Lesson Plan

Characteristics of Energy


Energy can be identified through many sources and forms. Its most common use is the day-to-day activities that are taken for granted. Students will:
  • identify energy sources such as radiant (or light), thermal (or heat), electrical, and chemical energy, and how they all derive from the Sun (or solar energy).

  • determine whether energy we see and experience is kinetic or potential and provide examples of both.

Essential Questions


  • Energy: The ability to produce a change in matter or to do work. Work is defined as a force moving through a distance (e.g., pushing a rock off a cliff).

  • Kinetic Energy: The energy an object has while it is in motion.

  • Potential Energy: The energy an object has while it is at rest but could exhibit due to its place and condition (e.g., a rock sitting on a cliff ready to fall off).

  • Thermal Energy: Also called heat energy; the driving force behind everything we do from heating homes, cooking food, powering cars, creating electricity. We have natural and manmade heat sources.

  • Radiant Energy: Energy transferred by radiation, especially by an electromagnetic wave.

  • Electrical Energy:Energy made available by the flow of electric charge through a conductor.


120 minutes/ 2-3 class periods

Prerequisite Skills

Prerequisite Skills haven't been entered into the lesson plan.



Related Unit and Lesson Plans

Related Materials & Resources

The possible inclusion of commercial websites below is not an implied endorsement of their products, which are not free, and are not required for this lesson plan.


Formative Assessment

  • View

    Observe students during work on the Energy Forms Chart, the KWL Chart, and the Evaluation section. Look for, either verbal or written, of application of previously learned knowledge with recently learned material. Look for:

    • students’ participation among their groups in order to gain from and provide help to other students.

    • completion of the flash card activity to serve as a self evaluation activity for the student and an informal evaluation for the teacher.

Suggested Instructional Supports

  • View
    Active Engagement, Explicit Instruction

    This lesson will focus on forms of energy and how energy transfers from one object to another. Students will be expected to define energy terms, provide examples of different kinds of energy, and explain why all energy derives from the Sun as solar energy.


    Use the KWL Chart (S-4-5-1_ KWL Chart.doc) method to determine what students already know about the different kinds of energy and the questions they might have about energy. On a SMART Board, flipchart, or overhead transparency for all to see, write K for all the things students know about energy, a W for what they want to learn about energy, and an L for what students end up learning as a result of the lesson.


    Activities and worksheets to reinforce energy concepts. Explain to students that as the unit moves forward, they will write notes under the appropriate sections in their science journals. These notes will be used to generate and answer questions throughout the unit and help them study for the end of unit test on energy.


    Following each activity, students should be given the opportunity to reflect, rethink, and make revisions throughout their science journals and on worksheets. Students will fill in the L sections of their KWL charts at this time. This process will assist learners in moving from abstract–concrete to concrete–abstract instruction.


    Have students evaluate what they’ve learned thus far about energy. The L section in their science journals can be used to evaluate what students have learned. They can make any modifications that are necessary at this time.


    In order to address the unique strengths and needs of every learner, provide additional support such as flash cards, pictures, definitions, graphic organizers, technology, and conferences.


    Provide opportunities for students to move from guided activities to independent application through note taking correspondence, introduction, and closing activities. The lesson begins with concrete ideas and simple concepts first, such as definitions and introductory videos, and then moves to more complex concepts on energy involving sources and forms by completing activities and formative assessment tools.


Instructional Procedures

  • View

    Start the lesson by having students create a KWL chart in their science journals. If students do not have an ongoing science journal, give all students a copy of the KWL chart (S-4-5-1_ KWL Chart.doc). Have students write the following types of energy under the W (What) section of their KWL charts, leaving space after each to allow for note taking throughout the lesson. Have students complete this task before showing them the energy video.

    • energy

    • radiant energy

    • thermal energy

    • chemical energy

    • electrical energy

    • kinetic energy

    • potential energy

    Explain to students that as they watch the video, they will write notes under the appropriate vocabulary terms in their science journals. These notes will be used to generate and answer questions throughout the unit and help them study for the end of unit test on energy.

    Energy has many forms. Some examples include radiant, thermal, electrical, and chemical. Energy can either be kinetic/in motion or potential/stored. Also the Sun, or solar energy, is Earth’s primary energy source (as radiant or light energy, not as heat or thermal energy.) The Earth is too far away from the Sun for thermal energy, but the light or radiant energy causes thermal energy on Earth, which we feel as heat. Solar energy provides the Earth with its main source of energy which is transformed into other forms of energy: wind, photosynthesis or chemical energy, friction (rub hands or two sticks to feel heat; this is energy transforming from mechanical energy of motion to thermal energy), chemical (burning of oil, gas, coal, wood), and electrical energy (heat when an electric current flows through thin wires such as the filament in a light bulb or toaster).”

    Students can write these definitions and begin to list examples of each as they watch the video and complete the following activities.

    Ask students to listen for and write down examples of various forms of energy while you watch the video.

    Begin the Matter and Energy video lasting approximately 11 minutes at http://videos.howstuffworks.com/hsw/20431-matter-and-energy-defining-energy-video.htm.

    When the video is done, divide students into small groups. Supply each group with a pencil and piece of paper. Each person in the group must write a fact from the video onto the paper, passing the paper clockwise until everyone has contributed a fact about energy and its forms.

    When all groups are finished, call on volunteers from each group to share a fact. Record the facts on chart paper (or SMART Board or overhead transparency).

    When all groups have shared their facts, read aloud the facts recorded on the chart paper.

    Differentiate between the various forms of energy, citing examples. Explain to students that kinetic energy is energy in motion, like running and swimming. Objects like a moving car, a falling rock, or a strong wind all have kinetic energy.

    Energy can also be stored, like a battery or as fossil fuels or food. Objects have energy when they are not moving (when you sleep at night or a rock on a cliff before it falls). This is potential energy because it is stored up and ready to use later.

    Distribute a copy of the Energy Picture to each student (S-4-5-1_Energy Picture.pdf).

    Continue to explain and define thermal energy as having to do with heat, radiant as bright and shining, and electrical as caused by the motion of electrons and protons. Remind students to write these facts in their science journals.

    Next, have students stand up at their seats and jog in place for 1 minute. Afterwards ask for volunteers to identify the type of energy used for the running activity.

    As a closing independent activity or homework, have students complete the Energy Forms Chart (S-4-5-1_Energy Forms Chart.doc). Have students exchange their charts and discuss them. Check for understanding.

    Finish up the lesson by evaluating students’ interests and concerns they may have on the lesson. Ask students to review the following statements and pick one that best describes how they feel. Then instruct students to copy the statement they picked onto a sticky note, and then place their notes on the door on their way out. Students will not put their names on these evaluations to provide anonymity. These notes will provide the teacher with an informal evaluation of the lesson.

    a) I understand what energy is.

    b) I sort of understand energy but still have questions.

    c) I am a little confused about energy and need help.

    d) I need to review/study in order to understand energy.

    • For students who may be or are going beyond the standards, consider developing an energy brochure.
    • Distribute a blank piece of paper to each student and instruct students to create a trifold pamphlet on energy.

    • The front cover should have the title “Energy,” a definition of the word energy, a picture of energy, and the student’s first and last name.

    • The inside front flap should have an illustration of a form of energy and its definition. The middle section and the final inside section should include an additional illustration and definition. The rear flap can remain blank.

    • Have students create flash cards or note cards to make connections between energy concepts and the real world. Allow students to be creative or provide them with pictures to cut out. They can use the flashcards to test one another.

Related Instructional Videos

Note: Video playback may not work on all devices.
Instructional videos haven't been assigned to the lesson plan.
DRAFT 05/26/2010
Please wait...