Modeling Lesson

Subject: Science

Grade level: 1

Prerequisite knowledge: Students should understand that lightning occurs during a thunderstorm.  Students should have a basic idea of what lightning looks like.

Approximate time: 40 minutes

Student Objectives:
  1. Students will demonstrate how lightning works using a balloon and light bulb.
  2. Students will be able to explain how static electricity plays a role in lightning.
Materials/resources/technology: fluorescent light bulbs, rubber balloons, the students’ pamphlets they’re working on, printed out pictures of lightning


Opening of Lesson:

The teacher will introduce the topic of lightning to the students by asking them if they have ever seen lighting before.  The teacher will then ask the students what lightning looks like.  After the students have a chance to give their ideas, the teacher will explain that lightning is actually a flash of electricity that is produced by a thunderstorm.  Then hold up different pictures of diagrams for the class to look at.  The teacher will ask the students if they have ever heard of electricity before and if they know what it is.  The teacher will ask questions like what do we use electricity for?  (Explain that electricity lets us use things like lights, stoves, TVs to turn on, etc.)  Explain that electricity is what happens in lightning.  “Lightning is flash of electricity that lights up the sky.”  Then the teacher will tell the students that they are going to demonstrate how lightning works today in the classroom. 

The teacher will ask, “Boys and girls, earlier we said that lightning is a flash of electricity produced during a storm.  Who knows what electricity is?”  The teacher should give students some time to come up with ideas and then should explain that electricity is a type of energy that can build up in one place or go back and forth from one place to another.  Ask the students, “who has ever rubbed something on their clothes or their hair and then touched something and they got a shock?”  After students raise their hands, tell them that is static electricity.  Tell them static electricity usually happens when you rub things together, and that is how lightning happens.  “Today we are going to model how lightning works.  Now I am going to have to turn off the lights for part of our experiments, so make sure you watch very carefully.”  The teacher should take out a balloon and the fluorescent light bulb and rub the balloon on her hair and then take the balloon and touch it to the tip of the light bulb and it will produce a flash of light.  After doing this experiment once, turn the lights back on in the classroom and ask the students if they thought that it looked like lightning.  Provide an opportunity for students to turn and talk to their neighbor about what they just saw and what they thought.  Then ask students to raise their hands to share some of their ideas about how they thought it worked.  Once students have shared ideas, split them up into groups of 4 or 5 students and tell them that now they are going to get to do the experiment.  Explain that they need to be very careful with the materials and follow the directions carefully.  Tell them that each group will get one light bulb and one balloon and that one person in the group will rub the balloon on their hair and then I will turn off the lights quickly and you will get to try it by holding the balloon up to the light bulb.  Then allow the students to try the experiment on their own once or twice to make sure that everyone can get it to work.

After all the students have had a chance to see how it works, turn the lights on and collect the materials from the students.  Tell them that now they are going to talk in their groups about what they saw and how their model was an example of lightning.  Ask them to try and figure out how they used static electricity in their model.  Tell them to remember that static electricity usually occurs when you rub things together.  Then the teacher should walk around the classroom and listen to the students’ ideas and continue to ask them more questions to encourage them to think about the topic. 

Redirect the students’ attention to the front of the classroom and ask for a volunteer from groups to share how they think they created static electricity.  Also ask them how their model worked like lightning works.  Then ask the students if they think it is safe to be outside while there is lightning and why.  Then go into a short discussion about how lightning is very dangerous and that we need to be very careful because lightning can hurt people.  Tell students that they are going to put some safety tips into their pamphlet that they are making for weather.  Ask students what they think some good safety tips might be.  After allowing for student responses, be sure that the following things are emphasized: stay indoors if possible, stay away from trees and tall objects, try not to use running water and don’t take a shower during a storm, and don’t use a phone or a computer during a storm.

Have the students put their safety tips about lightning into their brochure and to add a picture in it.  Once all the students have completed their task in their brochure, engage them in a quick review of the things they learned about lightning today.  First tell the students that today they made a model of lightning, which means it is something that works like lightning, but it’s not exactly the same as lightning.  The teacher should explain that what they made today was a small spark, but when lightning is in the sky, it’s a really big spark.   Ask the students “How did our activity show us about static electricity?”  Then ask them, “What creates lightning?”  Finally ask them “What can we do during a storm to be safe from lightning?”  After students have finished up with the discussion, tell them they did a great job today and now they know how lightning works and they can share that information with their family and friends tonight so that everyone can learn to stay safe. 

  1. Students will engage in a discussion with their groups about how their model worked like lightning and what they thought was happening.
  2. Students will discuss in their groups how the balloon created static electricity.
Possible Extensions: