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Lesson Plan Ideas - Magnets

Science and Technology
Self and Society
-Related Books
The Arts

Science and Technology

Note: You may wish to use the Force Fields activity before doing the activities below.

Sorting (Attraction)


container of items (eg - wooden spool, fabric, thimble, scissors, twist tie, penny, dime, clothes pin, elastic, paper clip, balloon, aluminum foil, plastic button, screw, sea shell) magnets

Using the magnets, students sort the items in the container into magnetic and non-magnetic categories. Include metallic items which may or may not be attracted by a magnet as well as items which have a combination of magnetic and non-magnetic parts such as a plastic pen with metallic trim. Have older students sort the items by predicting (hypothesizing) which items will be attracted by a magnet. They check (test) their hypothesis with the magnet. Ask students to draw a conclusion about the types of items which were attracted by the magnet.

Self and Society


small bar magnet

Students examine the effects of placing a piece of magnetite or a magnet close to a compass. Students investigate which end of the compass needle is attracted by the north pole of a magnet and vice-versa. Explain to students that the red end of the compass needle points north. To use a compass, it should be turned until the letter N on the compass scale lies beneath the red end of the needle, now it can be used to indicate the direction of east and west as well as north and south.

Discuss with the students how a compass works, why we use a compass and who was first to use it. Explain the terms north, south, east and west using the compass. Have the students draw a simple map of their classroom showing which direction is North. This activity may lead to a further study of maps and orienteering. Play the compass game.

Compass Game

Have the students stand beside their desks, facing North. Explain that South is behind them, East is on their right and West is on their left. Then have all students face East, South and West in turn. Call a direction. Have the students turn to the direction which is called, those who miss may sit down. The winner is the last person standing. This game may be played in a gymnasium with the students running to touch the wall of the direction called.


Activity 1

Ask each student to bring in a magnet from home. Allow free time for exploration with it. The class could identify the kinds of materials that magnets attract, whether or not a magnet pulls through paper, if two magnets always attract each other, etc. Have the students test magnetic attraction through different materials, such as their hands, water, wood, etc.

Discuss their findings and classify them into two groups -- "yes"(magnets do attract) and "no"(magnets do not attract) in the various ways.

Introduce the students to new vocabulary such as "push, pull, magnet" and "attract, repel, force" for older students.

Activity 2

Read and discuss the children's book Mickey's Magnet by Franklyn M. Branley and Eleanor K. Vaughan published by Scholastic Book Services.

The Arts

Force Fields


iron filings
blank transparency
overhead projector
bar magnets (other shapes of magnets)

Place a blank transparency over the magnet on the overhead projector. Sprinkle iron filings on top of the transparency andgently tap it to see the iron filings follow the lines of force. Students will see that the iron filings collect around the poles of a bar magnet because this is where the magnetic force is strongest. Students can observe the different patterns when bar magnets are held beneath the transparency with either like poles (N-N, S-S) together or unlike poles (N-S, S-N) together. By using different shaped magnets, students can see different patterns.

Use this activity to introduce an art class about patterns. Explain that all patterns have repetition and rhythm. Discuss other patterns found in the world around them -- the leaves on a tree, the beat of their hearts, ripples in water, desks in the classroom. Make a list. Have the students create patterns using colour and shape. Use only paper and coloured pens, or a variety of materials such as string, plasticine, styrofoam and newspapers, etc. to create a three-dimensional pattern.


Addition and Subtraction


bar magnets
green and white twist ties
2 small saucers


Have the students work through the following activity using a bar magnet. Pick up 4 green twist ties and place them into one saucer and 8 white twist ties and place them into a different saucer. How many twist ties are there altogether?


1.Take-away type of subtraction

Have the students make a group of 8 twist ties. Using the magnet have them remove 4 twist ties. How many twist ties are left?

e.g. 8 - 4 = ?

2. Missing addend problem in subtraction.

Have the students make a group of 4 twist ties. We want a group of 8 twist ties. Using the magnet have them add twist ties until there are 8. How many more twist ties were added?

e.g. 4 + ? = 8 or 8 - 4 = ?

3. Comparative type of subtraction.

Have the students make a group of 4 green twist ties and 3 white twist ties. Using the magnet ask them to remove 1 white twist tie and 1 green twist tie until all of the white twist ties are gone. How many more green twist ties are there than white twist ties?

Teacher's notes:

Write numbers to show the problems symbolically. If older students are working with sets, the colour of the twist tie may be used to represent the set.

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Questions about school programs should be sent to scorbeil@technomuses.ca.