Electrical Circuit
Electricity and Magnetism

Model precise terminology

Teaching Guidance for 11-14 Supporting Physics Teaching

Electricity is not a word to use often

In everyday speech the word electricity is very commonly used. Thus you might overhear statements such as:

it runs off electricity, and we need to pay the electricity bill.

This sort of expression inevitably carries over into school and so pupils might say:

Emma: Electricity flows round the circuit.

Here you should encourage the pupils to be more precise in their use of terms: What do you mean when you say that electricity flows? What is it that actually moves round the circuit?

You should also model the careful use of language (as well as other expressive media), to encourage accurate and precise thinking.

Teacher: That's right! The charge moves round the circuit: that is an electric current.

Teacher Tip: There aren't many situations where simply banning the use of a particular word is likely to help pupils come to understand and be able to use new physics ideas… but this might be one of those situations! A teaching colleague reckons that the only time he allows his pupils to use the word electricity is in writing the title in their books at the start of the new topic!

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