Teaching light can be loads of fun. Even if you’re on a tight budget. Five simple activities for kids help them understand light concepts. A little light reading drives them home. And some fun videos reinforce it all.
Ms. Sneed Enjoys Teaching Light
Let’s visit Ms. Sneed’s classroom. She’s planning a light unit for the first time. Looking at her standards, she sees that her kids need to understand how light moves and transfers. They’ve studied light before – in first grade – but it’s now time for a refresher.
At the beginning of her light unit, Ms. Sneed decides to use centers. She wants her students to explore and make generalizations. After searching a bit on the Internet, she decides on five basic concepts:
- How light travels
- Transparent, translucent, opaque
Using some simple materials, Ms. Sneed organizes five stations for teaching light. Let’s take a look.
Station 1: How Does Light Travel?
- Look in a mirror and touch the right side of your face. Which side of the face is touched in the mirror?
- Write your name on a piece of paper. Now look at it in the mirror. What happens?
- Set a textbook upright on the table. Shine a flashlight on the book. Now, using three mirrors, find a way to shine the light on the back of the book.
Ms. Sneed’s kids cooperate to make the light shine from one mirror to another. Yep, light sure does travel in a straight line!
Station 2: Which Materials Are Transparent, Translucent, and Opaque?
- Shine a flashlight on the wall. Now place various objects in front of the flashlight (plastic wrap, tissue plate, wood, paper plate, etc.) How much light passes through?
Ms. Sneed’s students realize that light travels through clear objects. They also see that density, thickness, and color determine whether an object is translucent or opaque.
Station 3: Which Materials Reflect Light?
- Hold objects one foot from a wall. Shine a flashlight on the side of the object facing the wall. Look at the wall to see if any light reflects.
As Ms. Sneed monitors the station, she hears words like smooth, dense, and shiny when kids describe objects that reflect. They use adjectives like soft, rough, and bumpy when discussing those that don’t.
Station 4: What Is Refraction?
- Fill a clear plastic cup halfway with water. Place a pencil in the cup. Now look at the cup from the side. Why does the pencil appear to be split in half?
- Place a penny in an empty opaque cup. Look into the cup then back away until the penny is no longer visible. Slowly pour water into the cup. Why does the penny reappear?
- Place a drop of water on some wax paper. Why does the drop of water magnify objects placed under it?
The kids scribble down their generalizations. When light travels from a gas (air) into a liquid (water), it is bent, or refracted.
Station 5: What Is Color?
- Shine a flashlight into a prism or onto the surface of a compact disk. Draw a picture of the rainbow you see.
- Blow a bubble and let it rest on dark paper.
Children quickly realize that white light can be split into a rainbow, or the visible spectrum.
Teaching Light with Learning Links
After the class has discussed their findings, Ms. Sneed shares some light videos with them. She loves reinforcing learning this way.
A Little Light Reading
Ms. Sneed wants her students to do a little reading on the topic of light. She uses this article to extend learning and introduce new vocabulary.
The students love the science stations and videos. Ms. Sneed loves the way they’ve learned to make generalizations. As she ponders her next course of action, more ideas fill her head. Yes, she’s been on Pinterest again. Naturally, she gathered some awesome activities. To extend learning, Ms. Sneed will use trade books, bulletin boards, and websites.
Ms. Sneed’s Light Unit
Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.