How to Build Light Boards for Kids

Engage, Learn, Science
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Light boards are fun – and educational too! Include them in your electricity unit for pure engagement.

Ms. Sneed Uses Light Boards to Culminate Her Electricity Unit

Our favorite fourth grade teacher sat with her co-teacher, Mr. Frank. “This electricity unit has been awesome,” she said. “All of the activities, websites, and videos engaged our students. Now what can we do as a grand finale?”

“When I was in school,” Mr. Frank replied, “I remember we built light boards.”

“Tell me more!”

“I’ll do better than that. I’ll show you.”


As usual, Mr. Frank headed to the science cabinet. “For the board, we’ll need tagboard, aluminum foil, masking tape, and a paper punch.” He plopped the materials on the table then went to a side table and grabbed an open circuit.

“We can use the same type of tester we used in our conductors and insulators lab.”

To build a light board for your electricity unit, you'll need tagboard, aluminum foil, masking tape, a paper punch, and an open circuit.

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Mr. Frank grabbed a pair of scissors from his desk, then he sat down at the table. “First, we cut strips of aluminum foil slightly narrower than the masking tape.” He snipped a narrow piece of foil with the scissors.

“Second, we adhere the aluminum foil to strips of masking tape.”

He walked over to the printer. “I printed the matching activity from our electricity unit on this piece of tagboard. Now I’ll punch holes next to each term and definition.”

After punching 12 holes on the sides of the paper, Mr. Frank picked up a strip of masking tape with aluminum foil stuck to it. “Next, we tape this to the back of the tagboard, matching the term and definition.” He flipped it over and pointed to the holes. “See how the foil shows through here?”

Mr. Frank continued taping all of the matching terms and definitions. He pointed to one strip. “The foil comes right to the edge of this piece of tape,” he said. “I’ll reinforce it with some extra tape to we don’t get a short circuit.”

“I get it,” she replied. “The masking tape insulates the foil, which conducts electricity.”

Mr. Frank nodded his head and flipped the board over. Then he held one wire from the circuit on a term and the other on its matching definition. Immediately, the bulb lit.

Wrap up your electricity unit with light boards!

“Wow!” Ms. Sneed exclaimed. “That is so cool. OMG, the kids are going to love this!

Ms. Sneed Teaches Her Students to Build Light Boards

A few days later, Ms. Sneed addressed her class. “Today, we will build light boards.”

The kids looked puzzled. “What’s that?” some asked.

Ms. Sneed was ready with a sheet of directions. She distributed it and read the directions aloud.

Light boards will provide the perfect culminating activity for your electricity unit. Kids in third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade love constructing circuits and demonstrating how to use conductors and insulators.

“We’ll use our use our usual lab groups,” she said next. “Ones, get the foil and tape. Twos, grab the tagboard and paper punch. Threes, take two batteries, a battery holder, and three wires from the table over there. Fours, take a bulb and bulb holder from that same table.”

After the students had all their materials, she clapped for their attention, and they clapped back. “Now I’d like the ones and twos to work on the tape. Threes and fours, build the circuit. Then you can all take turns punching holes and taping the strips.”

Everyone got busy. While her class was generally engaged during science labs, she noticed that they were even more excited for this activity. Several times she heard comments like, “Wow, this is going to be epic.”

Debriefing Electricity Concepts Used in Light Boards

As the students finished up, Ms. Sneed circulated. Every time a group tested their board for the first time, their faces lit up. Shouts of “let me try next” and “cool!” could be heard.

Finally, Ms. Sneed clapped again. “So, you built a circuit. Let’s go over the integral parts. You can point to show me,” she said.

“Where is the energy source?” Her students pointed to the battery.

“The load?” They pointed to the light bulb.

“What about the conductors?” The students pointed to the wires.

Then someone yelled, “Hey! What about the foil?”

Some kids nodded their heads. “Yep,” said Ms. Sneed. The foil conducts electricity as well. What job does the masking tape do?

After a short pause, several students raised their hands. “Insulator?” one girl suggested. Ms. Sneed nodded.

“Great job, everyone,” she said. “I haven’t had this much fun in a long time.”

Enjoy Teaching

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.

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