MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Electric Circuits - Guided Inquiry

Electric Circuits - Guided Inquiry

Patty Gavin, Faribault Middle School, Faribault, MN Based on an original activity from, "Physics by Inquiry" McDermott & P.E.G. and Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Electic Circuits, pg.22-37
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Summary

In this electric circuit guided inquiry students will investigate what an electric circuit is, the main parts of a circuit and the difference between series and parallel circuits. Students will work in small groups and create a circuit using materials provided by the teacher. Students will draw and label a closed and open circuit, a series of circuits, and parallel circuit. Students will then meet with a different small group and share their results.

Learning Goals

This activity is designed for students to observe through experimentation different ways to make a light bulb light. Students will work in small groups using critical thinking skills to draw, label, and determine the three essential parts of a circuit. Students will compare through equipment operation series circuits with parallel circuits. The vocabulary words to be discovered and reviewed by students through this lesson are: a switch to close and open a circuit, load, flow, series circuit, parallel circuit.

Context for Use

Sixth Grade Science Class
52 minute class scheduled daily 34-40 students in a class
Prior to this lab students will have completed reading and lab work including electric charge and static electricity, electrical energy and current.
The lab activity will be take four days to complete.
Small group and large group review and quiz will follow lab.

Subject: Physics:Electricity & Magnetism
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity, Classroom Activity
Grade Level: Middle (6-8)

Description and Teaching Materials

Lab I Day 1
Materials needed for each student:
1.5V battery
1 flashlight bulb
2 pieces of insulated copper wirre with ends stripped
1 flashlight
Students will be arranged in groups of four at tables. Each student will connect the materials in as many ways as possible to make the light bulb light. Share results and draw the arrangements in science notebook.
As a large group share results. Introduce the vocabulary word circuit and write a definition as a group.
Each group will recieve a flashlight. Describe as a small group why the flashlight works, how it works, how many wires are necessary and the number of batteries need. What is the energy source used today in the lab?

Lab II Day 2
Materials: Each student in a group of four will receive 1.5 V battery, switch, socket, three pieces of copper wire, switch, screwdriver
Connect the bulb in socket to battery with copperwire, connect socket to switch, and switch to battery.
Questions on the overhead to answer as a group in their science notebooks. Make a drawing of the following:
What happens to the bulb when the switch is closed? Why?
What happens to the bulb when the switch is open? Why?
Read page 23 in the science book to see if you answered the questions correctly.
Groups will share results as a class.
Vocabulary: closed circuit open circuit

Lab III Day 3 and 4
Group of four students
Each member of the group will have a task- Reader, Equipment supplier, Task Master, Builder
Materials:
1 1.5V battery
three flashlight bulbs and holders
five pieces of copper wire
one burned out flashlight bulb
screwdriver
tape

1. Connect the battery and two flashlight bulbs so that both bulbs are lit. Draw a picture of your circuit in your science notebook.
2. Add another flashlight bulb in series with the other two bulbs. Draw and label all parts of the circuit. Does the brightness of the light bulbs change? Why or why not?
3. Replace one of the light bulbs with a burned-out light bulb. What happens to the other lights in the circuit?
4. Determine if this is an example of a series circuit or a parallel circuit. Explain your answer.
5. Check your answers to the questions with another person from a different group.
6. Discuss your group results with the teacher.

Lab IV
Same group of four students as in Lab III
Each person will have a new task.
Materials: 1 1.5V battery
three flashlight bulbs and holders
one burned out flashlight bulb
two long pieces and six short pieces of insulated copper wire
screwdriver
tape

1. Connect a battery and two flashlight bulbs like the drawing on the board in the front of the classroom. Draw a picture of your circuit in your science notebook.
2. Add another flashlight bulb with the other two bulbs. Does the brightness of the light bulb change? Why?
3. Replace one of the light bulbs with a burned-out light bulb. What happens to the other lights in the circuit? Why?
4. Draw and label all parts of the circuit in your science notebook.
5. Determine if this is an example of a series or parallel circuit. Check your answers with your group and one other person from a different group.
6. Check your answers with the teacher. Provide extensions for groups that complete experiments.

Day 5
Discuss Lab III and IV as a large group. What is the difference between series and parallel circuits? How did you come up with an answer to the question?

Refer to pages 24 and 25 in book.

Examples of items that use electriciyy that are on a series circuit: list items
Examples of items that use electricity that are on a parallel circuit: List items

Quiz: Students may use their notes!

1. Name and describe what are the essential parts of a circuit.
2. What is the difference between series and parallel circuits?
3. If a switch is closed, charges flow freely through the circuit. True or False
4. Why are switches useful in a circuit?

Teaching Notes and Tips

Assessment

Part of Day 5

Standards

6.II.C1 - Energy Transformations; electrical energy
6.II.E1,2 - Forces of Nature; electric current

References and Resources