ALEX Lesson Plan


What Makes Light?  

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Deborah LoBue
System: St Clair County
School: Springville Elementary School
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35672


What Makes Light?  


This lesson is an introduction to the concept of light sources (both natural and man-made), as well as levels of light (bright, dim, dark, pitch black). Students will explore these concepts through a children’s literature read-aloud, discussion of personal experiences, brainstorming and sorting activities (with optional technology use), and hands-on activities with light boxes. Students conclude with a narrative writing assignment. This lesson can be divided and taught over the course of several days, or integrated into multiple subject areas (reading, science, and writing blocks) as time permits.  

This lesson results from the ALEX Resource Gap Project.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 1
7 ) Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events. [RL.1.7]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.1.7- Answer questions about illustrations in a story that describe its characters, setting, or events.

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 1
26 ) Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure. [W.1.3]

SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 1
2 ) Construct explanations from observations that objects can be seen only when light is available to illuminate them (e.g., moon being illuminated by the sun, colors and patterns in a kaleidoscope being illuminated when held toward a light).

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect
Disciplinary Core Idea: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Explain based on observations that objects can be seen only when there is a light source.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • light
  • illuminate
  • construct
  • explanation
  • observation
  • available
  • objects
Students know:
  • Light comes from different sources (natural/man-made).
  • Objects can be seen only when there is a light source.
  • Objects can be seen if they give off their own light.
Students are able to:
  • Gather evidence from observations to support the explanation that objects can only be seen when illuminated.
Students understand that:
  • Objects can be seen only when a light source causes it to be illuminated.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Sound, Light, and Sky
Sound and Light, FOSS
Sundial, GLOBE
Sky, Delta

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.1.2- Recognize that light illuminates objects so they can be seen.

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will:

  • identify examples of both natural light sources and man-made light sources.
  • describe the appearance of objects with various levels of light.
  • explain the relationship between the level of light and visibility.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

Students will:

  • relate story events to personal experiences.
  • write a narrative story about a blackout, including sequenced events, as well as details and vocabulary learned about light sources and levels of light.
 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

Greater than 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

  • Children’s Literature:  Blackout by John Rocco (2011)
  • 7 large index cards or sentence strips with vocabulary words (light source, natural, man-made, bright, dim, dark, pitch black)
  • Student pencils & crayons
  • Student journals or appropriate blank writing paper for writing assignment
  • Copies of Light Sources Exit Slip (see attached file)
  • Copies of Levels of Light Exit Slip (see attached file)
  • Narrative Writing Rubric (see attached file)

Materials to create light boxes:

  • Shoe boxes to make into light boxes—1 per small group of 2-4 students (see directions under “Background/Preparation”)
  • 1 pair of sharp scissors or knife to cut holes in the shoe boxes
  • Duct tape
  • Scotch tape
  • Small objects to place in light boxes—1 per box (small toys, manipulatives, or school supplies)
  • Flashlights—1 per group

Technology Resources Needed:

Padlet:  This is a website to create interactive collaborative pages or documents. I used it to create a chart for students to brainstorm types of light sources. Students used iPads to input their ideas, and the information would sync to the chart in real time. Later in the lesson, while viewing the Padlet as a class, we could move their content around to sort the light sources into 2 categories—Natural and Man-Made.  

**Click this link to see a description of Padlet’s features and/or create a Padlet:  

**Also, a screenshot of the Padlet I used for this lesson is in the “Attachment” section. 

Computer and projector system to display Padlet to the entire class

Student computers or iPads (4 devices can be easily shared by small groups of students)

**If you have limited access to devices, or your technology crashes during the lesson, you can substitute chart paper, markers, and regular sticky notes for a Padlet!m Padlet was fairly easy to navigate, and the students caught on quickly during the lesson.  


Vocabulary Introduced During the Lesson: 

  • Light Source—anything that creates light on its own
  • Natural Light Source—light sources created by nature (the sun, stars, lightning, fire, lava, fireflies, etc.)
  • Man-Made Light Source—any light source created by humans (lamps, traffic lights, glow sticks, computer screens, fireworks, Christmas tree lights, headlights on vehicles, etc.)

4 Levels of light: 

  • Bright—when something is fully lit (outside on a sunny day, in the classroom with all the lights on during the day)
  • Dim—when something is partially lit (outside at sunset, in the classroom with the lights off and only some sunlight coming in the windows)
  • Dark—when there is very little light and it is very hard to see (outside at night with only some moonlight, in your bedroom at night with only a little light from the hallway)
  • Pitch Black—complete absence of light with no visibility (nighttime with no light sources, or in a closed room with no windows)

Student Background Knowledge/Possible Misconceptions: 

This lesson is an introductory lesson, so the discussions throughout can be used as formative assessments to gauge students’ previous understanding of concepts of light.  For example—a student may suggest the moon as a light source.  In reality, the moon is not a light source but reflects the light of the sun back to the earth.  If students have had no (or little) experience/instruction, you may want to accept this answer for the time being—it is a source of light in the nighttime sky.  But make a note to follow up later (during lessons on shadows and reflection or patterns of the sun, moon, and sky) and address this concept. 

Preparation of Light Boxes: 

This can be easily delegated to a parent volunteer or aide, by providing them with directions, or creating one box and letting them copy it to complete the others. 

**There is a photo in the “Attachment” section of a finished light box--may be helpful to see it. 

  1. Use sharp scissors or a knife to cut a small hole (about the size of a quarter) in the center of the shoe box lid.  This will be covered and uncovered to let in light. 
  2. Many shoe boxes already have a hole cut somewhere on the front panel where the label is.  It might also be on the front edge of the lid.  This will be the “viewing” hole for students to see inside the box.  If there is not already a viewing hole on one end of the box, you will need to cut a second hole about the same size on one end.   
  3. Use duct tape to create a flap over the top hole that can be lifted and laid down again, like a door.  Tear off a piece about 5 inches long, then fold 2 inches of one side onto itself (sticky side touching sticky side), leaving about an inch to secure it to the box lid covering the top hole. 
  4. Test the box by laying down the flap over the top hole and looking into the viewing hole.  It should be “pitch black” inside the box.  If there are any other holes or cracks along the corners of the box, cover them with extra duct tape, so no light enters the box at all. 
  5. Place an object inside the box directly under the top hole.  (You will probably need to secure it with a piece of scotch tape so it doesn’t move around.)
  6. Test the box again—view the object with the flap closed (“pitch black”—you should not be able to see the object), with the flap open (“dim” light—students can probably tell what the object is, but it will be a little dark or shadowy in the box), and with the flap open and a flashlight shining directly into the hole (“bright” light—the object should be completely illuminated inside the box).
  7. Complete all other light boxes with a different object in each box. 

To Prepare a Padlet:

  1. Go to the link listed above:   Click either “Log In” or “Sign Up” to begin. 
  2. Most commands are at the top of the screen on the right.  Look for the “ +New” button to create a blank Padlet.  Choose the “Canvas” template, so that you can move the content around later in the lesson to sort the light sources.  Follow the prompts to set your background and title.  (If they don’t automatically appear, they can be found by clicking the little wheel icon called “Modify.”)
  3. Your Padlet is ready to go!  Click the “Share” icon—you can set the privacy settings here, and then either print a QR code to scan and open directly on iPads, or copy the link if students will be using desktop computers.  (It is helpful if the Padlet is already scanned or located on devices before beginning that part of the lesson!) 

**If students are familiar with Padlet, that is helpful but not necessary.  Directions to introduce it to them are included in the “Lesson Procedures” section.  


Engage:  Pose introductory questions, share personal experiences, and assess prior knowledge. 

[**The Engage & Explore sections can be completed together in a 45-minute time slot and incorporated into a reading block if needed.]

  1. Pose the following questions to students, “Have you ever been in a blackout, where all the electricity went off?”  Have students to turn and talk to a partner for a few minutes and share their story of a blackout. 
  2. Allow students to share their story with the group.  Have them phrase their story to answer these two questions: “What problems did you have?  How did you solve them?”  You may need to remind them to “tell the short version,” and guide the discussion to focus on cause/effect relationships and problem-solving. 

Explore: Discuss content and begin to introduce vocabulary through children’s literature read aloud

  1. Tell the students that today we are going to read a story about a little boy who has a blackout in his entire city.  He and his family, and his neighbors, have to figure out what to do while waiting for the lights to come back on. 
  2. Begin reading the story Blackout by John Rocco.  When you get halfway through the story, where the lights are completely out, stop and introduce the vocabulary word “Light Source.” 
  3. Look back to the earlier pages and have students point out all the light sources they see in the city and in the boy’s house.  As you continue to read and enjoy the story, point out any additional light sources that come up. 
  4. Explain that this concept of light sources will be the springboard for the next science topic—a study of light. 

Explain: Continue to introduce vocabulary, create a list of light sources, and sort them into categories. 

[This section can be completed in a 45-minute time slot and incorporated into Shared Writing if needed.]   

  1. If returning to the lesson from a previous day, remind the students about the new science topic of light, and do a brief retell/picture walk through the Blackout story from earlier. 
  2. Explain to the students that this part of the lesson is to brainstorm all the different light sources we can think of.  We will start with the ones in the story, but we can include any others that we know also. 
  3. Introduce vocabulary “Natural” and “Man-made.”  Explain that light sources can come from nature, or be made by humans.  We can put both kinds on the list. 
  4. Tell the students that we will be creating a Padlet together to keep track our ideas.   Show an iPad with the Padlet ready to go.  Tell them it is like writing their idea on a sticky note to add to a chart.  [Do a sample one with your name and light source as you give them the directions.] 
  5. To create a “post,” they will click the plus sign in the bottom corner, and a little note box will appear.  They click on the “Title” part and type in their name, then click on the “Write something…” part and type in their light source.  Tapping outside of the note will close it and post it to the Padlet.   
  6. Have students raise their hand one at a time to tell a light source.  Then send them over to one of the iPads to add their idea to the list.  As more students tell new ideas, send them to join one of the iPad groups.  Going one at a time fro the whole group to small group helps eliminate students adding something to the Padlet multiple times. 
  7. As everyone finishes, put the iPads away and display the chart on the projector screen.  Reintroduce the concepts of “Natural” and “Man-made” light sources, and create a post with each word at the top of the padlet, one on the left, one on the right. 
  8. As you read each student’s post aloud, ask them to tell you if their light source is natural or man-made, and move it to the appropriate side of the chart. 
  9. If students have other ideas, add them as time allows. 
  10. Distribute Light Source Exit Slips to students; close projector screen.  Direct students to write/draw 2 light sources they know from nature in the top boxes and 2 man-made light sources in the next boxes.  Tell them they can write a question about light or light sources they have started thinking about during this lesson. 

Elaborate: Introduce and allow students to work in groups to explore Light Boxes. 

[This section can be completed in a 45-minute time slot for science.]

  1. Tell students that today we are going to experiment with levels of light.  This means how much light is available to see things.  Recall all the different light sources from the previous part of the lesson.  Ask students to describe examples of seeing things in the dark (looking out the window at night, walking through their house at night)—how well can you see?  Are there any light sources in your house at night?  Think about how your eyes “adjust” to darkness and let you see better.  Think about how your eyes react when someone flips on a bright light!  They are adjusting to let in more light so you can see better in the dark. 
  2. Explain that today we will observe how objects look with different levels, or amounts, of light.  Show the cards with the vocabulary words ("Bright, Dim, Dark, and Pitch Black") mixed up.  Let students suggest how to rank them in order of most light to least light.  Describe examples of each level of light.  Explain that after our experiments, we will illustrate these new words and then write what happened with our experiment. 
  3. Show a light box and demonstrate to everyone how to look in the side hole to see what is inside.  Distribute a box to each group.  Let them look inside and see what they can see.  Since there is no light, it should be nothing, because the level of light is pitch black.  Then have students uncover the hole so that some light gets in—explain that this is a dim level of light.  How does the object change?  How does it change when you shine a flashlight onto the hole?  What level of light is that?  (bright)  Let all partners have a turn.
  4. Rotate to a different group and look in a new box. First without and then with a flashlight, using the vocabulary pitch black, dim, and bright as you give the directions.  How can you tell what is in the box? What do you need?  Rotate so that students have a turn to look at each box. 
  5. As students are doing the activity, rotate to groups and discuss—what changes do you see each time?  How does light affect your ability to see?  What is the difference between dark and pitch black?  What is the difference between bright and dim? 
  6. Distribute the Levels of Light Exit Slip as students return to seats and clean up the light boxes and flashlights.  Illustrate the 4 vocabulary words at the top of the page.  Have students color the flower in the “bright” box.  Tell them to keep those crayons out because they will color the flower exactly the same each time!!  Leave the background white, because the flower will be fully illuminated.  Then color the same flower in the “dim” box, but color over the entire quadrant with your gray crayon.  Next, color the flower in the “dark” box but color over it with a black crayon (medium pressure, so that you can barely see the outline of the flower).  Then color in the “pitch black” box darkly with the black crayon so that you cannot see the flower at all.  Discuss that pitch black means no light sources and dark means that a little light is coming in from somewhere.
  7. Read the next two questions to students and have them describe the experiment and explain what they learned.  As you collect the exit slips, challenge students to go home at night and look around their house in the dark.  How do things appear?  What can you see clearly?  What is hard to see?  What light sources are in your house? 

Evaluate:  Students apply content and vocabulary knowledge to the writing process for a narrative story.

[This section can be completed during your writing block, scheduling enough sessions to allow time for the pre-writing, conferencing & editing, final draft writing, and post-conferences.] 

  1. Remind students of the story they told at the beginning of the lesson about the blackout.  Allow them to turn and talk to a partner to retell their story.  If they are struggling to remember a personal experience about a blackout, allow them to create a fictional story about what might happen if there was a blackout. 
  2. Explain that today they will get to write their stories and will use what they have learned about light sources and levels of light to add details to their story. 
  3. Show a copy of the Narrative Writing Rubric-Light.  Tell students that they will use a list to help them remember all the things they need to include in this story.  They will work on these stories for a couple of days and use the writing process to get a “well-done” copy at the end.  Name each heading on the rubric and write the headings only on the board.  [If students are very familiar with writing rubrics, you could possibly display the entire rubric on your projection screen.  This may be too much information for/intimidating to beginning writers and a list of the headings to include is plenty!]
  4. Distribute writing materials and allow students to get started, providing help as needed to individuals and small groups.  As students finish their first copy, allow them to edit, and then do a final copy—determine the pacing and procedures based on your current practice/schedule for writing block. 
  5. Do a post conference with each student after final drafts are done, helping them look for the qualities and mark them on the rubric.  Display in the hall, share with the class, publish, or send home as you choose according to your writing procedures.  

**Some files will display in a new window. Others will prompt you to download.

Assessment Strategies

This lesson includes many opportunities for formative and summative assessments on objectives presented throughout the lesson.  


  • During the introductory discussion and read-aloud—monitor if students are able to connect a personal experience to the story. 
  • As students help create the Padlet on light sources—monitor if students give appropriate responses, clarify/assist as needed. 


  • Light Sources Exit Slip—check to see if students could recall and name the appropriate light sources; read through their questions to get a sense of current understanding and interests for future lessons. 
  • Levels of Light Exit Slip—check to see if students could describe their experience with the light box and explain the connection between the presence of light and visibility inside the Light Box.
  • Narrative Writing Rubric—examine writing for features listed.


As students show mastery of science concepts, encourage them to explore what happens if they change the position of the object in the Light Box.  Does moving it around affect how well you can see it?  Why do you think that is?  (See if they can express a correlation between the objects position and its proximity to the hole—might be most noticeable with the “dim” setting.)   

Allow them to repeat the Light Box activity with partners, letting them choose a small object from the room, and hide it in the box.  Partners look in the “pitch black” box, then with “dim” light to guess what it is, then check with the “bright” light of the flashlight. 

You can also encourage higher level thinking by having students compare the light levels created by each light source.  For example, have students discuss with partners or write about the following questions/fill-in-the-blank statements: Which natural light source is the brightest?  Which ones are dim?  Are there more natural light sources or man-made light sources?  “(The sun) is brighter than a (firefly).”  “A (headlight) is brighter than a (glow stick).”

If students are highly proficient writers, encourage them to add more details to their story before making a final draft, or allow them to write other stories (true or fiction) about a blackout or about experiences with different light sources or levels of light (such as getting up in the middle of the night to get something).  


See the “Assessment Strategies” section for places to check understanding and discover exactly what students are having difficulty with. 

  • If they are having difficulty remembering appropriate vocabulary, review examples using the vocabulary cards, Padlet, and exit slips. 
  • If they are struggling with deciding if something is a light source or not, ask them, “If you put that object in a light box that is pitch black, would you be able to see it?  Could it make the light all by itself?” 
  • If they are struggling to explain the connection between the presence of light and visibility, provide additional opportunity to explore the Light Boxes and participate in guided discussions with the teacher.  Let them move the object around in the box (closer or further away from the light hole) and see if that triggers a correlation. 
  • If they are struggling to remember a personal experience about a blackout, allow them to create a fictional story about what might happen if there was a blackout. 
  • If they are struggling with writing ideas or mechanics, provide appropriate assistance by having them tell the story to you, then repeat it back to them one sentence at a time.  Allow for editing help using word walls, dictionaries, and peer helpers.  

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.