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Learning About Magnets Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #: AELP-PHS0203
Submitted by: Christy Discello
Email: christyzk143@yahoo.com
School/University/Affiliation: University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

January 23, 2001

Grade Level: 2, 3


  • Science/Physics

Duration: 40 minutes

Description: This lesson provides an introduction to magnets and their properties. Students will learn how to locate poles on various kinds of magnets. Students will also observe how like poles repel and unlike poles attract each other. In addition, students will become familiar with natural magnets and the different materials a magnet can attract.

Goals: To introduce students to the properties of magnets.


  • Students will be able to locate poles on various kinds of magnets.
  • Students will be able to identify the strongest parts of a magnet.
  • Students will be able to observe that like poles repel and unlike poles attract each other.
  • Students will be able to identify objects that are attracted to magnets.
  • Materials:

    • magnets (man-made and natural magnets, if available)
    • paper clips
    • iron filings
    • plain white paper


  • magnet – A stone or a piece of metal that attracts some other metal.
  • attract – To pull towards.
  • repel – To push away from each other.
  • magnetic poles – The north and south poles or ends of a magnet.
  • Procedure:  
    Anticipatory Set:
    Inform students that today they are starting a new unit in science. Hold up a magnet. Ask, Does anyone knows what this is? Show students a bar magnet. Ask them what the N and S stand for. Explain that all magnets have a north and south pole, just like our earth. Can anyone name something that shows us the directions north and south? Has anyone ever heard of a compass? 

    Show the students more examples of magnets. Give each pair of students two magnets and ask students to find the poles. What happens when you put the north pole of a magnet next to the south pole of a magnet? What happens when two north poles are placed next to each other? Two south poles? Ask students to share their findings.

    Demonstration #1:
    Give each pair of students some paper clips and have them lay the paper clips in a line. Touch a magnet to one paper clip. Now the paper clip is temporarily magnetic. Lower the magnet until the paper clip is touching another paper clip. Lift the magnet up again. Pull the chain off the table using the magnet. Let’s see who can get the longest chain.

    Demonstration #2:
    Divide the students into small groups. Give each group a plain, white piece of paper. Have the students place a bar magnet underneath the sheet of paper, keeping the paper flat on the table. Go around to each group and sprinkle iron filings over the paper. The students should be able to see where the magnet has the strongest attraction by where the iron filings seem to cluster. (The iron filings will cluster and move towards the magnet’s poles.) Closure:
    Hold up a magnet and ask students to name the poles and the strongest parts of the magnet. Ask a student or a pair of students to demonstrate and explain what two north poles do and what two south poles do when placed next to each other.

    Lesson Extensions (Technology Integration Ideas):
    After discussing what the natural form of a magnet is called, where magnets are most abundant, and what natural magnets look like, have the students look up this information on the World Wide Web. When discussing where the natural forms of magnets are found most commonly in the world, you can have students look up these places on the Internet or an electronic encyclopedia. Magnets are commonly found where volcanoes are located, so this could lead into a discussion or lesson about volcanoes. Students can take electronic fieldtrips to different regions in the world where volcanoes are located and view on-screen animations/demonstrations of how volcanoes erupt.

    Assessment: Observe students’ actions during the demonstration activities. Have students write a journal entry listing three facts that were learned about magnets today. 

    Useful Internet Resources:  
    * Discovery School’s A to Z Science – Magnetism
    This web site discusses the study of magnetism and how magnets work. Related links and study aids are also available on the site. 

    Other References: Trade books that can be used with this lesson:

  • Branley, Franklyn Mansfield. (1996). What Makes a Magnet? (Let’s Read and Find Out Science) . New York: HarperTrophy.
  • Fowler, Allan. (1995). What Magnets Can Do . Chicago: Children’s Press.
  • Livingston, James D. (1997). Driving Force: The Natural Magic of Magnets . Boston: Harvard Press.
  • Mole, Karen Bryant. (1998). Magnets (Science All Around Me) . New York: Heineman.
  • Zoehfeld, Kathleen Weidner. (1998). What is the World Made Of? New York: HarperCollins.
  • Special Comments: Special Needs Adaptation: During the demonstration/experiment you could pair a special needs child with another child who understands the material and concepts. Working in pairs will help both of the students. The special needs student will benefit by having someone other than the teacher explain the concepts to him/her. Also, by explaining the concepts to someone else, the other student will reinforce his/her own knowledge of the subject matter.