Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: What Makes a Magnet?


What makes a Magnet?, written by Franklyn M. Branley and illustrated by True Kelley, is an engaging and colorful book that clearly explains what a magnet is and how it works.  It also offers examples of simple, yet fun, classroom activities to experience using magnets and making magnets.

This is a clever book that is upbeat and quick, yet informative.  It begins with an exercise that shows you what happens when you put a magnet near various items.  It then shows how the student can make a simple magnet.  It also explains that the earth is a magnet, and then shows how to make a compass, and how that works with the earth’s magnet.

Curriculum ConnectionsWhat makes a Magnet? is a good source for teaching the characteristics of a magnet, how and why magnets work, and how a compass relates to magnetism.  The activities in the book could easily and inexpensively be done in the classroom for an effective hands-on experience to reinforce the concepts relating to magnets.  SOL 2.2

Additional Resources:

  • “Discovery Education” offers two hands-on activities: making a compass and making a magnet.  Depending on the maturity level of the students, it may be better to to do them as a group activity.
  • “How Stuff Works” offers a really cool experiment.  Iron-fortified cereal can be crushed up to see if it is attracted to a magnet.  This is simple and inexpensive, but also reinforces that anything with iron is attracted to a magnet.
  • The Quia website provides a fun way for students to review their knowledge about magnets by playing the “Magnet Millionaire” game.

Book: What makes a Magnet?
Author:  Franklyn M. Branley
Illustrator:  True Kelley
Publisher:  HarperCollins
Publication Date:  1996
Pages:  32
Grade Range:  K-3
ISBN:  0-06-026441-1

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