m spinning atoma spinning atomg spinning atomn spinning atome spinning atomt spinning atomi spinning atoms spinning atomm spinning atom

LESSON 1: What is magnetism?



1.  What is magnetism?

2.  What are vocabulary words associated with magnetism?

3.  What are properties of magnets?


Ask students what they know about magnets.  Create a KWL chart like the one below.  When finished, read students any number of books on magnets.  (See Overview).





They stick to refrigerators. Why do they stick to refrigerators?  
They stick to metals. What metals do they stick to?  
Sometimes they won't stick to each other. Why do some ends push away from each other?  
They come in all sizes and shapes. Why are the ends called poles?  
We use them to hold papers. How do opposite poles react to each other?  
They can hold a lot of stuff. How do the same poles react to each other?  
Some ends stick to each other. How do we use magnets in our homes?  
Some magnets have an N and an S on their ends. Are magnets used in industry?  
Some rocks are magnets. How does a compass use a magnet and work?  



1.  Ask students focus questions such as:

  a.  Do you know what magnetism is?

  b.  Why do you think some materials are magnetic while other materials aren't?

  c.  What makes iron a magnetic material?

Have students log on to either of the following websites to find out more about magnetism,  and why some materials are magnets.

 http://home.interserv.com/~skyblade/wim.htm  http://my.execpc.com/~rhoadley/magencyc.htm   http://web.uvic.ca/educ/lfrancis/web/what-magnetism 

After reading about magnetism, have them log on to the Brain Pop web site, to view a short video that shows what magnetism is:


After reading about magnetism, students should be able to state that magnetism is an invisible force that attracts certain materials.  They should know that the atoms in a magnetic material all line up in the same direction, so their pulling power has power!  The following example is taken from the first website.


Electrons are not lined up in the same direction.  No magnetic power.


Electrons all lined up in the same direction.  Magnetic power.

2.  Have students log on to http://ftschool.org/fourth/science/electric_magnet.html and http://web.uvic.ca/educ/lfrancis/web/glossary.html to fill in the following vocabulary database.


                            Click here for a blank student vocabulary database.



magnetic field The space around a magnet in which a magnetic force can be found.
repel To push away, as similar poles of two magnets push away from each other.
attract To pull toward one another, as opposite poles of two magnets pull toward one another.
pole The end of a magnet.
compass An instrument that uses a freely moving magnetic needle to indicate direction.
lodestone A form of the mineral magnetize that is naturally magnetic or has become magnetized.
magnet An object that attracts metals such as iron and steel.
atom The smallest part of an element .
magnetism An invisible force that can make objects move away, move together, or stay in the same place.
domain Cluster of atoms with its north poles pointing in the same direction.


3.  Distribute a pair of magnets to each student.  Give them time to play with the magnets.  Have them go around the room to discover what the magnets will stick to and what they won't stick to. (Be careful around computers and other delicate instruments!).  Let them identify the properties of magnets.  They can fill in the following property sheet:

(Click here for a printable version) (Click here for student samples)


Name: ________________________________ Date: ___________



Materials Needed

2 bar magnets
1 compass


Investigate your magnet. Try different things and write down five observations that you make.







Go To Table of Contents

Last Update: July 20, 1997

Copyright 1996, 1977, D.M.Candelora. All rights reserved. Reproduction for educational use is encouraged as long as this copyright notice is included.




1.  Have students write a list of the different uses magnets have in their homes.  When finished, have them log on to http://my.execpc.com/~rhoadley/magindex.htm and check their list against the list found on that website.  How many did they think of?

2.  Have students work with at least five to ten different shapes and kinds of magnets (bar, cylinder, rectangle, U, horseshoe, donut shaped, large, small, etc.)  Have them see how strong each magnet is by seeing how many paper clips each magnet can hold.  For a student version in scientific method click here.  For student samples, click here.  When completed, they are to graph their results by logging on to http://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/Graphing

The following is an example of a graph created by one student:

3.  Have students determine what materials a magnet will work through.  Have them experiment with magnets through sand, water, books, desks, and a piece of iron.   They will discover that the only thing that can block a magnet's power is the piece of iron.  Why?  Because the iron becomes attracted to the magnet and blocks the power.

4.  For younger students, a "Fishing Game" is fun.  Attach a small magnet to a long pole and let the children "fish" for magnetic objects.  Separate them into two piles- magnetic and nonmagnetic.

5.  For additional magnet activities, the following sites have numerous experiments:








What is magnetism?


What is a magnetic field?

light bulb animation


What is electricity?


What is an electromagnet?