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What is Electricity?: Lesson Plan for High School Students

Cloud to Ground Lightning

Thunderstorm 23.06.2005 Bournemouth Category:Cloud-to-ground lightning.

Thunderstorm 23.06.2005 Bournemouth Category:Cloud-to-ground lightning.

Electricity is a force of nature seen regularly in electrical storms around the globe. It is a force humans have learned to harness for their own purposes. Electricity is so intertwined with the daily lives of humans that huge shortages seem to bring society to a standstill. Understanding the power we humans harness is necessary for the wise use and creation of this valuable resource. Many powerplants around the globe produce this resource for the massive consumption now experienced but often at great cost to the environment. Hopefully, a number of the young minds now exploring the basics of electricity will be the ones to develop technology that provides a clean, safe form of this resource humans value and consume so much.

Title: What is Electricity?

Overview: Electricity is used everywhere in our daily lives. It is used to heat our hot water, cook our food and keep that same food from spoiling. We use it at school and home in the form of lighting so that we may learn and enjoy leisure activities such as watching TV and playing video games. Because the use of electricity is so intertwined with our daily lives, it is important to understand the process that makes it possible.

Grade Level: 9-10

Suggested Time: two class periods


  • circuit board if available
  • three lamps
  • two D batteries
  • knife switch
  • 5 alligator clip connectors
  • Fill-in blanks worksheet for Video 1
  • Lab Worksheet
  • Circuit Drawing Activity


  1. Students will be able to name the name parts of an atom.
  2. Students will be able to describe the critical part of an atom responsible for electricity.
  3. Students will be able to define electricity.
  4. Students will be able to design a simple circuit making one light bulb light.
  5. Students will be able to define current electricity.
  6. Students will be able to identify the main parts of a simple circuit.
  7. Students will be able to draw and interpret simple circuit diagrams.

On-line Resources:

  1. Video for the structure of an atom and its relationship to electricity.
  2. Electrical Symbols

Order of Activities:

  1. Watch the video #1 of on-line resources and then have students fill-out the accompanying worksheet on the structure of the atom and its relationship to electricity.
  2. Present the students with the lab worksheet and lab materials. They should work in pairs for this exercise. Instruct them to use the materials provided to make one bulb light up.
  3. In their group, they will complete the rest of the lab including drawing the 'circuit' which resulted in the lit bulb. They will also come up with a definition of electricity and simple circuit.
  4. Class notes will be taken which provide a classical definition of electricity, current and circuit. The note will also outline the basic parts of a circuit and the standard method of drawing circuits.
  5. An activity will be completed allowing students to practice the skill of drawing simple circuits from given descriptions.
  6. Quiz later in the week.

Activities to be evaluated:

  1. Lab worksheet.
  2. Circuit worksheet.
  3. Quiz.
Modelisation of an atom of helium

Modelisation of an atom of helium

Structure of the Atom and its Relationship to Electricity

This worksheet is intended to be a fill-in-the blanks. The underlined words can be left blank to be filled in while the students watch the video listed in on-line resources #1.

Draw a Bohr-Rutherford Model of a Helium Atom

  1. All matter around us contains electricity in the form of positive and negative charges.
  2. All matter is made up of tiny particles called atoms.
  3. At the centre of each atom is a nucleus with two kinds of particles; the positively charged protons and the neutrally charged neutrons. Protons do not move from the nucleus when an atom becomes charged.
  4. A number of negatively charged particles called electrons surround the nucleus. An electron has the same amount of charge as a proton, but the kind of charge is different. When atoms become charged, only the electrons move from atom to atom.
  5. The Law of Electric Charges states: Like charges repel each other while unlike charges attract each other.
  6. In some elements such as sodium, the protons of the nucleus have a weaker attraction for its electrons than in other kinds of atoms, and in other elements such as chlorine, the electrons are strongly attracted to nucleus' protons.
  7. In each atom, the number of electrons surrounding the nucleus equals the number of protons in the nucleus. A single atom is always electrically neutral.
  8. If an atom gains an extra electron, the net charge on the atom is negative, and it is called a negative ion. If an atom loses an electron, the net charge on the atom is positive and it is called a positive ion.

Lab Worksheet for Investigating the Electric Circuit

Problem: To design an electric circuit that will light up one lamp.


Diagram of our circuit.

Conclusion: Describe what was necessary in your design to get the lamp to work.


Our definition of electricity:

Our definition of electric current:

Our definition of an electric circuit:

The four main circuit symbols.

The four main circuit symbols.

Class Note for Electricity

  • Electricity is any phenomenon associated with stationary or moving electrons, ions, or other charged particles.
  • The movement or flow of electric charges from one place to another is called an electric current.
  • An electric current carries energy from the source of electrons (battery or solar cell) to an electrical device (a load) along a definite path or circuit.
  • There are four main parts of an electric circuit:
  1. Conducting wires usually copper that carry the charge throughout the circuit.
  2. Source of electrons such as batteries or a solar cell.
  3. Load such as a lamp that converts the energy from the electrons to a useful form such as light.
  4. Switch that controls the flow of the electrons. A closed switch allows the flow of electrons through the entire circuit meaning the load or loads receive the energy from the electrons. An open switch creates an air gap across which the electrons cannot flow meaning the load or loads do not receive the energy from the electrons and they do not work.
  • An electric circuit must travel in a circular pattern. It begins at the negative terminal of the source and ends at the positive terminal of the source.
  • Complete the following table using the on-line resource #2 to fill in the following chart of electrical symbols.

Electrical Symbols

Part of CircuitSymbolWhat is it?

Conducting Wire



Joined wires














Practice circuit diagrams:

Draw the following circuit diagram using the proper symbols:

  1. one cell, one light bulb and a closed switch. Please label the main parts of this circuit.
Circuit diagram labelling symbols.

Circuit diagram labelling symbols.

2. A two-cell battery, with two lights, a motor and an open switch.

Circuit diagram labelling symbols.

Circuit diagram labelling symbols.

Circuit Drawing Worksheet

  1. Show one cell connected to 2 light bulbs, controlled by an open switch.

2. Show a 3 cell battery connected to 3 light bulbs and a closed switch.

3. Show a 5 cell battery and two resistors with an open switch.

Electricity Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Provides the flow of electrons.
    • cell
    • load
    • conducting wires
    • switch
  2. Controls the electron flow in a circuit.
    • cell
    • load
    • conducting wires
    • switch
  3. The path along which electrons flow
    • current
    • circuit
    • electricity
  4. The movement of electrons through a circuit.
    • current
    • circuit
    • electricity
  5. The energy of movement
    • light energy
    • heat energy
    • kinetic energy
  6. Useful energy produced by a lamp.
    • light energy
    • heat energy
    • kinetic energy
  7. Negatively charged particles that spin around the nucleus of an atom.
    • protons
    • neutrons
    • electrons
  8. Particles in the nucleus which have no charge.
    • protons
    • neutrons
    • electrons
  9. Positively charged particles in the nucleus
    • protons
    • neutrons
    • electrons
  10. The smallest unit of an element.
    • quarks
    • electrons
    • atoms
  11. The device that converts energy from the electrons into a useful form.
    • cell
    • load
    • conducting wires
    • switch
  12. Any phenomenon associated with positive and negative particles.
    • current
    • circuit
    • electricity
  13. A type of load
    • solar cell
    • battery
    • motor

Answer Key

  1. cell
  2. switch
  3. circuit
  4. current
  5. kinetic energy
  6. light energy
  7. electrons
  8. neutrons
  9. protons
  10. quarks
  11. load
  12. current
  13. motor

Make your own circuit board to Demonstrate Electrical Circuits for your class!


Anu on October 12, 2019:


Teresa Coppens (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 28, 2012:

Thanks so much Donna. This was my passion when I taught science full time. Lab work always brought so much relevance to the students.

Donna Cosmato from USA on May 28, 2012:

Excellent and thorough lesson plan! This would be a great resource for any time-starved teacher as it can be used as is or modified to suit any classroom environment. Kudos on a wonderful job - voted up.

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