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Basics of Electricity: Completing the Circuit
A lesson plan brought to you by the Kansas Electric Cooperatives


Introduce students to the basics of electricity and electrical circuitry by learning and using proper "electrical" vocabulary, defining the parts of a simple electric circuit, and constructing models of electric circuits.
*For a complete vocabulary list, see "Additional Sources and Information" section.

In addition to basic classroom supplies, building an electrical circuit will require additional materials:
· D cell batteries,
· small light bulb, and
· bare copper wire.
*Most of these items should be available at electronic shops or a teacher supply store.

Warm-Up Activity:
Have the students’ free-write for 10 minutes as a warm-up activity.

· Present students with the writing prompt: How would your everyday lives be affected if there were no electricity?

· Encourage the students to write continuously for 10 minutes, quickly but without feeling rushed. Reassure them that they do not need to worry about checking spelling or grammar, or going back to cross something out. (Teaching note: For this lesson, the free-write activity will function effectively as a warm-up for the activity, while also implementing the element of cross-disciplinary learning: free-writing is a low-stakes writing activity meant to develop a student's fluency by reducing the anxiety of writing towards conventions).

· To help round up the class, notify the students when two minutes remain in the free-write.

· As time allows, ask the students to share the results of their free-write over electricity.

· Transition from the free-write to the discussion period.


  • Move from the warm-up to a review and discussion of appropriate vocabulary words.
  • Explain that since students now have a working knowledge of how important electricity is to daily activities and an understanding of electrical terms, they will be now be applying that knowledge to the creation of a simple electrical circuit.
  • Hold up the various materials for constructing an electrical circuit, and have students generate a discussion as to what the various materials might be used for in an electrical circuit.
  • Make sure the following ideas are discussed before moving on:
    1. The battery is the source of electric energy.
    2. The wire provides the unbroken pathway (circuit) for the electrons (energy) from the battery to travel down.
    3. The electrons in the copper wire conduct the electricity down the length of the wire.
    4. By placing the bulb in the path of the electron flow, this energy is converted into light energy.
  • Have students begin predicting various ways these materials could be arranged to form a simple electrical circuit and list these predictions on the board.
  • Talk about the principle of electric circuits and decide if the various predictions meet the criteria of creating a circuit.


  • Divide students into pairs and give each pair the materials needed to create a circuit.
  • Using a trial and error approach have students attempt to produce an electrical circuit.
  • Each attempted circuit needs to be recorded as a drawing by each student.
  • Continue the activity for 15-20 minutes or until students can complete the simple circuit mistake-free.
  • Teaching note: Early finishers may create a more advanced simple circuit with the addition of more light bulbs, etc.


  • After the activity continue with a whole class discussion of the parts of a circuit and the criteria necessary to create a circuit.
  • Have student volunteers record on the chalkboard various arrangements of circuits that made the bulb light.
  • Conclude the class discussion and activity session by having students trace with their finger the path of electricity in their circuits and answer the following questions:
    1. What are the three parts of a circuit? ANSWER: A source of electricity (battery), a light source (bulb), and a conductor (wire).
    2. What path did the electricity travel to make the bulb light? ANSWER: It must make a complete circle from the energy source (battery) to the bulb and back to the energy source.
    3. What happens if the path that the energy travels is broken? ANSWER: The bulb would not light.

Student Application Assessment:

  • Have students draw a diagram of a working simple circuit, labeling all parts and listing each part's function correctly.
  • Students can successfully determine the problem when looking at their drawings of failed circuits completed during the activity portion of the lesson.

Further the Activity:

  • Extend the activity by including the discussion the completion of switches in the electric circuit models.

Additional Cross-disciplinary Activity:

  • Broaden the activity to include Language Arts by creating a classroom bulletin board based on the original warm-up activity.Have students create a story or write a poem about what a day in their life would be like without electricity.Title the board"Watts Electricity Got To Do With It?"

Free Gifts for Teachers:

  • A limited number of "Get Charged!" Teacher kits are available at no charge for teachers participating in the Electric Safety Demonstration, part of the Kansas Largest Classroom program at the Kansas State Fair. The kit was created through a partnership of Touchstone Energy Cooperatives and Discovery Channel School, and is geared for grades 5-9.
  • The "Super Energy Saver" classroom CFL Charlie Kit is a fun way to get students involved in saving energy. The kit includes folders of educational information for students, a classroom poster, take home checklists to help students identify ways to make their homes more energy efficient, and a "Super Energy Saver" certificate signed by CFL Charlie.
  • To request the "Get Charged!" and/or "Super Energy Saver" kit(s), contact Shana Read, KEC, at (785) 478-4554 or sread@kec.org.

Additional Sources and Information:

  • Contact your local electric cooperative. Many of the Kansas electric cooperatives have table-top safety demonstrations that can be presented in the classroom. Others offer tours of local offices and/or power plants. To find a cooperative near you, go to www.kec.organd look under links. Or call (785) 478-4554.
  • For electrical safety information, visit www.safeelectricity.org.
  • Touchstone Energy is a national alliance of locally-owned electric cooperatives that do business with integrity, accountability, innovation, and commitment to community. For more information about Touchstone Energy, visit www.touchstoneenergy.coop.
  • Electric co-ops operate according to a set of seven cooperative principles, making co-ops a unique form of business that serves the consumers who own them. Learn more about electric cooperatives at www.nreca.coop.

· Vocabulary:
Introduce students to any/all words at teacher discretion.

· Circuit: A conductor, such as wire, through which electric current flows; also the path electric current takes from the power source to the device using the power and then back to the source.
· Volt: A unit of electric force that measures the pressure of electricity.
· Voltmeter: An instrument for measuring the force in volts of an electrical current.
· Current: A flow of electrically charged particles. The unit of measurement is the ampere.
· Dry cell: A sealed container that holds chemicals which are used for producing electricity.
· Ammeter: An instrument for measuring the flow of electrical current in amperes.
· Series circuit: A circuit in which the parts are connected end to end, positive pole to negative pole, so that only one path is provided for current flow.
· Resistance: Is a measure of the opposition to electrical flow in DC systems. Resistance is represented by the symbol R and measured in ohms Resistance is the voltage across an element divided by the current (R = V/I).
· Terminal: A connection point for electrical components or conductors.
· Parallel circuit: A circuit in which the circuit components are arranged in branches so that there is a separate path to each unit along which electrical current can flow.
· Conductor: A material that allows an electric current to pass through it. Also, the wire that carries electricity in an electric distribution or transmission system.
· Ampere: A measure of how much electricity is moving through a conductor. Amperes equal watts divided by volts; a 1,000 watt heater at 120 volts draws 8.33 amps. Term is commonly used to indicate the size of circuit breakers and fuses. Abbreviation acceptable on all references.
· Ohm: The amount of resistance overcome by one volt in causing one ampere to flow. The ohm measures resistance to current flow in electrical circuits.
· Watt: The standard unit of electric power, named for James Watt, a 19th-century Scottish engineer. A measure of the power that can be generated by an electric current; equal to 1/746 horsepower.
· Fuse: A protective device for electric circuits containing a wire designed to melt and open the circuit under abnormally high electric loads.
· Electrons: A tiny particle which rotates around the nucleus of an atom. It has a negative charge of electricity.
· Energy: The capacity for doing work; may be natural or manufactured. In an electrical context, the use of power, measured in kWh.
· Generator: A machine that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy.
· Battery: A direct-current power source consisting of two or more cells.

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