Ted's teaching tips

13th February 1998 at 00:00
This brilliant picture of a common natural phenomenon offers many possibilities.

1

Illustrate one important feature of electricity: the negatively charged ice particles in the cloud baseseeking to cancel out the positive charges on the ground, so the flash goes down and then back up again. The speed of light and sound can also be introduced. Children can count the seconds between seeing lightning and hearing thunder.

2

What weather conditions bring about lightning? (Large storm clouds, rapid heating and coolingof air.) Where in the world are the bad storms?

3 Art

Lightning is terrifying but beautiful, so look at the photograph and paint a realistic or abstract stormy scene.

4 Writing

Discuss technical ("electrical discharge") and evocative ("jagged", "spectacular", "vivid") words and phrases. Write (a) a scientific report and (b) a journalist's account.

5 Safety

Urge children not to go outside or shelter under a tree (a poorconductor, so the charge spills out sideways), but to get inside (steel buildings and vehicles are best).

6 Superstitions

There are superstitions that lightning comes from the devil, etc. Do you believe in superstitions? Why do we have them?

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University

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