to use the wires from the battery and connect them to the wires on the bolt, creating a circuit. Once connected, I say, "Ok, now try to pick up the paperclip with the bolt."  While they do this, I circulate the room, check in with pairs of students, and observe students reactions which include: "whoa!" and "Cool" as they see it in action.  I have them continue investigating the use of the electromagnet by testing the remaining items in the container.  

We share which items the electromagnet attracted.

Electromagnets in Real World

Once students finish investigating objects the electromagnet attracts, I bring students attention to board.  Here I  project images displaying everyday items that have electromagnets as part of their structure.  One in particular I point out is an electromagnet that is attached to a crane over a recycling center. I ask students to observe and share what they notice. Another image is an electric to bell. I explain the bell we hear every hour for class dismissal uses an electromagnet.  Other examples include speakers for a stereo, a washing machine, a hair dryer.

I want them to see that electromagnets are relevant to how our world functions today.


In the remaining time, I wrap up this lesson by handing out a homework assignment that asks them to apply what they have learned about electromagnets. I further explain that they are using their observations, evidence, and vocabulary from the lesson to answer the open response questions.

I selected these questions because they are similar to the questions used on the state standardized test in science given at the end of the year.

The next day, I collect their responses to check for understanding.  I am assessing their understanding on how magnets attract some materials and repel others and how electricity can be used to create an electromagnet.  I am looking for evidence from their investigation to support this notion.