Magazine article Technology and Children

Diagramming Circuits

Magazine article Technology and Children

Diagramming Circuits

Article excerpt

diagramming circuits Berger , M. (1990). Switch on, switch off (Let's-Read-and-Find Out Science). New York: Harper Collins. [ISBN: 006445097X, Paperback, 32 p., $5.99. Illustrated by Carolyn Croll]


Switch On, Switch Off is an engaging attempt to demystify electricity, aimed at primary age children. It is heavily illustrated. Semi-realistic cartoon characters (a boy and a girl) keep the text moving by making discoveries, asking questions, and engaging in experiments. The action is interspersed with more than a dozen friendly diagrams illustrating concepts from submicroscopic electron flow to the big picture of how electricity moves from a generator to individual homes. Readers are also presented with a detailed explanation about how electricity from such a generator is used to make a lightbulb burn.

Perhaps the most important point made by the author of Switch On, Switch Off is that although "it seems like magic ... it's not magic at all." Although the explanations are suitable for young children, teachers who are not completely satisfied with their ability to explain these concepts should consider an investment in Robertson's Stop Faking It! (2005) on electricity and magnetism, available from the National Science Teachers Association (

The aim of this activity is for children to recognize three basic commonalities among the electrical systems they encounter daily: each of these systems has a power source, an output, and some means of control. To complete the activity, students must identify a system, discern its components (power source, output, and control), and draw a circuit diagram to show how these are interconnected.

design brief

Suggested Grade Level: 1-3

Switch On, Switch Off has great drawings of how some electrical circuits work. Now you can figure out how other circuits work - and make your own circuit diagrams.

You will need to find out three things for each circuit.

1. Where is the power coming from? A battery? Or, from a big generator like the one on page 16 of Switch On, Switch Off?

2. What is the output of the circuit? What work is being done?

3. How is it controlled? Can it only be turned on and off? Or can you turn it louder or quieter, faster or slower, hotter or colder?

for the teacher

1. Students will start the activity with circuits that are operated with switches or control knobs. Encourage them to choose circuits with one output. Some examples can be found in Table 1. …

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