Electricity #19

(grades 8-12)
Soft-bound, 88 page book, 36 reproducible task cards, full teaching notes.

Book Cover: Enlarge

sample book cover

Sample Activity: View

Probe the nature of like and unlike charges. Improvise bulb holders, battery holders and switches to configure parallel and series circuits. Predict current flow using Ohm’s law. Construct galvanometers, variable resistors, fuses, electroscopes, wet cells, storage cells and ammeters. Split water and recombine the gases in a safe mini-explosion!

Download a preview of this book.

And click any tab below to learn MORE about this book.

Electricity E-Book

Downloadable PDF (8.0MB)

Save money and time by downloading this title and printing out only the pages you need.

Electricity Supplies

WE SUPPLY five hard-to-locate items: 5% HCl in a dropper bottle, six split-shot lead sinkers, one 2 1/2 inch galvanized nail, one 220 micro-Farad electrolytic capacitor, and two 100 ohm Resistor (1/2 watt). YOU SUPPLY everything else.


  • free activity
  • book content
  • get materials
  • teaching tips
  • objectives
  • standards

Table of Contents for #19 Electricity:

Preparation and Support

A TOPS Model for Effective Science Teaching • Getting Ready • Gathering Materials • Sequencing Task Cards • Gaining a Whole Perspective• Long Range Objectives • Review/Test Questions

Activities and Lesson Notes

  1. 1. Transferring Electrons
  2. 2. Like / Unlike Charges
  3. 3. Circuit Puzzles
  4. 4. Conductor or Insulator?
  5. 5. Redistributing Charge
  6. 6. Polarization
  7. 7. Dancing Circles
  8. 8. Build a Bulb Holder
  9. 9. Build a Cell Holder
  10. 10. Build a Switch
  11. 11. Ohm's Law (1)
  12. 12. Ohm's Law (2)
  13. 13. In Series
  14. 14. In Parallel
  15. 15. Series or Parallel?
  16. 16. Double-Throw Switch
  17. 17. Two-Way Switches
  18. 18. Switching Maze
  19. 19. Build a Galvanometer
  20. 20. Test Your Galvanometer
  21. 21. Which Path?
  22. 22. Variable Resistor
  23. 23. Adding Resistances
  24. 24. Tiny Fuses
  25. 25. Electroscope (1)
  26. 26. Electroscope (2)

  28. 27. Electrolysis (1)
  29. 28. Electrolysis (2)
  30. 29. Electrolysis (3)
  31. 30. Build a Wet Cell
  32. 31. Build a Storage Cell
  33. 32. Charge a Capacitor
  34. 33. Ammeter (1)
  35. 34. Ammeter (2)
  36. 35. Generators and Motors
  37. 36. Internal Resistance

Supplementary Pages

lettered millimeter scales • graph paper


Complete Master List for #19 Electricity:

Key: (1st/2nd/3rd) denote needed quantities: (1st) enough for 1 student doing all activities; (2nd) enough for 30 students working in self-paced pairs; (3rd) enough for 30 students working in pairs on the same lesson. Five triple starred items below may be purchased in #SK19: Advanced Electricity Starter Kit. Single starred* items may also be purchased below.

  1. * 1/1/1: spool thread
  2. 2/30/30: squares of 10x10 cm silk cloth
  3. * 1/5/5: rolls masking tape
  4. 1/15/15: pairs of scissors
  5. 2/30/30: styrofoam cups (blocks of polystyrene)
  6. * 3/30/30: size-D batteries
  7. * 10/100/100: meters bare copper wire, 24 gauge or thinner
  8. 1/6/6: pliers with wire cutter
  9. 10/120/130: pennies
  10. * 2/30/30: traditional flashlight bulbs

  11. * 2/30/30: straight plastic straws
  12. * 10/200/200: medium or heavy duty rubber bands
  13. * 1/1/1: box steel straight pins
  14. 1/5/15: tin cans
  15. *** 1/15/15: galvanized nails, about 2 1/2 inches
  16. * 1/2/2: rolls aluminum foil
  17. 1/3/6: paper punch tools
  18. * 5/120/120: clothespins
  19. * 1/4/4: boxes paper clips
  20. 1/15/15: metric rulers

  21. 1/15/15: plastic produce bags
  22. 1/4/8: meter sticks
  23. * 3/60/60: meters (or more) insulated wrapping wire
  24. * 2/30/30: baby food jars
  25. * 1/15/15: ceramic magnets
  26. * 1/1/1: box steel wool, fine-grade, unsoaped
  27. 2/30/30: index cards
  28. 1/1/1: box: source of corrugated cardboard
  29. ***0.1/2/2: liters 5% hydrochloric acid
  30. 1/15/15: 100 mL beakers (or baby food jars)

  31. * 1/10/15: small test tubes
  32. 1/1/1: box baking soda
  33. 1/5/15: books of matches
  34. 2/30/30: paper towels
  35. 1/5/15: plates or petri dishes (optional)
  36. 1/1/1: bottle 3% hydrogen peroxide dispensed in smaller dropping bottles
  37. *** 6/30/90: split-shot lead fishing sinkers
  38. 1/1/1: box table salt
  39. *** 1/5/15: capacitors rated 0.1 farad or greater
  40. * 0.1/2/2: cups oil based clay

  41. *** 2/10/30: 100 ohm resistors rated at 1/4 or 1/2 watt
  42. 1/5/15: commercial galvanometer or ammeter with milli-amp sensitivity, needed in 3 activities
  43. 1/1/1: bottle vinegar
  44. 1/5/15: washers

Convenient Shopping:

Aluminum Foil

regular strength, 20 square feet x 12 inches rolls

Buy aluminum foil here as a convenience item, or for less in many grocery stores.

Baby Food Jars - assorted

without lids

Each set includes 4 small, 4 medium and 4 large glass jars.


size-D, alkaline

These are basic workhorse brands, available everywhere.

Clay - modeling

oil-based, non-drying

Sold by the 100 gram stick, about 1/4 cup, in assorted colors (our choice). One stick serves a whole classroom for TOPS applications.


wooden, spring-action

These are handy lab items to keep in stock. We use them as bulb holders, tongs, clips, and more.

Flashlight Bulbs

4.5 volt, with collar

This traditional filament bulb shines reliably bright (won't blow out) with 3 size-D batteries, yet still glows visibly with just 1 battery. Used in #19 Electricity, #32 Electricity, and #91 Global TOPS.

Tips on shopping elsewhere: Select bulbs with protruding metal 'collars' to facilitate secure integration into clothespin bulb-holders. Use just one bulb brand and resistance rating so all bulbs shine with equal brightness when powered by equal voltage.

Magnet - ceramic

rectangle, 3/16 inch thick

Your basic refrigerator magnet, about the width and length of a large postage stamp, with N and S poles on each face and a hole in the middle. A useful and popular science supply used in may TOPS titles. Purchase at least 2 per student.

Paper Clips

size #1, steel, box of 100

Paper clips have 1001 uses in TOPS experiments, and science in general. Feel free to use paper clips you already have, but be aware that different brands come in different sizes and weights. In experiments where uniformity is important, don't mix brands.

Rubber Bands - assorted

10 grams each of thin, medium and thick

You get 30 grams of soft, strong, durable rubber bands: thin #16 (about 50), medium #32 (about 20), and heavy-duty #64 (about 10). These sizes are specifically selected to work in most TOPS experiments.

Steel Wool

fine grade, unsoaped

A handy lab supply, for studying electricity. Each pad is about the size of a classic Shredded Wheat biscuit. Used in #11 Oxidation and #32 Electricity.

Straight Pins

steel, one and 1/16 inch long

Used in many TOPS experiments. Sometimes required for their magnetic properties. Don't purchase aluminum straight pins by mistake.

Straws - straight

plastic, thin

Any length straw, between 0.20 and 0.25 inches in diameter is suitable. Grocery stores generally carry straws with flexible "elbows." You can use those if you cut off the bendable section before using.

Tape - masking

3/4 inch x 55 yd roll

A handy science supply used in most TOPS modules.

Test Tube - small disposable

6 mL capacity, 12 mm OD, 3 inch (75 mm) length

A lighter weight rimless Pyrex test tube made with thinner glass.

Test Tube - small reusable

9 mL capacity with 13 mm OD and 4 inch (100 mm) length

A tough Pyrex test tube made with rim and thicker glass. Has a white spot for labeling.


light duty, 25 yd spool

Just plain old thread. Used in many TOPS titles, especially in Pendulums #34.

Wire - 24 gauge copper

bare wire

This science lab staple is used in #19 Electricity, #20 Magnetism and #33 Magnetism.

Wire - 30 gauge copper

thin, bare wire

A specialty item used in #19 Electricity.

Wire - wrapping

100 feet, plastic insulated

Also called magnet wire or bell wire. This science-lab staple is used in #19 Electricity, #20 Magnetism, #33 Magnetism, and #91 Global TOPS.

Wrapping wire may be recycled from old motors or transformers. If insulated with paint rather than plastic tubing, end leads will need to be sandpapered clean, not stripped with pliers.

Teaching Tips for #19 Electricity:

We encourage improvisation - it's one of the main goals of our hands-on approach! You and your students might invent a simpler, sturdier or more accurate system; might ask a better question; might design a better extension. Hooray for ingenuity! When this occurs, we'd love to hear about it and share it with other educators. Please send ideas and photos to tops@canby.com.

Lesson by Lesson Objectives for #19 Electricity:

  1. Lesson 1: To understand electrostatic attraction between objects as a transfer of electrons.
  2. Lesson 2: To observe electrostatic repulsion and attraction between objects of like and unlike charge. To understand why electrons flow through a wire.
  3. Lesson 3: To discover, through trial and error, how to properly wire a circuit. To identify the important contact points on a dry cell and light bulb.
  4. Lesson 4: To classify materials as conductors or insulators. To understand how these are used in the design of a light bulb.
  5. Lesson 5: To induce a redistribution of charge in a neutral conductor. To charge and discharge by contact.
  6. Lesson 6: To observe and explain induced polarization in a stream of water and in solid insulators.
  7. Lesson 7: To polarize insulating and conducting circle punches in an electric field. To compare their charging and discharging characteristics.
  8. Lesson 8: To construct a bulb holder to use in all circuit-building activities.
  9. Lesson 9: To construct a cell holder to use in all circuit-building activities.
  10. Lesson 10: To construct a switch to use in all circuit-building activities. To build a simple circuit.
  11. Lesson 11: To develop a kinesthetic sense of current, voltage and resistance. To understand how these variables are interrelated by Ohm's law.
  12. Lesson 12: To develop a kinesthetic sense of current, voltage and resistance. To practice applying Ohm's law.
  13. Lesson 13: To diagram and build circuits in series. To explain current variations in terms of Ohm's law.
  14. Lesson 14: To diagram and build a parallel circuit. To understand the advantage of parallel wiring.
  15. Lesson 15: To discover that voltages add as cells are connected in series.
  16. Lesson 16: To build a double-throw switch that alternates current through two separate bulbs.
  17. Lesson 17: To build a set of two-way switches that independently operate a bulb.
  18. Lesson 18: To trace the flow of electricity through a complex maze of switches
  19. Lesson 19: To construct a sensitive galvanometer. To observe that moving electrons create an associated magnetic field.
  20. Lesson 20: To observe that galvanometers are sensitive to the direction that electrons flow through a wire. To use this property to determine the relative strengths of two dry cells.
  21. Lesson 21: To observe how current flows through wire in inverse proportion to its resistance, in accordance with Ohm's law.
  22. Lesson 22: To control currents in a circuit by operating a variable resistor. To understand that resistance increases as a wire's length increases.
  23. Lesson 23: To understand that resistance increases as a wire's diameter decreases. To add resistances in series and in parallel, then observe the combined effect.
  24. Lesson 24: To understand how fuses work to protect circuits from shorts and overloads.
  25. Lesson 25: To build an electroscope and learn to charge it. To explore various ways to discharge it.
  26. Lesson 26: To learn to identify the charge on an electroscope. To charge it by contact and by induction.
  27. Lesson 27: To observe how hydrogen ions accept electrons to form hydrogen gas, and chlorine ions release electrons to form chlorine gas.
  28. Lesson 28: To separate a test tube of water into oxygen and hydrogen gas.
  29. Lesson 29: To study how current separates water into its component gases. To release stored electrical energy by a chemical reaction.
  30. Lesson 30: To build a cell that converts chemical energy into electrical energy. To understand this process as the reverse of electrolysis.
  31. Lesson 31: To build a working model of a storage cell. To understand why charging and discharging the cell reverses current through the circuit.
  32. Lesson 32: To charge and discharge a capacitor. To compare its operation to a storage cell.
  33. Lesson 33: To quantitatively correlate the deflection of an improvised galvanometer to changes in current.
  34. Lesson 34: To calibrate an ammeter in mill-amps. To use it in measuring current.
  35. Lesson 35: To model a generator and electric motor. To understand the distinction between AC and DC.
  36. Lesson 36: To graph a cell's current output as a function of its internal resistance. To verify Ohm's law.

National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996) for #19 Electricity:

TEACHING Standards

These 36 task cards promote excellence in science teaching by these NSES criteria:
Teachers of science...
A: ...plan an inquiry-based science program. (p. 30)
B: ...guide and facilitate learning. (p. 32)
C: ...engage in ongoing assessment of their teaching and of student learning. (p. 37)
D: ...design and manage learning environments that provide students with the time, space, and resources needed for learning science. (p. 43)

CONTENT Standards

These 36 task cards contain fundamental content as defined by these NSES guidelines (p. 109).
• Represent a central event or phenomenon in the natural world.
• Represent a central scientific idea and organizing principle.
• Have rich explanatory power.
• Guide fruitful investigations.
• Apply to situations and contexts common to everyday experiences.
• Can be linked to meaningful learning experiences.
• Are developmentally appropriate for students at the grade level specified.

Unifying Concepts and Processes

NSES Framework: Systems, order, and organization • Evidence, models and explanation • Constancy, change, and measurement • Form and function
Core Concepts/Processes: Current (measured in amperes) is proportional to voltage (measured in volts) and inversely proportional to resistance (measured in ohms). • Generators convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. Motors do the reverse.

Science as Inquiry (content standard A)

NSES Framework: Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations. • Design and conduct a scientific investigation. • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data. • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. • Think critically and logically to connect evidence and explanations. • Communicate scientific procedures and explanations. • Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry.
Core Inquiries: Configure series and parallel circuits. Predict the flow of current using Ohm's law.

Physical Science (content standard B)

NSES Framework:Electricity • Properties and changes of properties in matter • Motions and forces • Conservation of energy • Interactions of energy and matter
Core Content:Static electricity • Circuits • Current • Voltage • Resistance • Ohm's law • Storage cells • Ammeters • Capacitors • Generators • Motors

Science and Technology (content standard E)

NSES Framework: Abilities of technological design • Understanding about science and technology Core Content: Build galvanometers, variable resistors, fuses, electroscopes, wet cells, and storage cells.

History and Nature of Science (content standard G)

NSES Framework: Science as a human endeavor • History of science Core Content: Hans Christian Orsted (1777-1851) discovers electromagnetism.