Grade 5 Physics: Light

Next up for Physics – Light. There are two previous post for Grade 5 physic. If you are just joining us, we are spending the following days on each concept of our physics unit.

Introduce Energy, Force, and Momentum2 days
Simple Machines3 days
Waves and Sound2 days
Light2 days
Magnets2 days
Electricity2 days

The first day of our physic unit, we played with white light, mirrors, and prisms. Our activities follow the Building Foundations in Scientific Understanding Vol II, C-15 pretty closely. Over the two days we spent on light, we explored and discussed the following terms:

white light reflectionabsorption
transparency prismprimary colors 
opaquenesssecondary colors

In the beginning, I had all the items that we were going to use for our light lab on the table. These included a prism, a couple of flashlights, a laser pointer, several square mirrors, and three flashlights that have red, green, and violet lights. For around 15 minutes, we just played with these items. Eventually, I begin to ask questions and direct the play. Some of the questions that I asked:

  • What is darkness? What is light? (Light is energy, and darkness is the absence of light.)
  • How do our eyes see? (They sense light.)
  • When we look directly at a light source (candle or lamp,) the light is traveling straight to our eyes, but how can I see the wall? (This took some time; the book suggested giving the hint of a bouncing ball. This did the trick. We also played with mirrors that I had, which also helped. [Reflection])
  • The flashlight is white light; why are we seeing colors from the wall? (Absorption)
  • Can light travel through things? (This leads to a discussion of transparency and opaqueness.)
  • When we place white light though a prism, we show a rainbow. Why is that? (White light contains all the colors, and a prism separates them.)

The second day we deviated from the book, and played with different colored lights. I used these flashlights that can shine 3 different colors of light. These colors just happen to be the primary colors for light. You can do this with light filters as well. We first reviewed primary colors of paint and the color wheel. From here I asked if she thought the primary colors for light were the same. We played with the lights for a little while, finding what colors were made from different combinations. I made two Venn diagrams in her main lesson book: one for paints and the other for light. We played with the flashlights and found the secondary colors for each pair of the primary light colors.

I’ve been using her main lesson book as a way to review for this unit. The narration is done the same day to process the information that she is learning. We sit and have a discussion on what she learned from the day, and I take a few notes and write down a few words so she knows the spelling. She has been dictating her narrations to the school iPad.

The following day, we go over the narration again to see if anything more needs to be added or changed, and to look for any grammar, spelling, or punctuation changes. She also does the illustration in her notebook. Some days she is choosing what the illustration is. In this instance I wanted her to have a diagram of the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, so I did a main lesson page with her that she copied.

Lagging the main lesson book a day or two behind the experiments can be challenging for me to keep up with, but it allows for memory recall and review for her, which makes her learning a little more sticky. For a great podcast on practices that increase learning, check out The Cult of Pedagogy’s Episode 58: Six Learning Strategies You MUST Share with Your Students.

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