How to Use Christmas Tree Lights to Teach Electricity

Teaching electricity? Grab some Christmas tree lights! They provide a cheap option for testing conductors and insulators. Furthermore, if you let kids take them apart, they’ll understand circuits better.

Ms. Sneed Buys Some Christmas Tree Lights

Yep, our favorite fourth grade teacher wanted to try something she saw on Pinterest. She headed to the local Walmart and picked out a strand of Christmas tree lights. Her eyes shown. “This set of colorful lights will be super fun for my electricity unit,” she thought. And they were cheap: only $6.99.

Buy a set of Christmas tree lights for your electricity unit. They're cheap! For $6.99, you can get 25 bulbs with wires attached.

Are you feeling “pinspired”? Feel free to pin images from this post.

Ms. Sneed Dissects Her Christmas Tree Lights

When she got home, Ms. Sneed opened the box and unwound the strand of lights. “Why on earth are there three wires?” Ms. Sneed asked herself.

For a quick answer, she searched on the Internet. “Okay – three wires – hot, neutral, and series. More than what my kiddos need to know.”

Next, she cut each light apart from the others. To leave plenty of wire to and from the bulb, she cut directly between each bulb.

To use Christmas tree lights in your classroom, cut the wires halfway between the bulbs.

Building a Conductor/Insulator Tester with Christmas Tree Lights

First, Ms. Sneed decided use the bulbs to build testers for her conductors and insulators lab.

First, she stripped the ends of the wires leading to the bulb. Then she twisted one end to the end of a wire leading to her battery holder. From her reading, she knew that each of the Christmas tree lights should have a voltage of 1.5 to 3.0 volts. Therefore, two AA batteries should do.

Build your own testers for a conductors and insulators lab. Just attach a Christmas tree light to a set of two batteries. Leave one end open to test objects.

Letting Kids Figure It Out

Second, Ms. Sneed thought about inquiry learning. “What if I gave each group of four students a strip of four lights?” she said to herself. “Then they could figure all of this out themselves.”

Let your students do some thinking! Give each group four bulbs with the wires attached. (Be sure to remove the plug!) Let them determine why the bulbs have extra wires, whether it's a series or parallel circuit, and more!

Ms. Sneed could hardly wait to get started. Watching kids explore and learn certainly brightened her smile.

Enjoy Teaching

Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.

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