Introducing Unseen Forces

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SWBAT investigate magnets and record their initial discoveries.

Big Idea

To find out what students know--I ask them! Then, they investigate and find out some important discoveries on their own!

Teacher Preparation

This is the first lesson in a unit that aligns to the Essential Standard 1.P.1.2, 'Explain how some forces (pushes and pulls) can be used to make things move without touching them, such as magnets.' To find out what my students know, we start with a KWL chart and then they investigate while I listen and watch and they record some things that they find out. We end the lesson with a quick discussion about what they discovered during their investigation and we develop some questions to guide our unit on magnets and unseen forces. 


*KWL chart

*Student science journals

*Variety of magnets and magnetic and non-magnetic objects, enough for students to investigate

Warm Up

10 minutes

Since this is the first lesson for this specific objective about unseen forces in our larger Force and Motion unit, I suspect my students will have some background knowledge about the topic. Therefore, I start with a KWL chart (Know - Want to know - Learned). I am teaching this unit in May and so I do this as a two-pronged approach. My students do their own KWL chart in their science journals and I make one for our whole class.

To start the lesson, I say,

"In your journal today, you have a KWL chart. The K stands for "Know". So, I want you to think just about magnets for a minute and write down just 2 or 3 things that you know about magnets".

After two minutes, I invite students to share. Then, when a few students have shared, I say,

"It seems that I heard a few things that more than one person is thinking about. Let's make a chart for the whole class to share, and we can list things that we all think on this chart. You do not have to change your own chart."

After we do that, I say,

"Now, we are going to do an investigation. As you work, if you notice something important, write it down on your next page--not on the KWL chart. I will tell you when to come back to this page, okay?"

With that, we move to the activity section.


20 minutes

For the activity, I have some tubs set up with some magnets and various magnetic and non-magnetic materials for groups of 3-4 students. I chose smaller groups so that they can all access the materials easily and because my students are already set up in groups of 4 that work well together. I say,

"You are going to work at your regular tables today. You will have about 15 minutes to investigate with the magnets and materials at your table and talk about what you notice. Then, we will come back to the carpet and you will share what you have learned, okay?"

I send everyone off to investigate. As students work, I walk around and listen to conversations and ask questions to see what background knowledge and misconceptions students have about magnets. I have already taught about push and pull forces as well as balanced forces, so I am curious to see if any of them use that language with these forces! Even though I planned this investigation as a pre-assessment, students are making firsthand observations and collecting data about natural phenomena (magnetism), which supports Science and Engineering Practice 3.

After about 15 minutes, I ask my students to put their materials back into the tubs and join me on the carpet for the wrap up.

Wrap Up

10 minutes

Once everyone is settled on the carpet with their science journals I say,

"What did you discover?"

Providing this time to discuss what students noticed is really important because it gives them an opportunity to build on each others' experiences. The communication supports Science and Engineering Practice 8.

After a few minutes, I say,

"Now, go back to the KWL chart we started. Think to yourself about what you learned, and write down at least 2 questions you have about magnets. Questions usually start with 'What' or 'Why' in science. Be ready to share them!"

Asking questions based on observations and that can be answered by an investigation supports Science and Engineering Practice 1, 'Asking Questions and Defining Problems'. 

After a few minutes, I invite students to share and then we pick a few questions to list on our class KWL chart. I remind students that these questions will be the ones that will guide our thinking as we work with magnets for the next few lessons.