Teaching children about magnets can be challenging. A magnetism unit needs to follow NGSS standards. Your unit on magnets is a fun and engaging way to integrate hands-on learning activities and provide students with opportunities to solve real-life problems. Learn how to teach magnetism to students while incorporating the Next Generation Science Standards.
Common misconceptions about magnets:
Before teaching about magnets, keep the following misconceptions in mind:
- All metals are attracted to magnets
- All silver-colored items are attracted to magnets
- Only magnets produce a magnetic field
Beginning with anchoring phenomena is how to teach magnetism to your elementary students. Below is a list of different phenomena that you may feel will engage your unique class of students.
- Magnetic slime
- Amazing Electromagnet
- Programmable Magnets
These phenomena will motivate students to learn more about how and why magnets can do what they do.
Literacy integration is an integral part of any science unit. This information will allow students to gain background knowledge on a topic while working on reading and writing skills to develop their ability to think critically.
When teaching about the concept of magnetism, it is also vital to incorporate the Crosscutting Concept (CCC) of Cause and Effect. This skill comes naturally to the magnetism unit to explain why certain materials are magnetic and others aren’t.
In addition to incorporating cause and effect, I have my students compare and contrast different magnets types. This allows them to
- Understand that different types of magnets exist – Permanent, temporary, and electromagnets.
- Solidify learning by analyzing the similarities and differences of the magnets
By including readings in your classroom, you can work on these critical reading skills. This also helps struggling learners or students with little knowledge of magnets learn more about them before they complete activities to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the concept of magnetism.
In addition to meeting the Next Generation Science Standards, many of our students coming into our classroom may not know the basics of magnetism. If students do not learn the basics, such as
- Magnetic poles
- Magnetic fields
- Magnetic domains
- Attraction and repulsion
They may find it difficult. Reviewing these fundamental skills through reading and incorporating magnets to allow students to see how they work and ask questions will ensure they have the knowledge they need to meet the standards. This usually won’t take very long either, especially if students have access to a few magnets.
Interested in using reading passages that include everything I just mentioned? Check them out here:
NGSS Standards Alignment
As more and more states move toward implementing NGSS, it is important to ensure that these skills are being introduced and reviewed in your classroom. The following standards are part of NGSS that incorporate magnetism.
- 3-PS2-3: Ask questions to determine cause and effect relationships of magnetic interactions between two objects not in contact with each other. This means that students should explain the force between two permanent magnets, the relationship between an electromagnet and paper clips, or the difference in force between one magnet versus two magnets.
Again, you can see the CCC and critical thinking skill of cause and effect is important in this unit.
- 3-PS2-4: Define a simple design problem that can be solved by applying scientific ideas about magnets. More on this later, this standard will allow students to apply their knowledge of how magnets work to solve real-life problems. This helps students see the relevance of learning about magnetism and use science to solve problems around them.
- MS-PS2-3: Ask questions about data to determine the factors that affect the strength of electrical and magnetic forces. Students can make an electromagnet and then create a data table that shows how the addition of turns of a wire on the nail affects the magnetic field’s strength. (More on this later)
- 3-5ETS1-2: Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the problem’s criteria and constraints. To meet NGSS, students will likely have to design and/or engineer a prototype. While students are doing this, they are also meeting this standard!
Application to Solve Real-life Problems
Here is a list of ideas that you can have students do to meet the goals of NGSS:
- Set up stations that have different types of magnets so that students can test and use them. This will help them start to understand how they work. Ask students to:
- demonstrate how magnets are attracted or repel one another,
- show the difference between the force of one magnet as opposed to two magnets
- test to see if a smaller magnet have more force than a larger magnet
- indicate which types of objects are attracted to magnets
- Set up an activity that provides materials for students to demonstrate how to see magnetic forces. Some materials you may need to complete this activity are magnets, iron filings, paper. Students could sprinkle iron filings onto a piece of paper that is placed on top of a magnet. This would show the magnetic field of the magnet.
- If you do not have access to iron filings, students can show how two or more magnets can push and pull against one another.
- Ask students to think of a problem that can be solved using magnets. These problems do not need to be huge “let’s solve world hunger” types of problems. Problems could be simple such as:
- How can we keep the cabinet door closed?
- How can we keep this bag of potato chips fresh?
- How can we keep the garbage bag from falling?
- How can we locate paper clips in a messy desk drawer?
- How can we lift a car from the junkyard?
If students cannot think of their own, you can give them a problem to solve or have them work in groups.
- Have students make an electromagnet out of a battery, battery holder wire, and nail. (If you do not have a battery holder, a rubber band can work to hold the wire onto both sides of the battery.) Students can work in groups to figure out how to create the electromagnet.