The Learning Cycle as an Instructional Theory or Model


Book cover

The learning cycle was originated by Robert Karplus and used in the Science Curriculum Improvement Study (SCIS). This approach has a widespread applicability and has been used as an instructional model in science, mathematics, language arts, social studies, and other content areas. While it is a fairly general teaching model it is more focused as described by each step of the learning cycle.

After the Soviet Union launch of the Sputnik satellite, scientists in the United States conclude the quality of science instruction in the United States needs to be improved, Robert Karplus, is among them. He believes to do so, we must better understand the process of how children and adolescents learn and use that knowledge to design and implement a science curriculum to raise the level of science achievement in the United States.

His research starts by investigating learning theories and selects a constructivist learning theory to create the learning cycle as an instructional model or syntax.

A constructivist learning theory claims each learner constructs information (concepts) by exploring their environment and comparing a present experience to their current understandings. If the present experience do not meet their expectations, they become disequilibrated and seek explanations to accommodate and return to equilibrium, and become equilibrated, learning procedure or cycle.

In the learning cycle he matches three instructional steps (exploration, invention, and discovery) to a constructivist learning theory as noted in the chart.

Learning Cycle Learning Theory
  • Assimilation
  • Disequilibration
  • Accommodation
  • Accommodation
    • Communicate Use of vocabulary
    • Explain how information is organized and structured
    • Predict how information can be taken to its limits through application, analysis, synthesis.
  • Interactions may lead to disequilibration, accommodation, and further structure changes, which can cycle back to additional explorations or lead to the next phase - Discovery.
  • Includes all of the above. Only the connections to the organization and structure on understanding is strong with the use and expansion of the concept by combining other concepts to create generalizations or use in new different areas.


The Learning Cycle is an instructional model to guide instructional decisions to facilitate learning. Decisions on what concepts to explore and how to begin to access the learner's personal understandings, rather than someone else’s idea of what they think they know or don't know, so they will be open to explore their understanding in relationship to a new experience. An experience teachers organize to encourage students to explore their personal ideas, discover the limits of their understanding, and possibly become disequilibrated. As they do, they discover the quality of their ideas. Sometimes making minor adjustments and other times discarding their ideas and replacing them with better ways to understand the world and accommodate.

Teachers use many ideas to plan and implement learning. The learning cycle is a framework that is fairly easy to relate many considerations to meet the needs of diverse learners. The following examples are introduced below and discussed in detail elsewhere.

While the above information provides examples of what is brought to planning and implementing of a learning cycle it is also a framework for teacher-educators to plan a sequence to facilitate learning in the three phase learning cycle: exploration, invention, and discovery. Each phase includes focused steps to move learners through a constructivist learning process with each complete cycle leading to another cycle for deeper and more expansive learning in a continuous process suggesting learning is infinite.

Over the years many people have used the learning cycle and adapted it by changing the names of the third phase, and adding additional phases. The diagram below shows the cycle with an exploration and invention phase and four of the more common names of the third phase: discovery, expansion, application, and extension.

Learning cycle diagram

See a comparison of Karplus learning cycle to three models (4E Learning Cycle, 5 E Learning Cycle & Common Knowledge Construction Model) along with the relationship of each phase to a constructivist learning theory and instructional purposes and variables that effect learning.


The exploration stage is where students' attention is focused on what is to be learned. They begin to explore materials or ideas to begin to relate their memories to the present experiences.

Exploration presents conditions that encourage students to use their current accurate or inaccurate understandings (concepts or misconceptions) previously conceptualized. Students explore their past understanding and connect them to their current explorations (assimilation). As the student interprets the present experiences with their current understanding they may experience a discrepancy between their past experiences and the information they are currently exploring (disequilibration). This state of confusion, disequilibration, motivates them to manipulate the materials and/or ideas to create a new schema, (accommodation) for understanding and returning the student to a state of equilibration. What students learn , or the concept conceptualized can be different for each student. Differences which are personal and can be classified in a number of ways: as knowledge: subject matter knowledge, process knowledge, Skills, attitudes or dispositions about the subject; their self; another person; society; or culture, and concepts related to the perspective of the subject, or any combination of these. Exploration must be personalized to meet the diverse needs of all learners.


In the invention stage, the teacher begins by inviting the student to share their experiences during their explorations. These experiences may be a review of their previous understandings, confusion or questioning about their understandings, or newly constructed understandings sparked by the exploration.

In invention, the teacher invites students to share data collected in a manner that represents all the ideas of all the students. As students share their exploration experiences, they communicate their personal interpretations of their exploration. This communication is presented in a variety of ways (oral, written in words or visual representation, acted out, sung, or any combination) to communicate student's ideas for each concept and desired outcome. The use of the term, invention, is another way of stating the students are personally inventing concepts and ideas through the sharing of their collective explorations to refine their understandings by connecting their experiences and understandings with other persons’ experiences and understandings. The teacher asks probing questions to facilitate this exchange of information, introduces vocabulary as necessary, and guides thinking by reluctantly adding hints and additional information for students to achieve successful outcomes.

Students are encouraged by the teacher to organize the data and to invent methods for expressing concluding statements or a visualization in their personal ways of understanding. The author defines visualizations as a picture, diagram chart, or graph that enables the learner to explain their interpretation of their explorations and inventions. The process of communicating student’s personal cognitive ideas are crucial at this particular stage. Each student must personally be able to recognize an interpretation for the data examined, to organize a logical presentation of evidence that lends itself to be understood by others, and to communicate both positive social and affective information about their learnings and the processes in creating their understandings.


In the discovery stage, the teacher and / or students implement an activity to extend or apply the understanding from the previous phases.

In the discovery, students use the ideas invented and extend or apply their personal understanding with other ideas or in different situations. The extension of understanding by combining or joining concepts with concepts makes more complex understandings (generalizations). The discovery phase is the last phase of the learning cycle; however, it is also the first phase of the next learning cycle. It is in this phase that the next exploration phase may be initiated and many times will be recognized as exploration.

Using the learning cycle as an instructional process requires the educator to be cognizant of the interplay between the instructional process, a learning theory, and each students’ personal conceptualization of concepts.


Assessment is the collection of data. It is the measurement activities educators use to attempt to make valid inferences about students' knowledge, process skills, and dispositions; as well as using those measurements and inferences to make current and future curricular and instructional decisions that are developmentally and academically appropriate. It is helpful to think of assessment as diagnostic, formative, summative, and generative.

Assessment process in the learning cycle should be on-going by both the teacher and student to check what each know and how well they know it through the entire cycle and not in just one phase or isolated parts of a phase. However, while assessment is continuous it can be strengthened by thinking of it as diagnostic, formative, summative, and generative.

Exploration assessment mostly requires initial checks of what students know (diagnosis) and how well they know it. The teacher helps students focus and probe their personal information related to the task or topic. Assess what is known about the concepts in general and supporting information needed to construct acceptable outcomes. Challenging their understanding for the supporting information (facts, concepts, generalizations) necessary and sufficient and how information relates for conceptualization of concepts or generalizations.

Invention assessment mostly requires ongoing checks (formative) on how students are constructing their understanding of the topic and related concepts and generalizations. At the end of the invention, assessment requires probes to check students understanding as it relates to the outcomes and the expected level of achievement (summative). After learning is summarized successfully, assessment seeks to determine how students can wonder, extend, or generalize the newly conceptualized concepts (generalization).

Discovery continues with generalizations made at the end of invention only with more opportunities to generalize the concept deeper and in new ways to solve problems or answer questions with opportunities to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the concept (generative).

Assessment includes:


Concepts - Are the major ideas about a particular phenomenon people abstract from specific experiences. Information facts, concepts, and generalizations that are learned, which are often facilitated by teachers (taught).

Concepts, major ideas to be conceptualized, are facilitated by educators when: (1) concepts are presented in a developmentally appropriate manner, (2) communicated with a concise statement which accurately represents each concept explored, and (3) presented with all the necessary and sufficient information needed for the students to construct the concept.

Teachers should remember concepts are ideas about a particular phenomenon that students construct during a learning experience. A concept, then, is what the students will have in their heads when they walk away from a learning experience.

Concepts can be classified in a number of areas. Areas most notably identified in national and state standards written by subject specific learned societies (mathematics, science, social science, language arts, health, ...) and usually identified in curriculum plans.

Possible Concept Categories:

More on subject and discipline content

Planning ideas

Planning and teaching process includes:

More on planning ...

Positive, Neutral, & Negative teacher and student actions in a Learning Cycle Lesson

Positive, neutral, and negative teacher and student actions in a lesson are categorized as they relate to the construction of specific information intended in a lesson. Intended information can be from any category and described as concepts, processes, skills, and dispositions or attitudes. Therefore, actions not directly specified to be learned in a lesson would be noted as neutral.

Examples for a lesson in a subject area include:



Positive Teacher actions: Neutral Teacher Actions: Negative Teacher actions:
  • Focuses students attention
    • Uses manipulatives
    • "Move the red block over by the yellow block."
    • "What would the design look like if you rotated that block 90 degrees?"
  • Asks questions
    • "What do you think of Marie’s ideas?"
    • "What would happen if you tried five?"
  • Makes statements
    • "Try the same problem with dinosaurs."
    • "Turn the battery upside down."
    • "Show me what you have done."
    • "Explain what you are doing."
    • "Talk to me."
  • Monitors students’ progress
    • Cruises the room (actively moves about the room looking for "the action").
    • Listens to students
  • Facilitates students' learning
    • Encourages student manipulation of materials and ideas
    • "Mary use these."
      "Can you show me with the bears?"
  • Encourages student communication about the manipulation of materials, discussion of concepts, problems, processes, or models
    • "Alex, show Jan how you worked your problem."
      "Kim, use Chris’s dinosaurs and solve your problem."
      "The turtle group share your solution with the tiger group".
  • Asks questions to focus student learning
    • "What did you do?"
    • "Why did you move the red cube here?"
    • "Why did you do that?"
    • "What do you know?"
    • "What would you like to know?"
  • Ask questions to facilitate the students collection of data as supporting information
    • "How many are in the circle?"
      "How many more do you have than Chris?"
  • Ask questions to encourage higher order thinking skills
    • "How is the way you worked the problem different than the way Kim did?"
      "Which way do you like best? Why?"
  • Use wait-time (three to five seconds) and halt time (10 + seconds).
    • "Deedra, what do you think?" ...
  • Motivational statements
    • "Today we are going to play the cave game."
    • "You can do this."
  • Directions
    • "Each group should have five red squares and three bears."
    • "I want the red group over at the circular table."
    • "Put three bears in the red circle and two bears in the yellow circle."
  • Initial demonstrations on how to manipulate, NOT how to get answer.
  • Keep activity moving in a direction to achieve productive learning in a positive community.
  • Tells students the "correct answer"
    • "No, the answer is five."
  • Explains the concept
    • "You move this group over here and that’s addition."
    • "When you take this part from this group you subtract."
    • "When you mix these two chemicals they should turn yellow."
  • Tells the concept
    • "Today we are going to see what addition is."
    • "You add all the problems on page 70 and subtract all the problems on page 71."
  • Tells the conclusion
    • "You should see that the amount in both containers is the same volume."
      "You should all have the minute hand back at the 12."
  • Introduces the concept with numerals, number statements, equations, or algorithms
    • "Everyone write the number four."
    • "Put a plus sign beside the three."
  • Solves the problem
    • "Three take away two is one."
    • "Five times five is twenty-five."
  • Insists on one answer or only one method for solving problems "You have to put the big number on the top."
    • "You can’t subtract five from three."
  • Tells students to do their own work
    • "Kim keep your eyes on your own paper."
    • "Chris keep your hands to your self."
  • Tells student they are wrong
    • "No, your answer is wrong."
    • "What’s the matter with you we just did these before recess."
  • Leads students step by step
    • "Put the four here, then put the three below it, and draw a line, now use the counters to count from three to seven, and write the seven below the line."
Positive Student actions: Neutral Student Actions: Negative Student actions:
  • Manipulates objects
  • Records data
    • Mental memories
    • Pictures, sketches
    • Number sentences
    • Charts, graphs, equations
    • Diagrams, outlines
    • Maps
  • Asks questions
    • "What if I do this?"
    • "Can we try this?"
  • Makes predictions
    • "What will happen if we ..."
    • "I think it will be the same if we use shells."
    • "I think it will be the same no matter what we use."
  • Tests predictions
  • Generates alternatives
    • "Five grouped with three is the same as four grouped with four."
  • Open-minded
    • "Lets try it."
    • "I don’t think so, but try it."
  • Questions
    • "What do we do?"
    • "Like this?"
    • "Should we ..."
  • Statements that have neither a positive or negative effect
    • "It’s green."
    • "Chris has the purple cow."
  • Tells answers
    • "Psst! Lin, the answer is five."
    • "Move that over there and you have it."
  • Does not manipulate objects
  • Manipulates objects without direction
  • Sits and watches the teacher do problems
  • Work individually with little student interaction
  • Stop after one solution


Positive Teacher actions: Neutral Teacher Actions: Negative Teacher actions:
  • Tell. Share data with a group.
    • "What data did you collect?"
    • "How did you do the problem?"
    • "What evidence do you have?"
  • Ask. Demonstrate what you discovered during your exploration.
    • "Maria, use the rods to show what you mean."
    • "Alex’s group, show us what you did."
  • Ask. How can we organize a group or groups data?
    • "All the students that have five stand in line here."
    • "Everyone write their data on the board."
  • Tell. Draw a picture, diagram, chart, graph to represent the data and share it with a group then class.
    • "Group one, draw your picture on the board."
    • "Jo, walk around with your picture so all can see it."
  • Teacher provides vocabulary for concepts or processes.
    • "A word to describe what we have learned is ..." (Writes the word on the overhead)
    • The relationship you are describing is density.
  • Actively solicit and use students’ ideas.
    • "Jan says that..."
    • "Let's see what happens if we use Brent’s idea, then Marty’s, and go from there."
  • Works to ensure students understand the concept and can communicate their understandings in accurate ways.
  • Relates concepts, processes, and models to students’ experiences.
    • "How many of you go to the store?"
    • "How can you use these ideas to make change?"
  • Seeks alternative solutions and explanations from students.
    • "Who can do it another way?"
    • "Mark thought of this way. Will it work?"
  • Encourages students to express attitudes
    • "What do you feel about that?"
    • "Which way do you like best?"
  • Monitors the discussion.
  • Uses wait-time and halt-time.
  • Has students express themselves in their own words.
  • Has students use concepts, vocabulary, processes or algorithms in different situations.
    • "Shana say that again, only use the word that we have on the board."
    • "Who can use the words on the board to describe what we have done today."
  • Extends the concept.
    • "What other problems can we solve the same way?"
    • "How else can we use this idea?"
  • Make predictions
  • Make and use models.
  • Accepts all student ideas.
  • Receptive to student's needs with suggestions, hints, what if ideas, asking others how to help and resorting to giving or telling solutions only in extreme situations.
  • Accepts explanation without reason
  • Accepts explanation without relating it to student collected data
  • Does not relate supporting information to concept in mind
  • Does not ask student for explanations
  • Introduces unrelated concepts or skills
  • Does not listen to alternative strategies
  • Provides definitive answers
  • Lectures before students experience all necessary and sufficient supporting information to conceptualize the concepts.
  • Leads student step by step to a solution
  • Explains how to work a problem without sufficient use of exploration and invention
  • Provides an algorithm or memorized answer without student understanding
  • Quiz or tests only for algorithm, vocabulary, and/or facts
  • Fails to have students use new vocabulary or state concepts, process, or models in their own words.
Positive Student actions: Neutral Student Actions: Negative Student actions:
  • Explain the exploration data collected
    • "We took four cows and put them here and then took two dogs and ....
  • Ask, questions about the data
    • "How did you get four?"
    • "Why did you do that?"
  • Express attitudes.
    • "I like the way Tina’s group did theirs."
    • "Yes!"
  • Use a process skill to organize information.
    • Classification, organize
    • Graph, chart
    • Create a model
    • Outline
  • Offer suggestions "Why don’t you ..."
  • Use newly invented vocabulary to describe the exploration, invention, application, or discovery.
  • Demonstrate how they obtained data
  • Demonstrate process or algorithm
  • Extend the concept
  • Suggest the use of media to represent information
Use their learning or their group’s learning and set goals. Memorize facts, vocabulary, or algorithm without understanding


Positive Teacher actions: Neutral Teacher Actions: Negative Teacher actions:
Encourages students to:
  • Explore with the invented concept, process, or model in a different setting or situation.
  • Solve different problems with the invented process, or model.
  • Use the concept, process, or model to increase its complexity.
  • Use the concept, process, or model to generate new concepts, processes, or models.
  • Reviews the previous days concepts, processes, or model.
  • Tests the previous days concepts, processes, or model.
  • Does not refer or build on the previous days work.
  • Moves on to another unrelated topic in which the vocabulary, concepts, processes, or model can not likely be used or have an effect.
  • Moves to another topic in which using the previous days vocabulary, concept, process, or model would have a negative effect if the students tried to transfer it.
Positive Student actions: Neutral Student Actions: Negative Student actions:
  • Explores with a previously invented concept, process, or model in a different setting or situation.
  • Solves different problems using a previously invented process, or model.
  • Uses a previously invented concept, process, or model and increases its complexity.
  • Use a previously invented concept, process, or model and generates new concepts, processes, or models.
Use their learning or their group’s learning and set goals.
  • Do not use the vocabulary, concept, process, or model outside of school or in school.



Three Learning Cycles & Common Knowledge Construction Model
Related to learning theory, instructional purposes, and each other

Relationship to Learning Theory

see also Learning theory Model and Variables that effect learning
Karplus and Their Learning Cycle

Explore, Invent, & Discover
4E Learning Cycle

Explore, Explain, Expand, & Evaluate
5 E Learning Cycle

Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate/ extend, & Evaluate
Common Knowledge Construction Model

Explore, Categorize, Construct, Negotiate, Translate, Extend, Reflect, & Assess
Instructional Purpose
Students & teachers
  • Use their current intuitive, procedural, or logical knowledge to make meaning.
  • Communicate their understandings and questions to themselves and in small groups
  • Devise and conduct tests on their different ideas, and may or may not use the results to resolve any conflict they may or may not have.
  • If the process stops or there is no change, then students assimilate the information.
  • If a discrepancy is found between what the student anticipated and what was observed, then students are
  • If after disequilibration, the student reflects, analyzes, and creates a new way of understanding, then there is
  • Accommodation may happen for some creatively through exploration and others with guidance in the next phase.
1-Exploration 1- Explore 
4 - Evaluate in all phases
1-Engagement 2- Exploration 1- Explore,
2- Categorize,
3- Construct,
4- Negotiate,
7 - Reflect in all phases
8- Assess in all phases
Students & teachers
  • Focus their attention on the activity, materials, problem, or situation presented.
  • Diagnostic assessment
  • Communicate how to collect data to construct understanding
  • Explore the activity, materials, problem, or situation presented.
  • Communicate their experience and connect it to past and current understanding.
  • May construct, negotiate, expand, and apply this present experience and construct new understandings.
  • Formative assessment
Students & teachers
  • Communicate their findings and understandings to the entire class.
  • New vocabulary is introduced related to the concept, skill, ...
  • Describe how to organize and structure data from their explorations and their relationships to explanations and concepts based on observations and reasoning.
  • Make predictions and inferences related to the limits of the use of the concepts and skills.
  • Use application, analysis, and synthesis to devise different ways to test and substantiate their learnings.
  • These activities and communications may lead to disequilibration, assimilation, accommodation, and further structure changes and to systematic understandings.
2. Invention 2-Explanation
4 - Evaluate in all phases
3-Explanation 1- Explore,
2- Categorize,
3- Construct,
4- Negotiate,
7 - Reflect in all phases
8- Assess in all phases
Students & teachers
  • Conceptualize concepts.
  • Invent explanations.
  • Systematize processes and skills.
  • Facilitate public discourse.
  • Share ideas.
  • Negotiate and communicate ideas.
  • Construct new understandings.
  • Formative assessment
  • Summative assessment
Students & teachers
  • Repeat all of the above with greater connection to the organization and structure to extend the concept by generalizing what students have learned by connecting concepts and building relationships that can be applied in settings and situations not experienced or explored.
  • The difference between what happens in this phase and what happens if a new cycle is started may be only time .
  • Discovery being 5-10 minutes and starting a new cycle another day or days.
3. Discovery 3-Expansion * 4 - Evaluate in all phases 4-Elaborate and Extend
1- Explore,
2- Categorize,
3- Construct,
4- Negotiate,
5- Translate
6- Extend
7 - Reflect in all phases
8- Assess in all phases
Students & teachers
  • Expand and apply their learnings
  • Generative assessment


Learning Cycle in a block of time

The learning cycle video was taped during a traditional 50 minute class time block. You can see it is a bit tight for all phases of the learning cycle (exploration, invention, expansion) and as an introductory lesson on current electricity with the main concept: closed circuit (physical science) and either a review or secondary process concept: using a theory or model to explain and predict observations. It is the traditional lesson which is often referenced in the science literature as an example of the learning cycle.

Planning lessons and experiences for this block of time is limiting. For example, when germinating seeds, growing plants, or working with other living organisms, the time it may take to cycle through the parts of a learning cycle doesn’t fit a 50 or 60 minute time period. It takes several days to explore and invent these and other concepts and even longer for generalizations.

When conceptualization of a concept requires more than a general 50 minute class period to collect observational information, such as with seed germination, plant growth, or animal development, a different time frame for thinking, planning, and doing needs to be implemented.

For example, while the organisms are developing over time, the class can involved in different science investigations during the same class periods. This can happen with students beginning class by observing and recording information (for their seeds, plants, or animals introduced days previously) in the first 5-10 minutes culminating in a brief class period of sharing and discussion. The remaining 40-50 minutes can have the students investigating another topic (relative position and motion with spheres on ramps).

This example expands the traditional idea of a learning cycle in two important ways.

This is important, because not only do the scenarios extend for several class periods over several days, but some of the individual activities could and probably would also. This can make the use of the learning cycle more powerful when the duration of a learning cycle can be thought of lasting for a class period and for multiple class periods extended for days, weeks, or months or years. More realistic to everyday investigations and life long learning.


This is a Powerful idea - a years curriculum or a K-12 curriculum is a series of multiple learning cycles occurring simultaneously with different phases starting and stopping through a school year or a child's K-12 experience.

Sample Learning Cycle Lesson Plans to Modify

Three lesson overviews to review and discuss how to make them more hands on or constructivist and one sample for hints.

Lesson 1

Topic: Parts of a Plant Grade level 2

Objective: Students will learn the parts of a plant.

Materials: live plant, plant parts chart, worksheet, various arts and crafts materials (colored construction paper, pipe cleaners, glue…)

Process skills: observation, communication

Exploration: The teacher displays a live plant. The roots, stems and leaves are visible. The students use the plant chart to identify the three main parts of the plant. The teacher points to the top of the live plant and asks students what part it is. The teacher slowly moves his or her hand down the plant as the students discuss what part the teacher is pointing to at the time. The students use the chart to resolve any disagreements.

Invention: Students turn to the pages in their textbook that discuss the three main parts of a plant and read and discuss it. They are next given a worksheet with a picture of a plant and blanks pointing to each of the three main parts. They are asked to identify each part by filling in the blanks.

Discovery: The students are asked to create a plant that has roots, stems, and leaves. The students are asked to identify each of the parts of their plant for the teacher. The plants are displayed in the classroom.

Lesson 2

Topic: Electricity Grade level 5

Objective: Students will create a circuit that can be opened and closed with a switch from information provided by reading in their text and class discussion.

Materials: D-cell battery, battery holder, insulated wire, a flashlight bulb, and a switch

Exploration: Students read textbook entry on electric current, open and closed circuit, and electric switches.

Invention: Teacher discusses what students read, reviews open and closed circuits by looking at pictures of different circuits with different arrangements of bulbs, batteries and switches. After this discussion he lectures on how the electrical systems in most homes work and safety issues about circuits and lightening being the number one killer of all natural weather related events.

Discovery: The teacher gives the students a d-cell battery, battery holder, insulated wire, a flashlight bulb, and a switch and asks them to build a closed circuit.

Lesson 3

Topic: Electricity Grade level 5

Objective: Students will create a circuit that can be opened and closed with a switch from information provided by reading in their text and class discussion

Materials: circuit posters, textbook, d-cell battery, battery holder, insulated wire, a flashlight bulb, and a switch

Exploration: The teacher shows the students several posters with open and closed circuits and has them read the section in their text about electrical current. Then she discusses the reading with them and assigns them three investigation questions. 1. Make a circuit so that the bulb will light. 2. Make a circuit so that the bulb will can be turned on and off with the switch. And 3. Make a circuit that doesn’t work.

Invention: Students work in groups and seek answers for each of the three questions.

Discovery: Students share their drawings and explain how they worked. The teacher records each circuit by drawing it with a schematic diagram using a computer program. When all students have presented she shares her diagrams and has the class sort them into the three categories and explain how they work.


Suggestions on how to modify a lesson to make it more hands on & constructivist.

Topic: Electricity Grade level 5

Objective: Students explore a variety of simple electrical circuits with a bulb, battery, and wire to create explanations on how electricity is transferred from a source through a receiver in different kinds of electrical circuits.

Materials: d-cell battery, insulated wire, and a flashlight bulb

Exploration: The teacher shows the materials to the students and asks them to draw a picture in their science log to show how they would try to light the bulb. The teacher walks around and looks at their diagrams, then she challenges them to work with their partner to find as many ways as they can to light the bulb. She also reminds them to make records of what doesn’t work as well as what works. Students work together making circuits and recording their answers.

Invention: Students draw the various ways that they tried that lit the bulb and didn’t light the bulb on the board and explain how they worked. The teachers asks them to classify them as lit or not lit. Then she asks them to explain what is the same and different for all of their diagrams. Class discusses and questions until they feel confident that they have identified all possible ways to light the bulb in a circuit with three objects.

Discovery: The teacher asks them what else they know about electrical circuits. The teacher listens and records their answers. She works toward leading the students to additional explorations of more complicated circuits (circuits with switches multiple sources and receivers). Circuits that will help students conceptualize concepts of switches, parallel, and series circuits for sources and receivers.

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