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Conductors and Insulators


Conductors and Insulators

TEKS Objective

Students will classify matter based on physical properties, including mass, magnetism, physical state (solid, liquid, and gas), relative density (sinking and floating), solubility in water, and the ability to conduct or insulate thermal energy or electric energy.  

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Essential Understanding

The student knows that (1) matter has measurable physical properties and (2) those properties determine how matter is classified, changed and used.

Science Background

Conductors, Insulators, and Electron Flow: Magcraft (website) - Learn why certain materials conduct electricity, and why others are insulators.

Conductors, Insulators, and Electron Flow
by Tony R. Kuphaldt in Lessons In Electric Circuits,

Thermodynamics: Physics4Kids (website) - Review thermodynamic principles of heat conduction and insulation.


Thermal Insulators and Conductors, Molecular: US Department of Energy Office of Science (website) - Background information and discussion—in the form of a “Q&A”—about molecular factors involved in electrical conduction and insulation.

Thermal Insulators and Conductors, Molecular
US Department of Energy Office of Science,

Signature Lesson

Conductors and Insulators: University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign (website) - Students use a simple circuit to test a variety of materials, classify each material as either an electrical conductor or insulator, and explain the difference between a conductor and insulator.

Conductors and Insulators
University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign,

Insulators: NASA eClips Educator Guide (PDF) - Students explore and classify the thermal insulating properties of different materials. Students review their understanding of insulators and conductors, relate their knowledge to the Hubble Space Telescope’s thermal blanket, and work in teams to test the insulating properties of cups made of three different materials.

NASA eClips Educator Guide,

Supporting Lessons

Insulators: Utah Education Network (website) – Students investigate the insulating properties of four types of spoons, and then apply their knowledge to design the perfect hot chocolate cup.

by the Utah Education Network,


Elaboration Lessons and Extensions

Building an Insulated Water Bottle: Power Sleuth (PDF) - Students compare the insulating properties of a variety of materials. Using their knowledge of heat transfer, they design insulated water bottles.

Building an Insulated Water Bottle:
Power Sleuth,

Insulation Experimentation: Utah Education Network (website) - In this inquiry lesson, students investigate how conduction and other processes enable heat to move between objects.

Insulation Experimentation
by the Utah Education Network,

Conductors and Insulators: Consumers Energy (PDF) - Students learn about the nature of electricity and identify conductors and insulators by using a simple circuit to test the conductivity of various materials.

Conductors and Insulators
Consumers Energy,

Assessment Ideas

Give students a simple circuit, attached to a battery and a light bulb. Provide a variety of labeled objects; have students predict and then test each item, and make a list of objects that complete the circuit.

Literature Connections

Conductors and Insulators (My World of Science). Royston, A. (ISBN-13: 978-1432914653)

Conductors and Insulators (It’s Electric!). Oxlade, Chris (ISBN-13: 978-1432956783)

Related Science TEKS

(5.1A) Science Safety
The student is expected to demonstrate safe practices and the use of safety equipment as described in the Texas Safety Standards during classroom and outdoor investigations.

(5.1B) Recycling/Disposal of Science Materials
The student is expected to make informed choices in the conservation, disposal, and recycling of materials.

(5.2B) Ask Questions, Formulate a Hypothesis
The student is expected to ask well-defined questions, formulate testable hypotheses, and select and use appropriate equipment and technology.

(5.2C) Collect Data
The student is expected to collect information by detailed observations and accurate measuring.

(5.2D) Analyze Evidence and Explain
The student is expected to analyze and interpret information to construct reasonable explanations from direct (observable) and indirect (inferred) evidence.

(5.2E) Value of Repeated Experiments
The student is expected to demonstrate that repeated investigations may increase the reliability of results.

(5.2F) Communicate Conclusions
The student is expected to communicate valid conclusions in both written and verbal forms.

(5.2G) Graphs, Tables, Charts
The student is expected to construct appropriate simple graphs, tables, maps, and charts using technology, including computers, to organize, examine, and evaluate information.

(5.4A) Tools for Collecting and Analyzing Information
The student is expected to collect, record, and analyze information using tools, including calculators, microscopes, cameras, computers, hand lenses, metric rulers, Celsius thermometers, prisms, mirrors, pan balances, triple beam balances, spring scales, graduated cylinders, beakers, hot plates, meter sticks, magnets, collecting nets, and notebooks; timing devices, including clocks and stopwatches; and materials to support observations of habitats or organisms such as terrariums and aquariums.

(5.4B) Safety Equipment
The student is expected to use safety equipment, including safety goggles and gloves.

Related Math TEKS

(5.11A) The student is expected to solve problems involving changes in temperature.

(5.14D) The student is expected to use tools such as real objects, manipulatives, and technology to solve problems.

(5.15A) The student is expected to explain and record observations using objects, words, pictures, numbers, and technology.

Additional Resources

Heat Transfer: Science Games for Kids (website) - Students test the characteristics of different materials to learn about heat transfer and how to keep things warm.

Heat Transfer
Science Games for Kids,

Circuits and Conductors: Science Games for Kids (website)  - Students experiment with conductors and power sources to determine which of the sample materials conduct electricity best (and least).

Circuits and Conductors
Science Games for Kids,

Rader’s Physics4Kids: Physics4Kids (website) - Basic physics information for kids and adults, covering topics such as motion, heat and thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, light, and more.

Rader’s Physics4Kids



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