Janet M. Sheard - West School

Series and Parallel  Circuits 

Janet M. Sheard West School
1010 Forestway Drive
(847) 835-6600


These lessons are designed for fourth-sixth grade students to do for five-
seven days. Each student will be able to:
1. identify man's needs and uses for light in a time line.
2. understand that many people choose science as a career and devote their
entire lives studying it.
3. identify what contributions Ben Franklin made to electricity.
4. draw and explain how to build a closed and an open circuit.
5. construct a simple series and parallel circuit.
6. understand the meaning of and use of the following vocabulary words:
D-cell battery, current, closed and open circuits, protons, electrons,
and neutrons.


The students will be able to:
1. construct and attach a switch to a series and/or parallel circuit.

Materials Needed:

For two students to create a series and parallel circuit
1 D-cell battery
4 six inch pieces of wire
1 battery holder with Fahnestock clip
2 bulb holders
2 bulbs
list of electrical symbols used to represent a battery, wire, and switch
student science journal

The following materials are needed to create a switch for one or two students
2 6-inch pieces of wire
1 paper clip
1 3"x 5" index card
2 No. 3 brass paper fasteners
2 brass paper fastener washers
2 Fahnestock clips

Material Needed for Extended Activity:
1 roll 3/4" masking tape


Initial Motivation:
1. Brainstorm with the students to find out what previous knowledge they
have about electrical currents and circuits.
2. Prepare a time line entitled "Time Line of Man's Needs and Uses of
Light" for each student. Put the dates in sequential order by placing
the correct number between the parentheses.
( ) FIRE: 400,000 B.C.
( ) FLASHLIGHT: 1898 A.D.
( ) SUN
( ) GAS LAMP: 1700 A.D.
( ) KEROSENE LAMP: 1800 A.D.
( ) TORCH: 6000: B.C.
( ) CANDLE: 1300 A.D.
( ) OIL LAMP: 100 A.D.
3. Read highlights from a biography of Benjamin Franklin.
First Activity: Create a basic simple circuit.
1. Give each pair of students a box with a D-cell battery, 1 6-inch wire, and
a bulb. Explore. "How can you make the bulb light?" Draw at least three
ways the bulb lit in a science journal. Choose several illustrations to
draw on the board.
2. Discuss the connection between the meaning of a current and a circuit.
Second Activity: Create a simple circuit.
1. Pass out another 6-inch wire, a battery holder, and 1 bulb socket
Ask, "Can you make the bulb light?" Explore. Draw several illustrations on
the board and in individual science journals. Share and discuss with the
2. Reinforce the meaning to make clear the distinction between circuit and
Third Activity: Create a series circuit.
1. Pass out another 6-inch wire and another bulb and bulb holder.
Ask, "Can you make the bulbs light?" Explore. Draw on the board and in
science journals several ways the group discovered to make the bulbs light.
Share and discuss with the class.
2. Introduce the secret language of electricity. Draw an illustration on the
board using electrical symbols.
Fourth Activity: Create a parallel circuit.
1. Give each student another 6-inch wires. Ask, " Can you make the bulb
light?" Explore. Share illustrations and discuss the techniques used to
make the bulb light.
2. Identify the name parallel circuit.
3. Pass out the page with the secret language of electricity. Use these symbols
to illustrate a simple way to draw a parallel circuit without using
Extension for the lesson:
1. Attach a switch to the series and parallel circuit by using previous
acquired knowledge.
2. Research and prepare a presentation about Michael Faraday, Joseph Henry,
Thomas Edison, and Samuel Morse. The teacher should design an information
page to collect data for report.

Performance Assessment:

Basic: The student will be able to:
construct and draw an electrical circuit.
recognize electrical symbols.
Proficient: The student will be able to:
illustrate one example of a series and parallel circuit using
electrical symbols.
write a definition of a series and parallel circuit.
Advanced: The student will be able to:
draw two illustrations of a series and parallel circuits using
electrical symbols with the illustrations.
teach a new student how to create an electrical circuit.
apply the function of an electrical current to another kind
of circuit.
write a detailed explanation of an electrical circuit using electrical


The students will be able to:
1. explain the difference between a closed circuit and an open circuit.
2. explain the difference between a series and parallel circuit.
3. explain the advantages and disadvantages of series and parallel circuits.


Primary Source Reference:
National Science Resources Center: Science and Technology for Children, ELECTRIC CIRCUITS, 1991 National Science Foundation.

Secondary References:
Aliki, Ill, The Many Lives of Ben Franklin. Prentice Hall, Inc. Englewood
Cliffs, New Jersey, 1977.
Ardley, Neil, The Science Book of Electricity. Gulliver Books, Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, Publishers, San Diego, New York, London, 1991.
Bains, Rae, Discovering Electricity. Troll Association, Mahwah, New Jersey,
Baum, Frank L., The Master Key: An Electrical Fairy Tale, Hyperion Press, Inc.
West Point, Connecticut, 1974.
Cast, C. Vance, Where Does Electricity Come From?, Barrons Educational Series,
Inc. Hauppauge New York, 1992.
Clemence, John and Janet, Electricity Garrett Educational Corporation,
Oklahoma, 1987.
Feldman, Eve B., Benjamin Franklin, Scientist and Inventor Franklin Watts, New
York, London, Toronto, Sydney, A First Book, 1990.
Green, Carol, Benjamin Franklin: A Man with Many Jobs, Children's Press,
Chicago, 1988.
Jahns, Patricia, Joseph Henry: Father of American Electronics A Ruthledge
Book, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1970.
Lawson, Robert, Ben and Me Little Brown and Company, 1967.
Wade, Harlan, Electricity Raintree Children's Books, Milwaukee, Toronto,
Melburne, London. 1977.

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