Morse Code and Electric Circuits (SOL 4.1, 4.3)

Morse Code and Electric Circuits

Instructor’s Name: Gemma Griffin

Grade: 4th

Time: 45 minutes

Concept: Electricity

Topic: Morse Code and Electric Circuits


4.1 The student will plan and conduct investigations in which:

a) distinctions are made among observations, conclusions, inferences, and predictions;

b) hypotheses are formulated based on cause-and-effect relationships;

c) variables that must be held constant in an experimental situation are defined

4.3 The student will investigate and understand the characteristics of electricity. Key concepts include:

a) basic circuits (open/closed, parallel/series);

b)historical contributions in understanding electricity.

Rationale: With society and our individual lives so dependent on electricity as a primary source of energy, it is important for children to understand how electric circuits work, especially for matters regarding safety around electricity, as well as what historical figures contributed to the discovery and advancement in the field of electricity.

Goals:         To promote science as inquiry.

To investigate basic circuits.

To promote a concrete understanding of electricity, and that the flow of electricity is not produced by “magic”.

To introduce the historical figure, Samuel Morse




The student will be able to observe how basic circuits work; evidenced by lab sheet.


The student will be able to build a series telegraph, evidenced by their abilities to send messages using Morse code.


The student will be able to recognize Samuel Morse as an important historical figure in the advancement of electricity; evidenced by jigsaw research participation.


Per group:

D cell

Miniature Christmas light of bulb and holder

10-15 cm wires



Lab sheet

Samuel Morse Data sheet

Advanced Organizer:

KWL chart and Jigsaw on Samuel Morse.


Pose the question, “How can you build a device that will transmit messages using Morse code?

After talking about Samuel Morse, discuss how the Morse code can be used to transmit messages using short and long flashes of light (dots and dashes).

Inquiry: How can you build a device that will transmit messages by code?

Challenge students to build a circuit that will act as a telegraph and enable them to send messages to teach other in Morse code.

Pass out the materials and lab sheets, and have each group (pair of 2) build a telegraph. Students will use the lab sheet to send each other messages.

Questions for Discussion:

How does your telegraph work?

How is the telegraphy you build different from real telegraphs?

Why aren’t telegraphs widely used today?

What devices have replaced telegraphs for communicating over long distances.


See discussion questions above.


Encourage students to develop their own codes. Have students build telegraphs that use a buzzer instead of a bulb.


Lab sheet. Was the student able to use work cooperatively with their partner to build a telegraphy and send messages back and forth?


This lesson was differentiated using science as inquiry and hands-on experimentation. Auditory and visual learning styles, as well as kinesthetic were also accounted for.


Lynchburg, VA 24503

Last modified Thursday November 24, 2011