T-GEM: Building Circuits

Last year I taught Grade 7 Science and one of the more difficult outcomes to teach was Electricity.  Many of the students know that electricity is there but since they cannot “see” it the struggled with the concepts.

These were the outcomes for the electricity unit:

  • Construct and draw a simple series circuit and a simple parallel circuit (P1)
  • Compare the characteristics of series and parallel circuits (P2)
  • Describe simple applications for series and parallel circuits (P3)

The following is a 3-step T-GEM cycle for Electricity :

Teacher Students

Teacher asks students to create a mind map around the word electricity.


Teacher listens while taking note of the misconceptions that they may possess.


In small groups students will generate a mind map, letting their ideas and words flow.


Students present their mind maps and hang them on the wall.



Teacher gives students a battery, wires, switch, and a light bulb. Ask students to form a complete circuit and try to light the bulb.


Teacher walks around observing how students are constructing the circuits

Students working together they try and conduct a circuit.




Teachers helps any groups that needs it and explains the difference between a series and a parallel circuit.



Students look at where they went wrong and modify accordingly.


I used the phet website (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/legacy/circuit-construction-kit-dc)

This was an excellent resource to use during this unit because the resources at our school are few and far between and this really helped the students understand the concept of building circuits.


  1. Haneefa,

    Your lesson looks simply, yet effective. From your lesson outline, I’m wondering where you chose to insert the T-GEM simulation. The “Evaluate” step seems to consist of a hands-on activity, or is this where the simulation is explored?

    Also, I think the initial mind map that students designed at the beginning of the lesson could also be evaluated and modified as part of the lesson. I believe the mind map could also be considered a “model”. It could be interesting for students to compare their initial mind map with a latter mind map following work with the simulation.

    Thank you for sharing your ideas.

    1. Hi Jessica,
      Since I am teaching English Language Learners, it is best to keep my lessons on the simpler side. I could insert the T-GEM simulation after the students have done the hands on activity to reinforce understanding or to enforce computer use and skills.

      I think that is an excellent idea about revisiting the mind map at the end of the section to see how their “mind models” on electricity have changed.

      Thank you for your insights,

  2. Hi Haneefa,

    Electricity is a great topic to explore with students. In doing so, what are your thoughts on if students’ revised maps still hold alternative conceptions? Thoughts on next steps?

    Also, here is a classic few papers on inquiry with ELL:

    Warren, B. (1989). Cheche Konnen: Science and Literacy in Language Minority Classrooms.
    Llosa, L., Lee, O., Jiang, F., Haas, A., O’Connor, C., Van Booven, C. D., & Kieffer, M. J. (2016). Impact of a large-scale science intervention focused on English language learners. American Educational Research Journal, 53(2), 395-424 (or any with Okhee Lee).

    Thank you, Samia

    1. Hi Samia,
      If students’ revised map still hold alternative conceptions, I think that I would break my students up into small groups and ask my stronger students to “teach” the ones that are still struggling, while I supervise, students can take notes and maybe even produce a little written work.

      Thank you for the paper citation, I am sure that it will help me with my final project.

      Thanks again,

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