Parallel Circuits Day 1

Print Lesson


Students will be able to create a parallel circuit using prior knowledge about the flow of electricity.

Big Idea

Students have been building series circuits all along, without it being defined as such. They now have enough working information to define series and parallel circuits and build both.


5 minutes

Today, I will ask the students to discuss ways they think they could get two receivers to work in full force, using only one source of energy. 

This question will be on the board for the students to discuss/debate with their shoulder partners: "Is it possible for 2 receivers to work in full capacity using only one source of energy?"

Mini Lesson

5 minutes

To begin our lesson, I ask the students to discuss previous outcomes from past investigations. In this clip you will hear one of my students making sense of the brightness of two bulbs using two batteries.  This is a perfect transition into today's challenge. 

Following this conversation, I was able to challenge my students to try devising a circuit that used two receivers, but only one source of energy.  The true challenge, however, is to make sure both receivers are working at their full capacity. Up until now, students have been building with two receivers, but each receiver "shared" energy, so they were dim and slow. 

Prior to sending them off to investigate their thinking, I write the definition of a series circuit and a parallel circuit (series circuit is a closed circuit in which the current follows one path) I then draw a schematic for a series circuit and explain to the students what this means. 

I tell them that this new information could be used as a clue in today's work. 

Active Engagement

20 minutes

As the students begin to work, I refrain from giving much input.  I want today to be a time to explore, make sense of information, and test ideas. 

What I do however, is circulate and ask probing questions to help them think more deeply as scientists.  I may ask:

"What do you think could be done that is different from a series circuit?"

"Is there a way to build a circuit that doesn't share the electricity current?"

"How can you break your circuit building down into steps so you can monitor variables?"

I then watch and listen in carefully, so that in our next session I can teach a mini lesson that will be useful to the most groups. 


5 minutes

To close, I have the students share, as usual, what went well and what was a challenge.  This is really one of my favorite ways to close a lesson that will continue during another session, as it allows the students to assess their work, hear ideas from others that may be helpful, and to review what they need to accomplish on the next go around. 

My students are actually to the point where they jot ideas while listening to each other and their accomplishments and failures. 

That is what science really is anyway, isn't it?