Light Sources

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Students will be able to accurately sort common objects into categories to gain a sense of the concepts the categories represent.

Big Idea

Sorting pictures of common items helps students determine specific commonalities between items.


15 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet, go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I tell them we are going to be playing a game called “Guess My Rule.”

“Boys and girls I am going to be calling certain students to come up and stand in front of the group. It will be your job to look very carefully at each of the students up here. You are looking for something that is the same about them. I am going to start off with obvious things but then I will move to more difficult ones.”

“When you think you know the rule, raise your hand and tell me what you think is the same about all of the people standing at the front of the group.”

For the first rule I gradually only call girls to the front, until someone picks up on the rule.

“Finnley, you raised your hand. What do think my rule is?”

“You are right; they are all girls.”

My next rule might be all the students wearing short sleeves, or wearing tie shoes.

Another rule could be all the students with short hair or a certain hair color.

My next rule might all of the students wearing a particular color.

My final rule will be the hardest and it is usually a non-visual rule; such as all of the students names may start with J.

After the final rule I praise the students for being such good observers and tell them they will be doing some more observing as we move onto our book.    


I use this game to get students motivated to look for a common element where they initially think there may not be one. This activity also has the students focus on the finer details of things which will help them when they are sorting pictures in the main activity.  


40 minutes

“Today’s book is called Whose Shadow is This?” This book is written by Claire Berge and it is illustrated by Derrick Alderman and Denise Shea.”

“Can anyone tell me what type of punctuation mark they see at the end of the title of the book?”

I select a student who is following the correct protocol of raising their hand to respond to the question.

“Well done Kallee; this is a question mark. What type of sentence is a question mark used for?”

Again I select a student following the correct protocol.

“Yes Justin it is an asking sentence. There is another clue that this is an asking sentence. Can anyone tell me what it is?”

Once again I select a student following the correct protocol.

“Good work Emily; the asking sentence does begin with a question word. Does anyone else know any other question words?”

This time I use the Fair Sticks to select students to respond. I select as many fair sticks as I need to cover the many question words. Words such as – what, when, why, who, where, how and can.

 “Let’s go ahead and read this book and see what new information we can learn.”


This book encourages the students to really focus on the adjectives in the description of what it could be. We discuss what it could be based on the clues and we also discuss what other things the shadow could represent. For example the deer antlers could also be tree branches.


Once the book is over I say, “Now that our book is finished who can tell me what you need to make a shadow?”

I select a student who is raising their hand and following the correct classroom protocol.

“Kara says that in order to have a shadow you have to have a light. Who remembers what kind of object makes the best kind of shadow?”

“Carson says the best kind of shadow is made by an opaque object. Why does an opaque object make the best shadow?”

“Well done Jonathan; an opaque object makes the best shadow because it does not let any of the light through.”

“Today at one of the stations you are going to find pictures of some different things. Some of the items are not a source of light; the other items are a source of light and will help create a shadow. It will be your job to sort the items into not a light source or light source categories on your recording sheet.”

I hold up a sample of the Sorting Recording sheet and one of the cards for the students to see.

The sorting cards are a resource I found on the SparkleBox website. 

“Once you have sorted the items and recorded at least four of them, I need you to go ahead and label the items as best you can. Can anyone tell me the resources you can use to label your items correctly?”

I select a student who has their hand raised.

“Yes Ava I can use my sounding out skills. What is another resource I can use?”

“You are right Owen; I can use the cards as they do have the words on them.”

NB: If you wanted to increase the difficulty of this task you could cover the labels on the items or you could leave specific letters such as the beginning letter, etc.   


“Now remember I will be using a checklist to go over your work to make sure you have followed the directions you were given. Did the student write their name on their recording sheet? Are there at least four items on the recording sheet with labels? Is the student’s work neat and tidy?”

After I have gone quickly over the checklist I ask, “Does anyone have any questions?”


Once I feel the group has a good grasp of the instructions I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;

“Table number one let’s go have some sorting fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”


Allow the students 15 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely. 

Students sorting     Students sorting 2      Student recording      Student recording 2 

Why Sorting?

Sorting is important as it is part of the classification process. When students are sorting they are classifying items based on a specific set of similarities. At first these skills are purely based on sight, sound, or texture. Later on these skills become more refined and groups can be broken into sub-groups. For example the animal group in an animal / non-animal sort can be broken down to mammalian and non-mammalian.

Students need to practice classification skills as classifying saves people a lot of time. Think of a filing cabinet with hundreds of files. Information is easy to find when it is organized in a way that makes sense to the user. The office manager of a doctor’s office organizes the patient’s files alphabetically by their last name. Any file that is needed can be found almost instantly. But if hundreds of files were scattered and stacked without any order, it would be very hard to find a file you needed.



10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look, listen” technique mentioned above.

“When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time.

Student work sample

Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to tell me either a source of light or something that is not a light source.

“Today your exit ticket is to tell me either a light source or something that is not a light source that you know. You will need to tell me your light source or non-light source using a complete sentence. For example, a porch light is a light source, or a cave is not a light source.”

“You will need to think of two or three things because once someone has told us their light source or non-light source it is…”

The students are very used to hearing me say this now and will chant back, “Off the menu!”

“Now I am going to give you about ten seconds to think of your item. Here we go.”

I hold up my arm and look at my watch as I “time” their thinking. I also pretend to be thinking so the students stayed focused on the task at hand.

“Okay your time is up. I hope you thought carefully because here we go.”   

I use the fair sticks to determine the order of the students.

Once a student has told me his/her item using a complete sentence, they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack. If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.

  1. They can ask a friend to help, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work on coming up with a light or non-light source item together.


I use the Light Dark Sort Checklist. to go over the student’s work and once it is complete I will place the student’s work in his/her collection portfolio.

Looking at the student’s work with the checklist helps me to stay focused on the point that I am looking to see if a student can accurately sort the specific items into the correct categories.

If a student has difficulty sorting I need to meet with them to determine what the difficulty was. Perhaps it is a cultural difference in understanding, or a lack of understanding as to what a light source actually is. Discussing the student’s work with them during a one-on-one conference will help me to understand what type of assistance the students needs and will better guide my instruction for that student.

Going over student work 


Students go outside in small groups to trace each other’s shadows in funny poses. Later on we walk the gallery of poses.


Students work on coming up with words that fit the light or dark word families.