Forces and magnets

Magnet Magic

Supports National Curriculum, Key Stages 1 and 2, Units 1E and 6E (view Irish curriculum links)
Suitable for: Years 4, 5 and 6

The time for the session is about 1 hour (longer if items 12 and 15 are included). This can be varied by taking shorter paths through the material. Choices may depend on the apparatus available or the particular needs of the class.

Outline of content
Aims to:

  • Establish what the children already know, using an intriguing demonstration
  • Use a class experiment to find which materials are magnetic
  • Investigate bar magnets through class experiments to show repulsion as well as attraction
  • Discuss action at a distance, if appropriate compare with the force of gravity
  • Demonstrate that one end of a magnet always points North when freely suspended and that a compass is a suspended magnet
  • Use games to reinforce ideas about magnetic and non magnetic materials
  • Use a game to learn about computer memory
  • Demonstrate other magnetic effects which link with electric currents
  • Demonstrate a very simple motor to explain that a magnetic field together with an electric current can cause movement
  • Discuss up-to-date applications of motors by linking the children’s knowledge with their experience

Points to note:
Please read the notes about safety and agree the assessment with the teacher before the session!

Cross references:

  • The slides in the PowerPoint presentation (1.8 MB) are referenced in the table
  • As the presentation may be running throughout the session some simple slides provide a suitable background, alternatively switch to a black screen
  • Apparatus details are below the table and are linked to the relevant sections
  • Notes about safety are included with the actitivties
  • Vocabulary: The presentation uses expressions included in the KS1 and 2 strategies

Misconceptions to be corrected:

  • All metals are magnetic materials
  • Magnets only attract
  • Magnets only attract (and repel) through air
  • Gravitational forces and magnetic forces due to the Earth are confused
  • The physics that they learn is not relevant to their everyday lives

Feedback from the trials:
"During the trial visits teachers commented that the children enjoyed the practical exercises the whole group took part enthusiastically".