Electrical Circuit
Electricity and Magnetism

Selecting and developing activities for electrical loops

Classroom Activity for 5-11 Supporting Physics Teaching

Teacher Tip: Based on the Physics Narrative and the Teaching and Learning Issues

Ideas to emphasise here

  • the complete loop, working all together
  • something moving round, everywhere in the loop
  • build on the idea that something is used up as the battery flattens
  • relate your model of something moving around the loop to actions in adding elements to a loop
  • connect toolkits for thinking with physical experiences with circuits

Teacher Tip: Work through the Physics Narrative to find these lines of thinking worked out and then look in the Teaching Approaches for some examples of activities.

Strategies for supporting learning

    draw out, and challenge wrong track thinking
  • link practical experiences to developing descriptions
  • let children use pictures, diagrams, physical actions and physical models as well as words to express themselves
  • develop a toolkit to support children's reasoning about circuits
  • allow children to question and explore different explanations
  • retain a focus on whole loops
  • link practical experiences to developing descriptions
  • relate children's pictures, diagrams, physical actions and physical models to what happens when real circuits are built
  • encourage children to reason about circuits, making and testing predictions
  • use large drawings of circuits to help relate the physical to the drawings

Teacher Tip: These are all related to findings about children's ideas from research. The teaching activities will provide some suggestions. So will colleagues, near and far.

Avoid these

  • not challenging imprecise language, reasoning, diagramming
  • using sequential models, such as donation models
  • electrical energy
  • telling long stories about electrons in wires as just how it is
  • avoid sequential reasoning: first it leaves the battery, then it...
  • just stating what should have happened
  • relating ad-hoc rules as just how it is
  • not conflating homely analogies with ways of reasoning that can make predictions

Teacher Tip: These difficulties are distilled from: the research findings; the practice of well-connected teachers with expertise; issues intrinsic to representing the physics well.

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