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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • understand and recognize the seven forms of energy through the completion of several card-sorting activities that require them to record and discuss their reasoning and through analysis of other groups’ sorting decisions.
  • demonstrate their understanding of the seven forms of energy by sorting the cards (types of energy) into the proper groups and completing a fill-in-the-blank paragraph assessment.

Teacher planning

Time required

Two 65-minute class periods

Materials needed

  • Energy cards — one set per pair of students
  • Card sort lab sheet — one per student
  • Ski trip guided practice sheet — one per student
  • Energy definitions cards assessment — one set per student

Technology resources

  • Teachers who wish to display the instructions (instead of printing a copy for each student pair) will need a multimedia projector and computer.
  • Teachers may also allow students to complete the the various handouts from this lesson on laptops and submit them via email.


Energy cards
Students sort these cards in various ways during the lab activity. This document contains the energy cards, as well as the instructions for each portion of the lab activity.
Open as PDF (1 MB, 14 pages)
Card sort lab sheet
Students use this sheet to record their results and answer questions during the lab activity.
Open as PDF (263 KB, 4 pages)
Ski trip guided practice
Students complete this handout during the guided practice portion of the lesson. This document contains two versions of the activity, as well as an answer key.
Open as PDF (119 KB, 3 pages)
Energy definition cards assessment
Students complete this assessment at the end of the lesson. This document contains an answer key.
Open as PDF (243 KB, 3 pages)

Prior knowledge

Students should have a general definition of what energy is and should also understand the difference between potential and kinetic energy (even though they are reminded of the definition on day two of the lab). Students should have also already learned about electrons, atoms, matter, neutrons, and chemical bonds.


Day one

  1. Energy cards and instructions should be set out for each pair of students before class begins.
  2. As students walk into class, hand students the “Card sort lab sheet.”
  3. Instruct students to read the directions and get started. You may also choose to review the discussions with the class as a whole.
  4. Have students begin working in pairs to sort the cards into as many groups as they like and answer question one on part one of the lab sheet.
  5. As students begin working, walk around and observe. You may ask probing questions or just observe the students. Students will be wondering what the correct answer is. Tell them there is not one correct answer as long as they can explain their decisions.
  6. After about ten minutes (or however long you think your students need), tell the students to go observe four other groups’ sorting methods.
  7. Have students observe other groups’ methods and discuss them with their partner. Then have then answer question two on part one of the lab sheet.
  8. At this point, you may wish to discuss the students’ findings out loud as a class or continue on to the second sorting.
  9. Instruct students to read the directions for part two of the lab. Again, you may choose to review the directions with the class as a whole or have them do this with their partner.
  10. This time, the students sort the cards into seven groups. Then they answer question one on part two of the lab sheet.
  11. While the students are working, walk around and observe the students. You may ask probing questions or just observe. Remind them that there is not one correct answer, as long as they can explain their decisions.
  12. Once they have completed this portion of the activity, you may choose to discuss the students’ findings as a class or continue on to the third sorting.
  13. Instruct the students to read the directions for part three of the lab. This time, the students sort the cards into two groups. Then they answer question one on part three of their lab sheet.
  14. While the students are working, walk around and observe the students.
  15. When the students have completed part three, lead a class discussion about how the students sorted their cards. Be careful not to give students “right” or “wrong” responses during the discussion. Allow them to think and come up with their own conclusions. Having a lot of questions is good at this point. Some sample discussion questions include:
    1. Why did you group the bicycle with the roller coaster?
    2. Do you believe there is one “best” way to sort the cards? Why or why not?
    3. What interested you about how other groups sorted their cards?
    4. Was there any group that sorted their cards in a way you could not figure out?

Day two

  1. Set out the energy cards and instructions for each pair of students. They will start with part four. Review the directions with them and have them get started.
  2. This time, the students should work with their partner to sort their cards into seven groups. Students should use the definitions of each type of energy to guide their decisions for putting the cards into particular groups. Students then record their choices onto the table in question one of part four.
  3. As students are working, walk around and observe their work.
  4. Bring the students back together for a class discussion. Discuss how the students sorted their cards. Some sample discussion questions include:
    1. Why did you group the bicycle with the roller coaster? The lightning bolt with the car?
    2. What group did you put the car in? Why? (ask multiple groups the same question).
  5. Reveal the correct way for the cards to be grouped. (Hint: some objects can be placed in multiple groups, depending on what step the student is focusing on. For instance, a microwave can be considered electrical, thermal, or radiant energy.) Explain to students the “best” answer and then other acceptable answers. This will be very important when students move on to energy transformations.
  6. Students should resort their cards (if needed) and make any necessary corrections on their paper.
  7. Review the directions for part five of the lab.
  8. During this part, the students sort their cards into two groups using the previous energy definitions and the definitions of potential and kinetic energy. They then answer question one on part five of the lab sheet.
  9. As students are working, walk around and observe them.
  10. Bring the class back together for a whole-class discussion about how the students sorted their cards. Reveal the correct answers to the sorting activity.

Guided practice

  1. Give each student a copy of the “Ski trip guided practice” sheet.
  2. Review with the students how this sheet should be completed.
  3. Have them work independently on finishing this assignment.
  4. Teachers with interactive white boards may choose to turn this activity into an interactive presentation. Students could then select an answer from the word bank and drag it to the blank in which they think it best fits.


  • Have students complete the “Energy definitions cards assessment” handout. This assessment includes a definition match and picture match of the different forms of energy. Students will cut out the terms, definitions, and pictures and match the appropriate term with each definition and picture. Lastly, students will glue their final answers to the provided template.
  • Students’ guided practice sheets may also be graded for accuracy and understanding.


  • For ESL students, the teacher can provide a definition of the object and what it is used for directly on the card. Teachers can also select an appropriate partner for these students. Choose someone who will be helpful without doing all the work for the pair.
  • For students working at a higher level, provide them with blank cards on the second day of the lab activity. Have them come up with their own examples by drawing the picture on the card.
  • For some students, an oral assessment may be most appropriate. Have them give you an example of each type of energy. You could also hold up an example of energy and have them name the type of energy it is. Provide them with a word bank, if needed.

Critical vocabulary

chemical energy
related to the potential energy stored in the bonds between atoms in a compound
electrical energy
related to the movement or flow of electrons which carry a charge
the ability to do work or cause change
energy efficiency
the amount of useful energy you get from any type of system
energy transformation
the movement of energy from one form to another
kinetic energy
energy of motion — of waves, electrons, atoms, molecules, substances, and objects
law of conservation of energy
the total amount of energy in a system remains constant over time (it is conserved over time); energy can neither be created nor destroyed — it can only be transformed from one state to another
mechanical energy
related to the movement of objects or their position in gravity
nuclear energy
related to the potential energy stored in bonds between particles in the nucleus of an atom
potential energy
stored energy and the energy of positional gravitational energy; there are several forms of potential energy
radiant (light) energy
related to the vibrations of an electrical charge or magnetic field that produces electromagnetic waves that can travel through a vacuum (such as space)
sound energy
relates to the repetitive compression (squeezing) and rarefaction (letting out) of molecules in a substance (solid, liquid, gas).
thermal (heat) energy
related to the motion of atoms or molecules in a substance


The assignment of lab groups or cooperative learning grouping is critical, as you need to put students together that can work together and support each other in their learning.

Supplemental information

Cooperative Learning
This site explains the benefits of cooperative learning, what it is, the important elements, and how to successfully use cooperative learning in the classroom.
U.S. Energy Information Administration
This website provides great examples, activities, and information about energy. It is a helpful resource for students and teachers seeking additional information.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Science (2010)
      • Grade 6

        • 6.P.3 Understand characteristics of energy transfer and interactions of matter and energy. 6.P.3.1 Illustrate the transfer of heat energy from warmer objects to cooler ones using examples of conduction, radiation and convection and the effects that may result....
      • Grade 7

        • 7.P.2 Understand forms of energy, energy transfer and transformation and conservation in mechanical systems. 7.P.2.1 Explain how kinetic and potential energy contribute to the mechanical energy of an object. 7.P.2.2 Explain how energy can be transformed from...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Science (2005)

Grade 6

  • Goal 6: The learner will conduct investigations and examine models and devices to build an understanding of the characteristics of energy transfer and/or transformation.
    • Objective 6.04: Evaluate data for qualitative and quantitative relationships associated with energy transfer and/or transformation.