Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Switch On, Switch Off


Light switches are everywhere!  They are in every house: in the kitchen, the bedroom, the office, the bathroom…but are they really magic?  When it’s time for bed and mom yells “lights out,” is it truly magic within that switch that allows the room to go dark?  Switch On, Switch Off, written by Melvin Berger and illustrated by Carolyn Croll, is an excellent resource for young children to begin exploring the magic within the light switch, or what is better known as electricity!  The story begins just this way, with a child heading to bed, curious as to how his light switch operates.  This commences the lesson where Berger youthfully explains circuits, generators, light bulbs, and plugs, thus demonstrating how electricity is produced and even used.  With the help of Croll’s easy to understand illustrations, children can not only read about electricity, but they can see pictures that enforce how the processes work.  The author even offers a live experiment that children can do to create their own electricity using just a magnet, compass, and piece of wire.

Curriculum Connections
Due to its text-book like specificity and instructional images, Switch On, Switch Off is perfect for use in young classrooms.  The text is extremely kid-friendly, leaving out any elaborate, overwhelming explanations.  For example, in explaining how circuits are split into many other circuits as they enter a house, Berger compares them to small roads coming off of a big highway.  In addition, the pictures are all labeled, allowing children to better understand the core elements necessary for the creation of electricity.  Berger’s book can be tied to Virginia Standards of Learning 4.3 a, b, c, d and e, which may effectively serve as an introduction to basic information about circuits, conductors and insulators, the transformation of electricity, as well as simple electromagnets.  This is a great starting point for children to begin discovering the concept so they can be more familiar in expected later grades.

Additional Resources

  • Electricity Circuits and Conductors  is a great interactive tool for children to experiment with electricity conductors.
  • Electricity and Magnetism is a help site for children to utilize if they have questions or need clarification about the concepts.  Within specific sections under various topics are games, activities, histories, and helpful hints.
  • Electricity Teaching Resources is a site to be used by teachers wishing to explore electricity with students.  The site contains activities, games, teaching strategies, physical science links, quizzes, tests, and more!

Book: Switch On, Switch Off
Author: Melvin Berger
Illustrator: Carolyn Croll
Publisher: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
Publication Date: 1989
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: Recommended K-3, Could be extended through upper elementary
ISBN:  0-690-04786-X

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