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Ministry of Education.

Learning task 2

Making a nail magnet

Once you have found out something about the students' conceptual understandings and their language abilities then you can tailor the learning outcomes and the language demands of the unit to their needs. In the magnetism unit the language focus is on developing academic scientific talk and scientific writing to explain magnetism.

The achievement objectives and the language and learning outcomes are explicitly written into this unit. It is about investigating magnets and describing or explaining what has been found. Each lesson within the unit has language learning outcomes that determine the KeyVocab (Word 27KB) . Assessment activities link directly to the learning outcomes.

Content learning outcome

We can magnetise things made from iron (temporary magnets).

Language learning outcome

When I stroke the nail it becomes magnetised. I can make temporary magnets.

Language structure

  • In speech and simple scientific writing:
     In scientific explanations one verb is often linked to the next verb by means of a connective so that a logical sequence is produced (When I stroke... it becomes...). The simple present tense verb is used because the explanation is timeless (stroke...becomes).
  • In more formal academic scientific writing:
     The student voice is removed (I) and the verb is changed into a noun (or gerund). This condenses the statement. It is called nominalisation.
    Stroking magnetises the nail.
    Stroking backwards and forwards demagnetises the nails.


Iron, strong, weak, temporary, to stroke, to pick up, to magnetise, to demagnetise (role of the prefix de-)


Before the activity, model the language.

  •  I have a magnet and an iron nail. How can I magnetise the nail? (When I stroke the magnet with the nail it becomes a temporary magnet.)
  • Does the magnet become stronger or weaker with more strokes? (Stronger)


Magnets, pins and iron nails.


In pairs or small groups.

  1.  Stroke a magnet with an iron nail, 10 times. (The magnet must be stroked one way.) How many pins does the nail pick up?
  2.  How many pins does the nail pick up after 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 strokes?
  3.  Stroke a magnet with an iron nail, 10 times. (The magnet must be stroked both ways.) How many pins does the nail pick up?

Each pair/group records results and constructs sentences about magnetising, demagnetising and temporary magnets.

After the activity, focus on the language:

  • What happens when the nail is stroked forwards and backwards? (The nail is demagnetised.)
  • Discuss with students how language changes from oral to written. Be explicit about this. When I stroke the magnet with a nail it magnetises the nail. In scientific writing we don't use 'I' , verbs change into nouns (or gerunds) and the language condenses - stroking magnetises the nail.
Principle 2

Published on: 19 Feb 2018