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20 October 2014
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Keeping warm - lesson plan

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Keeping warm

  1. To understand that good thermal insulators keep cold objects cold and warm objects warm.
  2. To understand that metals are not good thermal insulators but wood and plastics are.

National Curriculum

Sc3, 1b, 2c.


You will need Adobe Acrobat reader to access the PDF files. BBC Webwise has a complete guide to downloading and installing Adobe Acrobat reader.

Teaching activities


  1. Watch Learning Zone Class Clips - Drysuits, wetsuits and insulation. Ask the children what material is a good insulator.
  2. Show a cup of hot coffee or tea. Ask the children to guess the temperature of the liquid.
  3. Measure the temperature of the drink accurately with a thermometer.
  4. Ask what would happen to the drink if it were left in a room for an hour? What would happen to its temperature?
  5. Bring up the Bitesize keeping warm activity on an interactive whiteboard.
  6. Click to start the clock and watch what happens to the temperature of the hot water. Were the children's predictions correct?


  1. Ask if there is a way to keep the drink warm or at least stopping it from cooling down so quickly? Accept their ideas, which may include examples of flasks they have in their packed lunches.
  2. Explain to the children that a material that stops heat loss is called a thermal insulator.
  3. Explain that they are going to work on the Bitesize keeping warm activity to see if they can find a material that is a good thermal insulator.
  4. Ask the higher ability group to devise their own investigation questions. (Does the type of material affect how quickly the liquid takes to cool?).
  5. Arrange the children in pairs or groups, with a computer for each group or pair.
  6. Ask the children to work through the activity, following the tasks written (and spoken) at the top of the screen. They will be asked to wrap the flask in different materials to see which prevents the water losing its heat and to record the results in a table.
  7. Ask the higher ability group to create their own table.


  1. Discuss what the children found out from the Bitesize keeping warm activity. Which material was the best thermal insulator? Which was the worst? Was it better than having no insulating material? What type of material was a bad insulator (metal)? What type of material was a good insulator (plastic)?
  2. Ask the higher ability group to create a two-part conclusion.
  3. Ask the children to think of an example of something we may want to prevent warming up (eg an ice-lolly). Which material would be the best insulator to surround this item with?
  4. Explain that if a material is a good insulator it will stop an object losing heat (like the hot drink) or stop an object warming up (like an ice-lolly).


  1. Ask the children to plot the results from the table in the Bitesize keeping warm activity as a line graph or to complete the Keeping warm worksheet (PDF 1.42MB).
  2. Ask them to play the Keeping warm quiz in pairs.


Ask the children to find materials in their houses that work as insulators, either stopping something losing heat or stopping something warming up.

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