Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

First Pass at Series & Parallel Circuits

Posted on: April 20, 2009


This mini-lab worked out really well.  In fact, quite of few kids surprised me by getting into building circuits.  I know a lab goes well when nobody bails or gives up in frustration.

I introduced series and parallel circuits with three quick overheads.  I also taught them the schematic symbols for a battery, switch, and bulb.  I helped them out by drawing the schematic for the first problem.  The attached document is pretty much self-explanatory, but I would suggest you have the kids read the last couple questions before they start building.

I had the kids in groups of two.  Each group needed a 3v battery pack (2-D cells), two light bulbs in holders, two knife switches, and about 6 sets of alligator jumpers.  You could use pre-cut wires, I had the jumpers available.

series-and-parallel-switches

With the introduction to series and parallel circuits, the lab took the entire class period to complete.

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2 Responses to "First Pass at Series & Parallel Circuits"

Great post. One thing I really hate in labs are multimeters. A terrible, terribl idea for students who are just learning the difference between voltage and current!

I use a multimeter, but I don’t overwhelm them with the settings. I explain we are looking at voltage across two terminals and the meter is set to show that. In fact, I never use a multimeter for current, I don’t think most students understand the concept well enough, I’d rather they get the voltage and calculate the current. The idea of breaking the circuit and putting the meter in series will definitely lose them.

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