The Dark Side

9 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT conduct an investigation to determine that without light, we cannot see.

Big Idea

Come to the dark side... of your classroom! Can we see when there is no light?

Instructional Notes

In the previous lesson, students conducted an investigation about light that led to the understanding of science vocabulary: translucent, opaque, transparent, and reflective.  In this lesson, we review those concepts and also make observations about what happens when there is no light.  

During the closing in today's lesson, student observations will be recorded under the "E" Evidence and Observations column on the KLEWS chart.  We will then use that evidence to arrive at our new learning "L" that objects cannot be seen unless there is light.

This unit is broken down into two main parts: sound and light.  This lesson investigates the question, "How do we communicate with light?"  This essential question incorporates two NGSS standards as we investigate the properties of light and also move towards the culminating engineering design product.

  • 1-PS4-3. Plan and conduct an investigation to determine the effect of placing objects made with different materials in the path of a beam of light.
  • 1-PS4-4. Use tools and materials to design and build a device that uses light or sound to solve the problem of communicating over a distance.

Throughout this unit, I use a KLEWS anchor chart to record our new learning.  This is a science-specific type of KWL chart designed with primary students in mind!  Check out this video I like to call KLEWS chart 101:



5 minutes

First, I review the changes made to the KLEWS chart the previous day.  Namely, our observations showed that light passes through some (but not all) materials, and we added new vocabulary words: translucent, transparent, opaque, and reflective.

Next, students play an engaging online game to continue thinking about shadows.  As we play, I point out that shadows are opposite of where the light is.  This leads to our observation that light travels in waves!

Friends, our investigation showed that light travels in waves.  Some objects block the waves (opaque).  Let's record this learning on our KLEWS chart.  

Exploration ~ the wave crest

20 minutes

It is important that students begin to own science vocabulary and be able to apply the information. One way I support vocabulary is by having key terms defined on the KLEWS chart.  Another way is to provide students with multiple avenues of using the terminology in conversation.  I chose the informational text below because it gives students additional exposure to the concepts of light.

First, I conduct a shared read of a National Geographic article ("Night Lights" on page 10) that lists items that are translucent, transparent, and opaque.  National Geographic Young Explorer magazine is free online, however, my school also orders copies.  I think it's important for students to have paper copies on-hand so that they can flip forwards or back as they think about key ideas with partners.  

Before reading, students preview the text and illustrations in what I like to call a "picture walk."  Then, I use the turn-and-talk strategy to have students engage with the text by thinking about the cover illustration.

During reading, we find ideas that support the author's point, which aligns to Common Core ELA standard RI 1.8.  On page 12, the author states that people hold different kinds of lanterns during the festival.  Throughout the reading in the past, I have taken notes on chart paper about the key details of the glass versus paper lanterns.  This year, I sat on the perimeter of the rug with students to be at eye-level, so I did not have access to the easel.

After reading, students reread the article with partners and label items in the article with the science vocabulary (translucent, transparent, and opaque) on sticky notes.  

I play a transition song as groups are finishing, and students come to the perimeter of the rug.  Next, I show a closed shoe box with a hold on one end.  I have prepared it with a drawing inside. However, when students put their eye up to the hole, they block all light and cannot see the drawing.  I talk up my drawing on the inside, so that they are super excited to take a look!  While they take turns, I ask questions like, "What do you mean you don't see anything?  Why can't you see what's inside? What's in the shoe box?"

Then, we open a flap and look.  We are no longer blocking the light, so students can see the drawing.  Don't worry if you aren't an artist-- just print a picture online of a contemporary children's show or movie!  Even better... put in a picture of Thomas Edison inventing the light bulb!

Now, I ask questions like, "Why can we see the picture now?"


5 minutes

Finally, we add our observation to the KLEWS "E" section: we could not see in the box when there was no light.  From this, we draw the conclusion and record our new "L"earning: objects can only be seen when they are illuminated.  I use the word illuminated with students, because it is in the standards.  We also then add it to the "S" section for science vocabulary: illuminated means lighted up.

If time permits, here's an adorable video having a bit of fun with light and shadows!

And if you come upon a time for sub plans during this unit, try Reading Rainbow's video of "My Shadow" by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Suzy Lee's "Shadow" is also a fun book.  After reading or watching, students can trace each other's shadows in chalk outside!