Electrical Circuit
Electricity and Magnetism

Selecting and developing activities for electrical loops

Classroom Activity for 5-11 Supporting Physics Teaching

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 Narratives to find these lines of thinking worked out and then look in the Classroom Activities 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 experience 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'
  • Sequential reasoning: 'first it leaves the battery, then it...'
  • Just stating what 'should have happened
  • Relating ad hoc rules as 'just how it is'
  • 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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