4th Grade Science : Unit #2 - Electricity : Lesson #2

Light A Bulb

Objective: SWBAT to create a complete circuit using a battery, bulb, and wire and describe the movement of energy in the circuit.
Standards: 4-PS3-2 4-PS3-4 SP2 SP3
Subject(s): Science
60 minutes
1 Warm Up - 5 minutes

In the electricity unit, students will be working with a variety of new materials and will develop an extensive vocabulary of tier 2 and 3 words related to the topic. To introduce the activity for this lesson, and all future lessons, I start by showing students the materials that they will use; in this lesson, a battery, bulb, and wire. I ask students to identify the items and to briefly share with a partner the places they may have seen or used these items before. This activity connects to the students' prior experiences and ensures that all students have some knowledge of the uses for each item.  Then, I inform students that they will use these materials to make the light bulb light up. I purposefully do not provide any instruction on how to use the materials and do not introduce new vocabulary so that students can creatively explore the process of building a working circuit. 

2 Independent Practice - 20 minutes

For independent practice, students use the bulb, battery, and wire to make a complete circuit. The students will know that the circuit is complete when the bulb lights up. This lesson can be very frustrating for students because it often takes many attempts before they experience success.

I ask students to record each attempt at circuit building on their light the bulb lab worksheet. As the students work, I visit each student's work space and provide encouragement. This is necessary as students begin to experience frustration with the process of circuit creation. See the reflection section for additional information about how I use this lab to teach the trait of perseverance.

A video of students attempting to create a circuit and recording their thinking can be found here.

Modeling Perseverance

The circuit building activity that comprises the bulk of this lesson can be a challenge for students and, oftentimes, students experience frustration after their initial attempts at circuit building prove unsuccessful. To combat this phenomenon, when I see student frustration beginning to build, I bring the class together for a discussion about perseverance. I speak with the students about the work of scientists and how each failure provides a scientist with new information that they can use to refine their procedures and create a more successful product in the future. I explain to my students the importance of recording each attempt at circuit building on the lab record sheet so that they can learn from each attempt and show their problem solving process. I also inform students that it is perfectly natural to feel badly when a problem is difficult and multiple attempts have not worked in the intended manner. Acknowledging the students' feelings, sharing the experiences of past classes, and discussing the potential advantages to making multiple attempts to solve a problem usually enables students to reengage with the task with a renewed sense of purpose. When students are able to successfully light the bulb, they are elated. This can be a great opportunity to encourage students to reflect on problem-solving and their own feelings as they engaged in each step of the process.

Another great resource is this video of MIT students unable to complete the same task.

3 Guided Practice - 20 minutes

After most students have successfully completed a circuit, I bring the students together for a class discussion. I ask students to share successful configurations by drawing them on the whiteboard or sharing their lab worksheets under the document camera. After multiple solutions have been shared, I lead the class in a brainstorming activity where we identify commonalities between all presented solutions. This process enables students to identify the essential characteristics of a complete circuit. 

I then guide students to record new vocabulary in their electricity glossary. In this lab, I work with students to define, bulb, battery, wire, and circuit.

4 Closing - 10 minutes

I close this lesson with a quick formative assessment designed to check to see if all students have identified the components of a complete circuit. I provide students with an exit ticket which contains several circuit drawings. Some illustrated circuits are complete and will result in the light bulb going on. Others are incomplete circuits in which the bulb will not light up. Here is an answer key for the sample exit ticket. 

When I review the students' exit tickets, I expect to find that most students will correctly label 5/6 or 6/6 circuits correctly. If this is not the case, I pull students who struggled with this activity to a central location and ask them to check their work using a bulb, battery, and wire and to revise their exit ticket. As students revise, I ask them to list the reasons why they changed their answers. This process of testing and revising helps to clarify for struggling students the elements of a complete circuit. 

A blank copy of the exit ticket can be found here.