My opener for the unit was giving each group masking tape, a battery, one wire, and a lightbulb. I asked them to make the light bulb light up. Out of 15 groups that day only 2 were able to get it to light without my assistance. It was so much fun to watch them become excited and DETERMINED to make it light up without help.
Later we conducted experiments with using a switch, making a parallel circuit, and testing different insulators and conductors.
Our favorite activity though was creating our own "Hot Dot" cards. With these cards students can write down a question, plus give a few multiple choice options and using a Christmas light and battery create a self checking system.
Here is how it works...
These are examples of the cards that I made. Notice that there are 4 holes in the cards. I have three choices on each card and then the "HOT DOT."
Once you've written your questions and punched your holes, flip your card over. Take a piece of tin foil and connect the "HOT DOT" to the hole beside the correct answer. Make sure that you don't cover the other multiple choice holes. I used clear tape, but I've done it with masking tape, too.
Cover the other incorrect holes with small pieces of tin foil. Make sure that they do NOT touch the correct answer tin foil strip.
These are our testers. It is a Christmas light cut directly from the strand taped to a battery and then a lose end. :) I used clear tape here, but replaced mine with masking tape because it kept coming loose. I also tried AAA batteries, but the AA worked better. The bulb was brighter with the AA.
How to use: The positive side is the easiest to keep untaped because you can actually put the raised part into the "HOT DOT" hole. The other end of the strand touches the correct answer. If you've selected the correct answer your light bulb lights up! If you are wrong then it doesn't light up. :)
This is an example of a "HOT DOT" card that doesn't have a straight line to follow. Do you see how I folded the tin foil at an angle?
Once the kids make these they are able to make as many as needed. As long as they have their testers they can use this as a study guide, too.