Sorting Magnetic Materials

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SWBAT identify materials that are magnetic from those that are not.

Big Idea

To get more practice with using unseen forces, students investigate further with magnets by sorting materials into those that are magnetic and those that are not.

Teacher Preparation

This lesson is intended for students that have a basic understanding of magnetism so that they can further investigate and apply their scientific background knowledge learned in the previous lessons. In this lesson, students sort magnetic and non-magnetic materials and find uses for magnets in the school environment. It is important for students to have an opportunity to sort magnetic and non-magnetic materials and objects in order to apply the scientific concepts they have learned about magnetism  that are quite abstract, like polarity. This lesson aligns to Essential Science 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'. Click here to listen to my Explanation of Essential Standards and Essential Question.

**Note about groups-For this lesson, I chose to group into 4 students to encourage teamwork, so my materials are set up that way. If you choose to do this investigation individually or with partners, you may need to adjust the numbers. 

Materials per tub for 4 students:

*1-2 magnets 

*At least 5 non-magnetic materials

*At least 5 magnetic materials

*1 Magnetic or Non Magnetic Recording Sheet per group

Warm Up

5 minutes

The majority of this lesson is spent with students sorting magnetic and non-magnetic materials and then sharing their findings with the class, so the warm up is short today! I start by saying,

"Boys and girls, now that you know about the poles of magnets and what makes magnets attract and repel, it is time to use your new scientific information. You are going to conduct an investigation with some materials and sort magnetic and non-magnetic materials. As you work today, each person in your team will have a job. Two people will test the materials. One person will record the data. One person will keep the team on track and focused. Then, after the investigation, everyone will have to share 1 object that was magnetic and 1 that was non-magnetic. That means that everyone needs to work together so you all know the results of the investigation. Any questions?"

Next, I show the recording sheet for today and explain how to use the T-chart to record the magnetic and non-magnetic materials. 

During the lesson, I expect that my students will be able to investigate and record the data as a group with little teacher help. However, they are not used to working in a team with assigned roles and I anticipate that is where they will provide support. I say, 

"While you work today, help each other but respect that you have your own jobs. If someone else is trying to do your job, how might you handle that?"

We talk about using kind words to remind people of our roles and working as a team of scientists. Then, we are ready to start the investigation! 


25 minutes

When we are ready to investigate, I call the groups of 4 to collect their materials and the teams get started. As they work, I help with the investigation minimally and work more to support the collaborative learning with assigned roles. If any groups are struggling with the actual content, I model how to test the materials one at a time and then record the results on the T-chart. For the groups struggling with the roles, I reiterate that the investigators are testing the materials to see if they are magnetic or not, then they tell the recorder who writes it on the t-chart, and the team manager makes sure everyone is on task and working. Since this lesson occurs towards the end of the school year and my goal is for my students to run the investigation with their team, I do not ask many questions - I facilitate by listening and watching instead of probing them at the moment of investigation. Their notes and discourse that occurs will lead into the discussion we have after the activity. Then I will ask questions and address any misconceptions that I heard during the investigation.

After about 15 minutes, I say,

"Take about 3 minutes and make sure you have recorded all of the materials that are magnetic and non-magnetic. Your investigators are responsible for cleaning up the investigation. Then, sit together on the carpet so we can discuss your findings".

Conducting an investigation with support aligns to Science and Engineering Practice 3. 

Wrap Up

10 minutes

When everyone is settled on the carpet, each student gets a chance to share one magnetic and one non-magnetic object from their investigation. This ensures that everyone was engaged in the investigation and also that everyone can sort the different materials. As students give examples, I write them on my own t-chart that I show on the document camera. I say,

"Just like scientists keep notes, I am going to take notes of what you say about your investigation. If you want to take notes, you can start a t-chart in your own journal".

Recording scientific information and communicating information about the investigation and what we learned supports Science and Engineering Practice 4.