Lesson Objectives
By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Create a simple closed circuit to power a light bulb
  • Know the difference between insulators and conductors
  • Explain how a circuit works
  • Understand that electrical energy can change into other forms of energy


Show the video segment Life Without Electricity.
Ask students to brainstorm what their life would be like without access to electricity. Create a list on the board.


Obtain a toy that makes a noise or sings when you complete a circuit by touching two metallic pads. Have the students make a circle, holding hands. Have the student next to you place a finger on one metallic pad of the toy while you place a finger on the other. The toy should make the appropriate sound. Ask the students what is happening. They should recognize that they have created a circuit, passing on static electricity from one person to another. Have one student "break the circuit" to see what happens (the toy stops). When that student again joins hands to complete the circuit, the toy starts again. Ask the students if they know what was just demonstrated (a switch)


Post the Essential Questions:
  • What is a circuit?
  • How can we control the flow of electricity in a circuit?
  • How do series circuits and parallel circuits compare?

Tell the students that these will be the questions that will be explored in this lesson

Explore: Allowing Students to Experience Content

Students will complete the Hands-On Activity Create a Circuit.

Next, assign for students to view or show the video segment Circuits. This video offers a clear explanation of how circuits work, why they need conductors, and how insulators keep us safe. This video answers most of the essential questions for the lesson. After viewing the video, have students record answers to the Essential Questions in their journals. Give student 2 minutes to pair/share with a neighbor to check their answers. Then allow them time to refine their answers in their journals.

To give your students a more in-depth understanding of conductors and insulators, play the video segment Conductors, Insulators, Ohms. Stop the video at the 1:15 mark before the narrator discusses ohms. After viewing, ask students to think back on the simple circuit they built at the start of the lesson. Ask them several questions to aid in their inquiry: Were the wires insulated? What kind of wires were they using? When they extended the activity, how did the paper clip act? Was the wad of paper a conductor or an insulator? Draw on these experiences to emphasize the main points of the video.

To finish the explore, instruct students to spend any remaining class time exploring the interactive glossary terms circuit, conduct, current, electric, electron, energy, insulate, , particle, positive charge, power, and transmit. Once they have explored these terms, they should work together with a partner to informally quiz each other on the essential questions and on the meaning of the glossary terms.

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Explain: Firm Up Understanding; Allow Students to Explain What They Know

Have students read the Getting to Know Passage on Electrical Circuits
Students should use the Scientific Explanation Middle writing organizer to collect evidence, make a claim and provide reasoning while reading.

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Show students the video segment Current Electricity: Circuits. This video effectively summarizes most of the essential questions, and also discusses how switches create open and closed circuits. Have students think back to their Hands-On Activity and brainstorm ways they could create an open circuit. They would need another wire and a switch. Something as simple as a paperclip could act as a switch.

Next, divide students into six groups, and assign each group an essential question. Groups must prepare clear answers to their question and then present the answer to the class. Instruct groups that are not presenting at a certain moment to compare the answer being presented to the answer they gathered during the Explore. After each group presents their answer, lead a short discussion: Does everyone agree on the answer? Could there be any other answer? Why is that answer correct? Use this time to make sure your students not only know the answer, but have a good idea of why it is the correct answer.

Elaborate: Allow Students to Apply What They Know

Have students perform the virtual lab Getting Connected students should use the Briefing Document to help prepare their experimental plan. Students should use what they have learned thus far with regards to circuits to conduct their experiment.


Project Ideas: To help your students apply their understanding of electric current, you may wish to have your students complete some or all of the following projects. The time required to complete each project will vary; some may require students to work outside the classroom.
  • Show students the video segment Electromagnetic Force, Volts, Transformers, Amperes. Have them conduct research on the electrical concepts mentioned in the video and create a poster to explain the concept. Their posters should contain both illustrations and written facts. Have students present their posters to the class, then display them in the classroom.
  • Have students build a more complex circuit using breadboards, wires, light bulbs, batteries, and switches. They can experiment creating parallel and series circuits, and see what happens to the light bulbs. The exploration Getting Wired is a good accompaniment to this project, and is something students should explore before building a circuit. If you or your students have never built circuits on a breadboard before, conduct some research ahead of time to inform yourself of proper procedure and safety tips.
  • Have students conduct research on where energy in your state comes from. They should be able to locate the nearest power plant, and, through simple Internet research, identify what type of fuel it uses to generate electricity (fossil fuels, hydro power, wind, etc). Have students create a poster that illustrates how the electricity from the power plant ends up in their homes. Students should also include ideas in their posters about why it is important to conserve energy.

Evaluate: Check for Understanding

Have students complete the Brief Constructed Response (BCR) item titled Electric Current. You may also wish to assign the online concept assessment and use the results in the student reports to guide you in assigning any remediation to students.

Review Sheet: Students may review the information in this section using the Electric Current Review Sheet.