Summary of my Science and Physics Posts

Teaching Physics Topics 

Essential Resources for Physics Teachers

Teaching reflection of light

Waves and Sound

Heat Transfer

Teaching Forces

Rant about the state of science teaching

Link to Pinterest Physics teaching support – Please note this as well as this blog will be continually updated so please add resources and ideas

Teaching Science – Generic Blogs

Short Guide on improving practicals

Three Act Science

Please add other links in the Comments below

A Short Guide on how you might teach Science more effectively

The intention of this soon to be series of blogs is to clarify what good Science Teaching is and how to become a better Science Teacher.

Before we start looking at Science teaching we ought to look at the learners. What do we want our young scientific thinkers to be like?

There are lots of kids stage shows and adverts of the ‘Mad Scientists’ white coats, big hair and a bit crazy. I may be being a killjoy, but I see these as damaging stereotypes and most kids don’t relate to these scientists who are clearly so different to them.

Ask your students what they think scientists are  and what they do they think. According to Camilla Ruz for the Imperial College Science Magazine I,SCIENCE here   heres a picture of the ‘Zombie’ Sir Isaac Newton – drawn by a 9 year old. Scientists are white (dead?) male, white coat wearing, sociopaths with big glasses. They make potions, explosions and sometimes save  (Harry Potterish)  , or evilly try to  destroy the world.


This perception really isn’t helpful at all. I like to say that all scientists do is look for evidence and then make decisions on what they find. 

I had this discussion with a group of students  I taught when I hadn’t time to change out of my motorbike gear. I asked them to look at me scientifically  for evidence and make decisions about me.  The statements and questions were very astute :

“You ride a motorbike”  – ‘how do you know?’ – “you are wearing motorbike gear ” – ‘I might be a very careful cyclist’ – ‘What more information do you need?’ – “Have you got your keys?” – ‘Yes – look they are Honda keys. Is that more evidence?’ – “Maybe, but not really because Honda make cars as well” – ‘Where might you find more evidence?’ – “Look in the car park” – they look out of the window, there is a Honda motorbike – ‘Does that prove it? – “No, it might be someone else’s” – “We need to see if your keys fit it” ………

Having these discussions about everyday things can be more useful than in trying to do it in an abstract  scientific context. If scientists look at evidence and make decisions, is a doctor a scientist? What about a farmer, mechanic, lawyer, hairdresser, beautician? .. In fact can anyone think of an interesting job where the person doesn’t evaluate evidence and make decisions? …. There aren’t any !

When we teach you science, we aren’t just teaching you about radiation, evolution or chemical bonding. We are teaching you how to think better scientifically. This means whatever interesting job you do, you will be able to do it better.

So if we are all scientists.  What makes a good one? Get the students to decide

  • Curiosity- Don’t take everything at face value
  • Resilience – Thomas Edison’s 1000 attempts to make a lightbulb
  • Asking questions – `we learn from asking rather than answering
  • Learning from mistakes – evaluating
  • Creativity – no thats not just for the artists!

Guess what? – everyone can do that stuff ,so everyone can be a great scientist.

Want a more intellectual assessment – Nobel Prize advice is here

Scientific Method  for non scientists – Actually there aren’t any non – scientists we are all scientists

What does a skateboarder do  when she learns a new trick?

  • Researches what they want to do – watches others or online
  • Plans how they are going to do the trick
  • Risk assesses it (ok so this is not realistic for most skateboarders – it will mend eventually)
  • Try it out
  • Get feedback – Often in the form of brutal peer mocking and laughter
  • Evaluate what happened and modify in the light of the evidence
  • At some stage goes to hospital with something broken

This is the scientific method and is used by so many people who don’t consider themselves as scientists but in fact are !  See my blog on the science of slacklining here 

Footballing Scientists – and free resources !

I co-wrote some resources with Arsenal and the Institute of Physics . This was a paradigm shift. The Arsenal Footballers are amazing scientists as they clearly understand how the laws of physics apply to footballs. They may not be able to explain what they are doing in standardised scientific language but they know intuitively . Click on the image to get the free resource – or contact me for more information

iop foot

Practicals in Science

“Teaching Science without practicals is like teaching swimming without a pool”  

Is this true? Partly , but just having access to the pool doesn’t mean that you will swim well.  You need knowledgeable tuition, to be able to practise  lots  and to be given useful feedback.  A purely theoretical understanding of swimming isn’t likely to be that helpful in the real world, but you can still learn lots. Likewise mindlessly splashing about may be fun, but it isn’t efficient learning.

A useful report: Does Practical Work Really Work? A study of the effectiveness of practical work as a teaching and learning method in school science – Ian Abrahams and Robin Millar. here

This report is often cited by people claiming practical work isn’t effective.  What the report found on the study of 25 lessons that really only for one was the use of practicals deemed to be effective  in extending the learning of ideas. It isn’t that practicals do not aid learning, rather that most observed practicals in the study didn’t because they weren’t well planned.

The framework is a great tool for thinking about what learning will take place:prac 1

A: What did the teacher want the students to learn

B: What was the activity / practical that the teacher had planned

C: What did the students actually do – This is the first success criteria and in the study this is what the vast majority of teachers focussed on.  This is the realm of the observables.  Did the students follow the correct procedures, use the apparatus properly, get the right results. These are usually fairly low level objectives and usually do little to improve conceptual understanding.

D: The second learning outcome is in the domain of ideas. What did the students learn from the practical that actually helped  their conceptual understanding. This is not only  a considerably conceptually higher level  expectation than the observables , but also much harder to measure.

If the domain of objects and observables – (what equipment they use and what they measure ) doesn’t link with the domain of ideas (conceptual understanding )  then it is likely the practical will have little impact on learning.

prac 2

Before you do a practical, use this model to really think about the learning and how you can apply good pedagogy.  What is pedagogy?  See Steve Wheelers’ Blog here

Essential resources for Physics Teachers is here 

A really useful book by Tom Sherrington is here 

SCORE – Getting Practical Resources for Primary is here

3 Act Science here 

Great Videos from Alom Shaha here

Please contact me through twitter or through the comments on what ideas you would like included

Please follow this blog to be informed of the rest of this series

A Level Physics – Preparing for the CPAC – Practical Advice

Just a quick draft blog supporting those physics teachers . Please join in the discussions on and watch this space as it willbe updated

For those of you on twitter will be using the hashtag #CPACphys lease feel free to ask questions I probably cant answer but willfind someone who can


What is CPAC?

A-level practical skills to be assessed via endorsement

Cross-board statement on practical endorsement

The assessment of practical skills is a compulsory requirement of the course of study for A-level qualifications in biology, chemistry and physics. It will appear on all students’ certificates as a separately reported result, alongside the overall grade for the qualification. The arrangements for the assessment of practical skills will be common to all awarding organisations. These arrangements will include:

  • A minimum of 12 practical activities to be carried out by each student which, together, meet the requirements of Appendices 5b (Practical skills identified for direct assessment and developed through teaching and learning) and 5c (Use of apparatus and techniques) from the prescribed subject content, published by the Department for Education. The required practical activities will be defined by each awarding organisation.
  • Teachers will assess students against Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC) issued by the awarding organisations. The draft CPAC (see below) are based on the requirements of Appendices 5b and 5c of the subject content requirements published by the Department for Education, and define the minimum standard required for the achievement of a pass. The CPAC will be piloted with schools and colleges and other stakeholders during autumn 2014 and spring 2015 to ensure that they can be applied consistently and effectively.
  • Each student will keep an appropriate record of their assessed practical activities.
  • Students who demonstrate the required standard across all the requirements of the CPAC will receive a ‘pass’ grade.
  • There will be no separate assessment of practical skills for AS qualifications.
  • Students will answer questions in the AS and A-level exam papers that assess the requirements of Appendix 5a (Practical skills identified for indirect assessment and developed through teaching and learning) from the prescribed subject content, published by the Department for Education.

Check out the very active Forum on here  You have to register but it is free and amazing !  Most of this blog is a compilation of ideas from it

AQA have a detailed practical booklet here if you are doing AQA – David Cotton has put together resources that link to TAP on talkphysics here

OCR Guidance is here 

A superb site is Practical A Level Physics it has been organised  to give extensive details about each practical. Included is a photo of the set up, teacher/tech notes, student notes, sample lab book and sample data. It is superb and the author continues to update it






Need to buy equipment ?


Writing up – You could use the Young Scientists Journal

Young Scientists Journal ( is an online science journal written, edited and produced entirely by students aged 12 to 20.

It was founded in 2006 by Christina Astin, one of our Teaching and Learning Coaches in Kent, and now attracts articles and editors from across the world.  17 issues have been published, with articles on a whole range of STEM topics, many of which started off as coursework, extended projects or CREST awards.  The last issue is here:


Your students can get involved by:

  • reading the journal – it’s free and open access and can be an inspiring source for homework research
  • following us on facebook (/YSJournal) or Twitter (@YSJournal)
  • getting their articles or science research projects published – it’s easy to upload and looks great on a UCAS form
  • joining the team of students editing articles and running the journal – plus lots of other opportunities such as web development, marketing, social media etc

If you have a group of students all keen to get involved you can get set up as a hub school – email  for more info.


What might record keeping look like? – My esteemed colleague and all together fantastic man Jon Clarke posted this on talkphysics (the link at the top of this page)

my record-keeping plans are for the first year through this new system, in case it helps anyone else plan this first time through the Practical Endorsement, or in case you think I’ve missed something – please let me know!(jon.clarke “at”

In Monday’s lesson I’m going to run through parts of the AQA A-level Practical Handbook with them (particularly sections D & E), getting them ready to carry out their first required practical (5 – resistivity of a wire) on that Friday. Handily, section E suggests a “pro forma” to guide their write-up. I’ll be explicit with the students that, in this first practical, our learning outcomes are: to use the equipment, record data, and write up a practical. (The quality of their results, analysis or evaluation aren’t my priority yet.)

The exam board require the following information. Here’s what I’ll record for each item:

1. documented plans to carry out sufficient practical activities which meet the requirements of CPAC.
Long-term schemes of work which include the required practicals

2. a record of each practical activity undertaken and the date when this was completed;
3. a record of the criteria being assessed in that practical activity
My own record of work that I write-up after every lesson (do others keep anything similar?), plus I’ll write the passed criteria on each student’s practical notes while they do it, plus a note in a tracking spreadsheet

4. a record of student attendance;
Tracking spreadsheet, plus our electronic registers

5. a record of which student met the criteria and which did not;
Tracking spreadsheet, plus a note on each student’s work

6. student work showing evidence required for the particular task with date;
In students’ folders, interspersed with their theory work

7. any associated materials provided for the practical activity e.g. written instructions given.
A note in my record of work – in the case of Friday’s practical, this will be a full print-out of the IoP’s Teaching Advanced Physics notes for this practical – .

The rest of the TAP resources that support CPAC are here


Three Act Science – Alternative approaches to Science Teaching

Three act science is based on the work of Dan Meyer see his TED Talk here  who created three act maths in order to get students to think about and engage in maths – rather than simply follow sets of processes in order to get the ‘right’ answer.

Dan felt that his students had the following issues

Meyer students lack


Any science teacher will recognise these as the same problems we face. Students wait for us to help them and give up if we don’t,  We think they’ve nailed it at the end of the lesson only to find that at the start of the next lesson they are mystified when you mention the concept again. If an exam  question is worded slightly differently to the ones they have practiced they are completely flummoxed. They ask us to prepare them for exactly what will come up in the exam and blame us if it doesn’t.

Professor Guy Claxton in his latest book Educating Ruby   has the idea of seven Cs that give us a good starting point on what we want to our students to be enterprising, friendly, moral and imaginitive. These are :

Curious – Have a natural interest

Collaborative – Be able to be part of a team

Communicators – Effectively put their point across

Creative – Produce new and interesting ideas and material

Committed – Not need any external drivers or rewards

Confident – Be prepared to present and defend opinions

Craftmanship – Pride in their work and being the best that they can be

Three act science aims to help develop these skills  not just exam decoding. Irrespective of your teaching style – be it traditional or progressive these ideas add value to learning. It also fits in perfectly to strategies such as the South Australian Learning to Learn  which I feel hits all the things I’d want an education system to be

The principles of three act science are:

Act 1: the hook

This is a demonstration or video that is either counter intuitive or creates curiosity. The aim is to get the students engaged in deep thinking either in order to explain what they think will happen or why it happened.

An example is this one. What order will the cartons fall over in?

To take this a stage further we can ask students to make a prediction – The work of Professor Mazur implies this is essential.  We also should  create a degree of confusion  – see another blog I wrote  here  or the original here 

An effective way of assessing learning and ideas is to ask students to put their left right or both hands up to indicate their choice. So for example for the cartons above. If you think the last carton to fall over is the full one on your left, raise your left hand. If you think its the half full in the middle raise both hands. If its the empty one on your right raise your right hand. Now keep your hand/s up , go and find someone who disagrees with you and tell them why they are wrong.

We now go and listen to the ideas and misconceptions and articulate them to the class. What we are trying to do here is to use visible thinking  . The simple premise being that if we want our students to think like scientists we need to model that thinking for them. We are also drawing attention to misconceptions and getting students to think about them. The effectiveness of this strategy is outlined in the Dr Derek Muller aka Veritasium in his doctorate research – Full research papers here

Another strategy to add thinking at this point is  WMHI?  This is simply asking the question What Might Happen If …. ?  and get the students to continue – the boxes were lighter/heavier , sand was used instead of water ….  then they can work it out or try it out.

Act 2: The explore

So we have started an engaging activity, now is the time to explore and develop problem solving skills. What do we need to know in order to find out. What information have I got?  How might this link to other things I have learned or seen before?  (You could link this to SOLO taxonomy  here though David Didau has some advice on using it more for planning than the students here ) What value if any do the other student ideas have ? Could my initial beliefs be wrong? (surely not – confirmation bias is very powerful!)

We can also take it a step further – So for the cartons  if they all think the half full is the most stable – at what stage does reducing the amount of fluid from half full make it become less stable ie what is the point of maximum stability ?

Act 3: The reveal

We might want to use the Zeigarnik effect – basically  we lose interest in the cartons when we know what the answer is. We continue to think about incomplete activities so dont rush to do the reveal.

Want to know the answer to the cartons? Try it yourself = or look for the clue in the first video

There will be a whole series of three act science activities launched on a new youtube channel threeactscience and coolscistuff – So please watch this space

Please contribute any ideas or thoughts in the comments section




Confusion vs Clarity – Great teachers who beat themselves up and poor ones who think they are great

We like clarity – defined as clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity. So surely this is what we as educators should be aiming for. Brief succinct and to the point and our students are happy.

Confusion on the other hand is something unpleasant and to be avoided says conventional wisdom.  This may be true for superficial tasks such as rote memorising, but there is mounting evidence that confusion promotes learning at a deeper level of comprehension.

Science is different than most subjects in that most students enter our classrooms with a preconceived notion of scientific concepts . Their minds are not a blank slate (sadly as that would be easier) but a mass of beliefs, many of which are wrong.

If we use the classic teaching idea of showing a demonstration and then having a discussion about what they have seen, that must be effective. 


It would appear not, from research from Eric Mazur,the Harvard physics education researcher that we are better off not doing the demonstration at all unless you get them to predict an outcome first. If only the demo is viewed you tend to remember it in a way that confirms your belief rather than the reality. This is a common fallacy that we remember things as they really are. Making the prediction seems to force us to realise that we got it wrong and hence more likely to change our minds. The social discussion afterward seems to have no direct effect on their performance although longer term benefits were not evaluated. Nor was peer instruction used which would have been interesting.

Dr Derek Muller – with the youtube channel Veritasium exploits this improved performance with his videos that deliberately confuse  Great Youtube Channel

Students prefer not to be confused and far prefer teachers who give clear explanations,  .  Is this always a good thing?  Mazur tried an on-line test on several topics, where he asked students a couple of hard questions (novel situations, things they hadn’t faced previously), and then a meta-question, “Did you know what you were doing on those questions?”  Mazur and his colleagues then coded that last question for “confusion” or “no confusion,” and compared that to performance on the first two problems.


Again the results are counter intuitive. The confused students actually perform way better than the ones who are not. Which probably means that the students who are happiest with their teachers are the poorer performers – (this has huge ramifications for fee paying schools who want their teachers to be popular )

For teachers we may be faced with the choice of being popular and ineffective, or unpopular and effective!

Not only are students poor at judging how effective their teachers are they also according to Mazur are very poor at predicting their own performance.

This could be partly down to the Dunning-Kruger effect where people have a tendency to overrate their own ability. This is usually down to ignorance rather than arrogance. In virtually every survey done more than 50% of people judge themselves as being better than average attractiveness, intelligence and ability as a driver. Perversely the least competent are the ones most likely to overrate themselves and the highest performers underrate themselves.


Perceived logical reasoning ability and test performance as a function of actual test performance

An article here outlines Dunning – Kruger effect and there’s a detailed blog here 

Add all these things together and you can have very popular poor performing teachers who think they are great as they lack the analytical skills to see their failings and unpopular, but  high performing teachers who beat themselves up. It can be a cruel, unfair  world!


I will be launching a new YouTube Channel to support this so please watch this space

Essential Resources for Physics Teachers – Please add ideas

This is an evolving resource so please add links to other resources/blogs/twitter feeds etc at the bottom in Comments

As anyone who reads my blogs knows I am committed to creating scientists rather than people who can pass science exams. There will be no rants here , just useful links and essential websites

Resources from the Institute of Physics

Comprehensive resources and thoroughly checked for quality. Including the at times contentious new way of looking at energy. I hated it at first but have now come round to it making much more sense than the old way of doing things – Want to know more ? Follow the link below and look at the Energy Sections and also the Events . These resources are supported by a team of dedicated Teaching and Learning Coaches (TLCs) to find if your school can benefit and see the program and impressive impact report click here

Supporting Physics Teachers – SPT Resources from aged 5 – 14 These are available to download as pdfs or to view as websites

You will ned to register to download the resources, but its free and gives you access to the Talkphysics forum that is a truly superb community able to answer any questions you may have. Click on the image to go to the site 

SPT Materials

SPT Materials

and a series of events – You can find the calendar by clicking on the image 

IOP Events

IOP Events

The IOP tweets educationally on @TakeOnPhysics To see my lists on twitter of great physics tweeters to follow use this link Please contact me with more suggestions and dont be shy of self promotion I tweet as @natkin 


Dr Muller aka Veritasium has the most amazing youtube channel as well as conducting some great research into physics teaching his Youtube link is here 

SlowMo Guys are awesome! link here


Teaching Advanced Physics – from the IOP some great resources here 

Teaching Advanced Physics

Teaching Advanced Physics

Nuffield Physics (Im a product of the Nuffield Physics course and I love it ) Great practicals to do 

Practical Physics

Practical Physics


This has been going ages but is still a great source of animations lots of these have now been updated to HTML5 so can be viewed on iPads.



Keith Gibbs

One of the people who inspired me as a student . If you ever get the opportunity go and see him present . He is awesome and a lovely man

His website has lots of free resources and I can recommend his book

Keith Gibbs

Keith Gibbs

Challenging questions

Isaacs Physics has a series of great questions that go beyond the standard ones

Isaacs Questions

Isaacs Questions

The British Physics Olympiad is a great for challenging your AS and A2 students and for Oxbridge preparation



Engineering Students – Great stuff here to help them prepare 



Scottish Physics Teacher Resources – You have to be a member 

Scottish Physics

Scottish Physics

Flipped Learning or Revision Videos

Physics and Maths Tutor

Screenshot 2014-11-23 07.58.05

My blogs on physics ideas may be useful 

Teaching reflection of light

Waves and Sound

Heat Transfer

Teaching Forces

Short Guide on improving practicals

Rant about the state of science teaching

Link to Pinterest Physics teaching support – Please note this as well as this blog will be continually updated so please add resources and ideas

Is there something more important than our teaching style?

Knowing what they know (or think they know) before teaching them

There is a huge debate, and rightly so, about pedagogical approaches – traditional vs progressive etc.  We all want what is best for our young people, but why are the views so entrenched? Why is there so little consensus that there may be value in both sides of the argument?

In the ‘The Righteous Mind’ Jonathan Haidt argues that we are not reasonable rational people, instead we follow our emotions then look to justify our actions or thoughts. 

An extract from the NY Times review full article here 

To the question many people ask about politics — Why doesn’t the other side listen to reason? — Haidt replies: We were never designed to listen to reason. When you ask people moral questions, time their responses and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they’ve decided. The funniest and most painful illustrations are Haidt’s transcripts of interviews about bizarre scenarios. Is it wrong to have sex with a dead chicken? How about with your sister? Is it O.K. to defecate in a urinal? If your dog dies, why not eat it? Under interrogation, most subjects in psychology experiments agree these things are wrong. But none can explain why.

The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others. Haidt shows, for example, how subjects relentlessly marshal arguments for the incest taboo, no matter how thoroughly an interrogator demolishes these arguments.

I’m not going to jump into the pedagogical debate, other than to say that in science teaching I believe there is a place for direct instruction and a place for experimental learning leading to discovery. But fundamentally if we don’t take the student’s starting point into account, neither will lead to effective learning

Science, particularly physics, is a challenging subject to teach, not because the concepts are that difficult, but because students come into our lessons with a set of beliefs about how the world works, most of which, unfortunately, are wrong.

If Haidt’s arguments are correct, and there is as in all of these things considerable dispute, its not enough to change someones belief system simply with a rational argument. How often do we see peoples views changed in debates? 

“Thats a very good point I hadn’t thought of that, I was wrong” is not something we hear, if anything views become more entrenched when challenged.

This becomes a particular issue when when trying to teach concepts that seem to defy what we believe.

An example 

Monkey and the hunter

A hunter spies a monkey in a tree, takes aim, and fires. At the moment the bullet leaves the gun the monkey lets go of the tree branch and drops straight down. How should the hunter aim to hit the monkey?

1.Aim directly at the monkey

2.Aim high (over the monkey’s head)

3.Aim low (below the monkey)


With my students I get them to put their left hand up if they think 1, both

hands for 2 and right hand for 3. Then if there is a disagreement they find

someone with their hands in a different position to themselves and argue.

At this point I only listen

Most people choose the third choice – Aim below the monkey as this

seems to make sense “I’m shooting something that is falling so I need to

aim under it.

However the answer is 1 – Aim directly at the monkey 

The reason for this is that both are falling at the same rate due to gravity. It

doesn’t seem to make sense. A bullet fired horizontally and one

simultaneously dropped from the same height hit the ground at the same

time. This is counterintuitive so the only way to convince people is to

demonstrate it.

full explanation here

Another example

Touch the metal of a chair leg and the plastic of the chair. Are they different temperatures?

Again the vast majority of students will say yes. They feel different so they must be different.

A massive misconception that needs to be addressed before we teach heat transfer (Ideas on teaching heat transfer here ) so stick some thermometers on them and prove it

Then give this example

I’m putting some ice cubes on a metal and a plastic lid. Which will melt faster? The ‘metal is colder’ people will not be able to explain the result using their belief system.

We are looking at bringing our students into conscious competence, from wherever they may have been before. If we don’t know what they knew, we are in danger of simply adding to misconceptions.


All too often though we can simply bring them from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence – Is this progress? Is it an inevitable part of learning? 

I have had some lessons like this where the students came in thinking they knew something and left knowing they didn’t get it. This isn’t a problem unless you dont follow it up thoroughly 

So how do we know what they know?

Without using technology give them a post it note and ask them to write what they think. Some students I taught in a  very high achieving school struggled with this asking me if they could look it up or ask someone else – ‘I don’t want the right answer I want to know what you think!’ 

In the example below I was teaching a one off lesson to a year 10 class and I wanted to know what they thought happened when you switched a light bulb on. 

The students wrote their ideas on the post it note then stuck it on one of the confidence windows labelled high med and low.

Most of the students were low to medium with a couple putting high. One of the high confidence ones had a vey poor understanding and this is the most dangerous combination.

For student A she had in her head that there were positive electrons (as opposed to positive electrodes) so she thought she heard me say positive electrons. The marks you see are from a buddy who did a pre flight checklist from Dylan Wiliam outlined  here. You can see that the buddy hasn’t tried to get her to change her mind and hands it in not corrected.

Student A

Id be interested if anyone has any other comments – please add to the blog post

For physics teachers 

The format of this lesson was find out what they know on a post it note. Use it to inform your lesson planning.

Show them the big circuit which has a two bulbs connected in parallel one has a very long loop and the other a very short loop . Will the bulbs light at the same time? 

Yes they do! How can that be?  the electrons move very slowly through the wires.

This leads into the rope model that explains how this can happen.

Discuss other concepts

Students get their post it notes and stick them into their books 

What do you know now? A great way of showing progress!

Teaching electricity an interesting Prezi from the great Jon Clarke here

with reference to the Institute of Physics  SPT materials here