The Electricity and Magnetism Connection

Lesson Plan

Grade Level:

Grades 3-5

State Standards:

Physical Sciences (Chemistry and Physics) Grades 3-5
Learning Standards 8, 9, 10

Essential Question:

Electricity is all about currents in wires. Magnetism is all about magnets. What is the connection between electricity and magnetism?

Lesson Question:

What did you observe that makes it clear that there is a connection between electrcity and magnetism?


Magnet image from Discovery Education

In this lesson, you will become real-world scientists. You will be asked to think and behave just as scientists do in the real-world. You will be asked to go through several activities online and in the school science lab to study the connection between magnetism and electricity.

You will begin by doing things just like a scientist such as studying a real-world phenomona and then testing your own theories. In reality, scientists conduct their research and then work with others to discuss and develop their own theories and then test them. Scientists in real-world settings reflect upon their work and discuss it in both large and small groups. In this way men and women clarify their thoughts and validate their research.

This lesson will ask you to behave and think like real-world scientists. It will begin by exploring magnets and their force fields. Then you will discuss some ways scientists conduct their research and some common misunderstandings that some students might have about science. Next you will explore electromagnets and how they work. Your lesson will culminate in a project that asks you to build an electromagnet strong enough to pick up as many paper clips as you can.

The group with the strongest electromagnet will receive a homework pass good for one evening of homework.


You will be asked to go through several investigations about magnets and electricity. At the end of your activities you must apply your knowledge and build an electromagnet.

Lesson Experiences:

Magnet Investigation

Predict and test materials that will or will not attract to a bar magnet.

Activity Type: (Conceptual Knowledge Building)
Students will observe phenomena that raise scientific questions from physical objects.

View the Discovery Education video clip called A First Look: Magnets
Please note: you must have a Discovery Education login to view the video.

Teacher Instructions:
  1. Before students view the program,
    • Set up a display of everyday items made of materials that a magnet will and will not attract.
    • Ask students to share what they know about magnets.
    • Once students have offered their responses, show them a variety of magnets (horseshoe, bar, disc, wand) and demonstrate how a magnet works, using each type with steel paper clips and plastic buttons.
    • Ask students to predict which of the items in your display will be attracted to the magnet and which will not. Place the items into two separate piles without testing student predictions.
    • Tell students to keep their predictions in mind while they watch the program.
  2. After students view the program,
    • have them take another look at the items categorized in Procedure 1.
    • Ask students whether they now think any items should be moved from one pile to another. Have them explain why?
    • Test each item, and then discuss the accuracy of student predictions.
  3. Next, have students make a chart or table with two columns and label the columns Attracts to Magnet and Does Not Attract to Magnet. Permit students to walk around the room and gather five small objects to bring back to their desks. Students test their five objects with their magnet and complete the chart.
  4. Students are then led into a discussion about how a compass needle is a small bar magnet that is placed on a point so that it can rotate easily. (this discussion leads students into the next lesson or activity)

Classroom Materials:



Electromagnetism Investigation


Students will be able to understand how magnets and electricity are related and how electricity can magnetize certain metals.


Students will be guided through several web 2.0 activities that demonstrate how electromagnets work and how they are used.


Student Computers


Students will be grouped in pairs of 2 depending on the availability of computers.


  1. Review:
    You learned that magnets have north and south poles. Like poles repel. Unlike poles attract. You also learned that earth has a magnetic field.
  2. Electromagnetic Crane
  3. What is an Electromagnet?
    You know what a magnet is, but what is an electromagnet?
    Look at the first part of the word - electro.
    • What do you think that might mean?

    An electromagnet works with electricity. They are temporary magnets that only work when electricity goes through the coil of wire.
    • When the power is on it is magnetized.
    • When the power is off it is not magnetized.

    The crane in this picture is an electromagnet.
    When you turn the power to the electromagnet on, what do you think will happen?

  4. What is the difference between a regular magnet and an electromagnet?
    The magnetic force in a magnet is always there. The magnetic force field of an electromagnet can be turned off and on by using a switch. When electricity is turned on, the magnetic force is on. When electricity is turned off, the magnetic force is turned off.
    Watch the movie below about electromagnets.

  5. How do they work?

  6. Magnetism and Electricity.
    One of the interesting things about magnetism is that it is closely realated to electricity. You know that you can make a magnet by using electricity, but did you know that you can make electricity with a magnet?
    If you move a magnet through a coil of wires´╗┐, it generates an electric charge in the wire. That is called a generator.
    Watch the following video to see how a simple generator is made.

  7. How are they used?
    Everytime you ring a doorbell or listen to music through speakers you use an electromagnet. Experiment with different electromagnets that you find in the kitchen by clicking here - Kitchen Magnets.

Culminating Activity:

As a culminationg activity, students will be asked to build an electromagnet. The group that constructs an electromagnet to pick up the most paperclips receives a homework pass.

You will also have to record your data using a data table. The data table should have the magnet numbers listed vertically with "winds," "style," "core material," and "average strength." The data table can be made any way you want. You must make predictions before constructing and testing the electromagnet.


On an exit slip, I would like you to answer the following question:


Once the exit slips are collected, I would like the class to discuss the essential question and to clarify any last minute misunderstanding that might have been missed during the investigations.



Attract to Magnet | Does Not Attract to Magnet