Teaching About the Eye and Vision in Fourth Grade

Teaching about the eye and vision? Try these simple activities. First, your fourth grade students experiment with light. Second, they learn the parts of the eye and make analogies. From this, they create a cartoon diagram. Then they take a brief assessment.

Ms. Sneed Teaches About the Eye and Vision

Our favorite fourth grade teacher sat down to plan more physical science activities. First, she pulled up the science standards. Hmm, how would she teach NGSS 4-PS4-2? Carefully, she read through it:

Develop a a model to describe that light reflecting form objects and entering the eye allows objects to be seen.

Then she opened her laptop and clicked around. Bingo! Fortunately, she found a short set of eye activities that would do the trick. It looked like she’d be integrating health and science.

Activity 1: Light and Vision

The following morning, Ms. Sneed prepped her student teacher on that day’s science activity. “Each science lab group,” she began, “will receive a toilet paper tube, a small object, and a flashlight.” She pointed to the materials on the side table.

To kick off their study of the eye, kids place a small object on the table and cover it with a toilet paper tube.
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Ms. Sneed picked up a small plastic pig. “When kids place this on the table and cover it with a toilet paper tube,” she demonstrated, “the pig seems to disappear.”

As Mr. Grow stared down into the tube, he nodded. “Yep. It’s dark in there. Therefore, you can’t see the pig.”

“Exactly.” Ms. Sneed smiled. “The standard wants kids to understand that light allows an object to be seen.” She walked over to the wall and flicked on the classroom lights.

“Hmm, I can begin to see the pig’s outline,” said Mr. Grow. “But we still need more light.” Then he picked up the flashlight, flicked it on, and shone it into the tube.

“Whoa!” Ms. Sneed exclaimed, looking over his shoulder. “We can really see the pig now. This science activity may seem a bit simple. However, it really drives the concept home.”

Later that morning, Mr. Grow circulated around as the students tried the activity. When he heard the students “oooh” and “ahhh” at the sight of the pig, he knew Ms. Sneed was right.

Activity 2: Parts of the Eye

On the second day, Mr. Grow led the lesson. “At the top of this worksheet,” he told the students, “you will see a labeled diagram of an eye.” Quickly, he distributed the papers.

“Below the diagram, you will see some statements that define each part. From each description, you will come up with an analogy. In other words, what is that part like? For example, an analogy for my hair might be a package of curly fries.”

Laughter erupted in the classroom. Yep. Mr. Grow’s hair sure was curly!

At the top of this eye worksheet, kids see a labeled diagram. Below, they find definitions. Their job is to think of an analogy for each part.

Again, Mr. Grow circulated around the classroom. Afterward, he addressed the class. “You each came up with some great ideas,” he said. “For example, some people thought the cornea could be compared to a prism. Others mentioned that the optic nerve was like an electrical cord. Great thinking, everyone.”

Activity 3: Model of the Eye

On the third day, Mr. Grow distributed another worksheet. “Today,” he said, “you will draw your own eye diagram. Instead of realistic pictures, however, these will be cartoons. Use the analogies yesterday as the eye parts. If, for example, you thought the cornea compared well with a prism, draw a prism instead.”

Before Mr. Grow’s directions left his lips, students began drawing. They loved creative activities!

Ms. Sneed and Mr. Grow watched their busy students from the front of the room. “What you see here” said the mentor, “is higher-order thinking. Yesterday, kids analyzed parts of the eye and developed analogies. Today, they are creating new meaning through their drawings.”

Softly, her student teacher chuckled, “Looks like they’re just having fun to me.” Then he winked and added, “Seriously though, this makes me realize that critical thinking engages kids in their learning.”

“Exactly,” Ms. Sneed said.

Assessing Learning About the Eye

A few days later, the students took a quiz on parts of the eye and vision.

Later, Ms. Sneed and Mr. Grow graded the assessments. “Wow,” the student teacher remarked, “the kids really did well.”

That famous teacher smile spread across Ms. Sneed’s face. “Sure,” she said. “When you engage kids in meaningful activities that meet the standards, they’re bound to succeed.”

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