Electrical Conductor
Electricity and Magnetism

Conductors and insulators

Teaching Guidance for 5-11 Supporting Physics Teaching

All together, in every part of the circuit

Wrong Track: It's either a conductor or an insulator, and that's that.

Right Lines: Some materials conduct electricity well, some very badly. Humans are somewhere in the middle: that's why you have to be careful with electric circuits.

Encouraging thinking about movement everywhere in the loop

Thinking about the learning

Absolute distinctions make the clear categorisation, but may store up difficulties for the future. If children happen to test themselves as a material to go into circuit they will notice that the bulb does not light up and therefore conclude that what they are made of is an insulator. this decision would not serve them well if they were later to come into contact with a live wire in the home, connected to the mains supply. Conductor versus insulator is not a hard and fast category.

Thinking about the teaching

Materials which we call insulators to conduct electricity much more poorly than materials which we call conductors. However it is not the case that insulators absolutely do not conduct electricity: they might only allow very small electrical current in exchange for a very large battery. So what might be thought of as an insulator when tested with a small battery could turn out to be a conductor when tested with a much larger battery.

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