Series and Parallel Circuits

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SWBAT construct and define series and parallel circuits and their uses.

Big Idea

People build different kinds of circuits to meet human needs.

Warm Up

10 minutes

Within the electricity unit, students have now had the opportunity to construct two different simple circuits and to discuss the characteristics of complete circuits with their peers. In this lesson, students will be given new materials and will construct two new types of circuits. To begin the lesson, I inform students that they will be working with some additional materials today. I show them the materials for the lesson (four wires, two battery holders, two batteries, two bulb sockets, two light bulbs) and ask them to work collaboratively to brainstorm new circuits that they could construct using the materials for the lesson. I ask students to record their ideas and provide time for each group to share their thinking with the class.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

I begin by displaying the circuit A and B diagram on the board. I ask students to copy the diagrams into their series and parallel circuits lab worksheet and to make predictions about the longevity and brightness of each circuit. I then provide time for the students to construct each circuit and to record their observations on their lab worksheet. As in previous lesson, it can be difficult for students to construct each circuit and to troubleshoot problems as they arise. I circulate around the classroom and provide guidance as needed during this exploration time. An example of a completed, student-constructed circuits can be found here. A video of a student explaining his circuit can be found here.

Class Discussion

20 minutes

After students have constructed circuit A and B, I provide students with the name of each type of circuit (series and parallel respectively). I ask students to list contexts in which they have heard the word 'series' (common examples include book series, television series, World Series). I define series and ask why this word might be used to describe the circuit I draw on the whiteboard. I lead the class in a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of each circuit design and discuss with students the potential uses for each type of circuit. 

I guide students through the process of generating and recording a definition for the terms series circuit and parallel circuit in their electricity glossary


5 minutes

I close this lesson with group discussion time to ensure that each student has the opportunity to make sense of what they have learned and to process their new understandings with peers. I provide students with time to share their observations of each circuit with their peer team. This sharing time activates prior knowledge and ensures that students have accurately recorded observations on their lab worksheet. I ask students to review the differences between parallel and series circuits and to explain how each might be used to solve a human need.