Teacher Notes for Static Electricity


Lesson Plans || Learning Outcomes and Activities || Teacher Notes || Labs


Unit Overview

We estimate this to be a 13-day unit. An additional day should be added for an exam. There is one primary goal for this time:
  1. To understand how objects become charged and the effect of that charge on other objects in the surroundings.

All the labs and activities can be tied to this over-arching goal. The unit begins with a review of the structure of the atom and what it means to say an object is charged. Students then learn about the three types of charge interactions (charged objects attracting neutral objects being included as the third) and learn how the third type is explained by the phenomenon of polarization. Three charging methods are introduced and explained in terms of subatomic particles. Coulomb's law as both an equation for problem solving and as a guide to thinking about how a change in a variable affects the electrostatic force is discussed. Finally, the concept and mathematics of an electric field is used to explain the action at a distance.

The Lesson Plans include four different hands-on labs. Additional labs can be found in the Laboratory section of the website. 


"Saving Time"

Those who wish to reduce some time on this topic could easily do so. The following Learning Outcomes and the associated days to address them could be dropped without affecting the other topics in the unit. 
  • Learning Outcome 9: Electric Field Lines (recover 1 day)
  • Learning Outcomes 8 and 9: Electric Field and Electric Field Lines (recover 2 days)
  • Learning Outcomes 7 - 9: Coulomb's Law, Electric Field, and Electric Field Lines (recover 3-4 days)
  • Learning Outcomes 4-6: Charging Methods (recover 3-4 days)


Science Reasoning Center

Force and interactions are a large part of the Next Generation Science Standards. Our Science Reasoning Center is packed with interactive activities that emphasize science reasoning skills in the context of content. Put another way, you will find numerous activities that lie at the intersection of a disciplinary core idea, a science and engineering practice, and a crosscutting concept. The Electrostatics section of our Science Reasoning Center included numerous activities that would be of interest to those using an NGSS curriculum as well as those using any Physics curriculum. Here are a few of our favorites:
  1. Charge Interactions
    Questions target a student's ability to retrieve information from a body of text, to understand the design of an experiment, to draw conclusions that are consistent with observations, to make predictions based on a model, to identify the supporting evidence for a particular conclusion, and to predict the results of an additional trial in an experiment.
  2. Sticky Tape Experiments
    Questions target a student's ability to identify the supporting evidence for a particular conclusion, to draw conclusions that are consistent with two or more data presentations, to make predictions based upon a model, to predict the results of an additional trial, and to understand the design of an experiment.
  3. Energy Stored in Fields
    This NGSS-inspired task engages students in an analysis of two situations involving the storage of energy in electric and magnetic fields.


Other Resources

There are a few resources that we did not list in our Lesson Plans and Learning Outcomes and Activities that you may find to be very helpful. These include:
  1. Concept Builder: Charging by Induction
    Students describe - in terms of particle movement - the two-step process of charging by induction.
  2. Concept Builder: Coulomb's Law
    Students use Coulomb's law of electric force to predict the effect of varying charge and varying separation distance upon the electrostatic force between two objects.


Teacher Presentation Pack

We probably say this a lot. But we think it is worth saying. Our Teacher Presentation Pack is a huge time-saver. For early-career and cross-over Physics teachers, it may also become a life saver. It includes a large collection of Slide Decks, animations, and graphics for use in your classroom. Once downloaded, you can modify and customize the Slide Decks as needed. Besides being highly organized slide decks to assist with your in-class presentations, most slides make great graphic organizers for preparing students for a Concept Builder or Minds On Phyiscs mission. They can also be placed on Google Drive for your students to view (provided it is password protected and not publicly accessible). Given the enormous value and relatively low cost, you have to ask yourself What am I waiting for? Learn more.


Also Available ...

Physics teachers may find the following for-sale tools to be useful supplements to our Lesson Plan and Pacing Guide section:


  1. Task Tracker Subscription (annual purchase)
    A subscription allows teachers to set up classes, add students, customize online assignments, view student progress/scores, and export student scores. Task Tracker accounts allow your students to begin assignments in class or at school and to finish them at home. View our Seat and Cost Calculator for pricing details.
  2. The Solutions Guide
    We publish a free curriculum with >200 ready-to-use Think Sheets for developing physics concepts. The Solutions Guide is a download containing the source documents, PDFs of source documents, and answers/solutions in MS Word and PDF format. An expanded license agreement is included with the purchase. (Cost: $25 download)
  3. Teacher Presentation Pack
    This is a large collection of downloadable content packed with nearly 190 Microsoft PowerPoint slide decks, the corresponding Lesson Notes (as PDF and fully-modifiable MS Word format), about 170 animations (in .gif, .png, and .mp4 file formats), a countless number of ready-to-use images (including the original source documents that would allow for easy modification of those images), and a license that allows teachers to modify and use all the content with their classes on password-protected sites (such as course management systems).  (Cost: $40 download)
  4. Question Bank
    We distribute a Question Bank that includes more than 9300 questions neatly organized according to topic. The Question Bank is the perfect tool for busy teachers or new teachers. Even if you don't use the website with your classes, the Question Bank will assist you in quickly putting together quizzes, tests and other documents with high-quality questions that target student's conceptions of physics principles. And if you do use The Physics Classroom website, the Question Bank is the perfect complement to the materials found at the website. (Cost: $25 download)