Designing a System of Light

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SWBAT design a system to communicate with light.

Big Idea

Help students deepen their understanding of light by helping students create a system of communicating with light.

Lesson Overview

Next Generation Science Standard

This lesson builds upon the previous lesson where the students listed different ways humans communicate with light. Today's lesson is about learning about the system that allows the communicating devices to work. So, the students need to know how these systems already work in order to be able to design a communication method, develop a system, and create a design to communicate with light. In the next lesson the students actually design a method to communicate with light based on feedback from me in the previous lesson. This is the second of three lessons that lead to the third or final culminating activity. The last lesson give the students to modify their design and explain how it will work.

The lesson connects specifically to 1-PS4-4, because the class is working toward designing a device that will help humans communicate when we have no electricity. I have already taught about how light can travel through different material, so the students have a great deal of experience investigating light.

 Lesson Overview

Most of my lessons consist of five parts: engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate. I try to include all five parts of the Five E Model. But, today I want to spend more time deepening my students understanding of light systems to prepare the class to develop an understanding of how light can help humans communicate. The next lesson allows students to create their own system of communicating based on my suggestions. 

The lesson begins in the lounge or carpet area, so I excite the class. Then we move to the students desks for the explore section. The lesson closes in the explain section, and we move back to the lounge. Transitions really seem to help keep my class stay on task, because they get to move around often. So, my students are basically getting frequent brain breaks as they transition.

One other thing I find helpful is assigning each student a partner. They help each other read, write, and talk about light systems. This makes sure everyone can participate, because they help each other. It also provides for a pleasant classroom environment. 


10 minutes

Now the lesson begins in the lounge where I connect today's learning to the previous day. I also assess the students learning, and I share the plan for the lesson. 

I say, "Can anyone share what we learned about yesterday?" Then I call on volunteers to share. We learned about different ways to communicate using light. If the class doesn't remember then I remind them and share some examples. We learned about lighthouses, airports, traffic lights, lights signals on ships, and optic fibers that are used in telephones.

Next, I assess the students prior knowledge by asking, "Turn and tell your partner how these communication methods work. Think about how a traffic light works." Then I display the traffic light. I am basically helping the students reflect upon what they already know, and I am leading them in explaining the system. When the class understands how these methods work they can begin to design a method all their own. But, first we have to explore how each system works.

Last, I share the plan for the lesson by saying, "Today we are going to learn about how the communication method works. We are going to study the system. Keep in mind you are going to begin your design today and you can finish your system of communicating with light in our last lesson in this unit."


30 minutes

The students take their work from the previous day and select one system to research. They read this text in the previous lesson. We are looking at the system that helps each of the communication methods to work. The students list the three methods they are going to study. Beside each communication method students must explain how the system works. I show the model on the board to help the students understand how I want their science journal labeled. Then I model how to add an explanation about the system that goes with a SOS alert on my phone. Once the students see an example they understand what I expect.

As the projection in on the Smart Board I say, "Write the date and topic like I did." I point to the date when I say the date, and I point to the topic when I say, "topic." Then I say, "Yesterday, you found some communication methods, and today we are going to describe some of those methods. We need to describe the system like I did in red." Then I read the description. Last, I say, "Now, you can work with your partner to research and describe some of the methods you researched. Be sure to record what you learn in both of your science journals."

I walk around and monitor each group. I ask questions to help them think by saying, "What does a green light tell a pilot to do? How does a pilot know if a road is a runway or taxiway? How do pilots know where the runway starts?" I also reread the text and allow the students to listen. If they cannot write the answer I underline it in the text for them.


10 minutes

This is the time when we move back to the lounge to close out and share our knowledge. This is a great opportunity for the class to learn from each other which creates a very meaningful learning experience. Students really enjoy learning from their peers. So, they add anything to their notes that they don't already have in their science journal notes.

I ask each pair of students to tell the group opposite them at their desks what they recorded (Partner Talk across the table). I direct the class to use their notes by saying, "Look at your science journal and tell the group about the systems you research. What did you find out? How did they work?"

Next, we engage in a whole group discussion where I back off and serve as more of a facilitator. I say, "Will a volunteer please share what you learned about one light system?" Then I just say, "Anyone who can add to or share more go ahead." This creates a very natural discussion: whole group discussion. If a child begins to talk without raising their hand I let them keep going. I want my students to learn to do the process of discussing scientific concepts without me eventually. But, I still have to be present to encourage students at times to share or continue the discussion. We are in April and I am finding my students naturally discuss and collaborate about academic concepts at their tables, but they are reluctant to share in a whole group setting. It is just my opinion, but I think the students are more comfortable at their small groups.



15 minutes

Now the students begin designing their own system of communicating with light. I will look over their design after the lesson, and have feedback ready for them before they begin the next lesson. This allows me to guide the students, and help them create designs that are accurate.

I remind the class of our scenario by saying, "We need a way to communicate with others when our electricity is not working. We had a storm this winter that left many people without electricity. If they needed help there was no way for anyone to know. So, we need a way to communicate when the electric is out. You can illustrate, write notes, or just talk to your partnerabout your ideas. Just start thinking of how the other systems work, and think about how you want your system to work." (Peer Collaboration)


10 minutes

The students share their designs and their peers offer verbal feedback. Then I share that I will provide feedback after class, but it will be ready for them to look at when we begin our next science lesson. I plan on giving written feedback that I write on a piece of paper and insert in their science journal. 

First I ask the class to get ready to listen with a fun chant. We all say, "Criss cross apple sauce, pockets on the floor. Hands in our laps talking no more." Then I add, "Your eyes are on the speaker and you are listening to see what they are saying. Be ready to give them some feedback. What can they do to make their work better?" I encourage students to record what their peers say and actually make the adjustments to their design.

I use a spreadsheet to see who's turn it is to share their work, and I say, "Please come share your design." Then we all listen. Then I say, "Who can give peer feedback? Everyone is expected to comment at least once."