On Again, Off Again

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Students will be able to complete a complete circuit that includes a switch.

Big Idea

My students are familiar with the idea of the flow of electricity being broken-due to mis-wiring or poorly constructed circuits. This lesson will cause them to work with intentional breaks in the flow of electricity.


3 minutes

Today, as the student's gather in our community area, I will ask them to think about and discuss, with their shoulder partners, ways they think they might be able to turn the flow of electricity on and off. 

As they discuss, I will listen for ideas of a switch, even if it is disconnecting a wire, as this will be my springboard for the lesson. 

Also, I will be setting the stage, again, for having students reflect on not only what works, but what doesn't, as these moments actually push our thinking and understanding even more. Be sure to see the closing for this. 

Mini Lesson

10 minutes

As a lesson, I will remind the students of what they found out in our previous lesson about circuits and what makes them work.  As a class, we will discuss this as I draw several complete and incomplete circuits on the board.

During this conversation, I will be sure to review, if the students don't, that there must be a source of stored energy, wires to allow transpiration of that energy, and a receiver to use the energy. All of these components must be in a connected circuit in order to be successful. 

Next, I will show the students a switch from our FOSS kit. I will explain that they will need to figure out how to use this component in order to control the flow of electricity in a circuit that has a light receiver. 



Active Engagement

25 minutes

As the students work, I simply roam the room and insert myself into group work as it is happening. My district works with the FOSS kits, and I modify my lessons to make them a bit more student focused.  Instead of telling the students what to do in each step of the lesson, I explain what our learning target is and let them have at it. 

In this lesson, I am looking for students to find a consistent way of building a complete circuit that contains a switch. 

In this clip, the students are grappling with turning the circuit on and off.  I had to chuckle because when I arrived, one of the wires was loose and when the team moved the "unhooked" switch, the light went out. It took a moment for the team to assess why they couldn't consistently control the receiver. 

These students are doing a fantastic job communicating and using talking moves, but they completely forgot to add the receiver into the model!

In this series of 4 short videos, you will see a team working through an interesting challenge. They were able to get their bulb to light, but their method was not standard. With some prompting, they were able to revise their thinking.

While this same group was working here, they were trying to figure out how another wire could help them.  Notice that at no time did I tell them how to do this.  I simply asked what they might do with one more wire. 

As the children worked here, they were discussing with each other how to manage the materials and were really working with each other's ideas. 

Finally, even though one student is stuck on the "negative and positive side", the team was able to complete the circuit with a switch. In between all of their tries, I was elsewhere in the classroom. I was so happy they finally got it. 

This student was doing a great job explaining how a circuit worked.  All he needed was some review, during a real conversation using precise vocabulary words, about what the components did to make the circuit successful. 


Closing and Sharing

10 minutes

One of my favorite ways to close a lesson is to ask "What didn't work today?".  

In this clip, my student is able to assess her team's trials and errors and use that information to guide them into a successful investigation.