The Early Years: Does Light Go Through It?by: Peggy Ashbrook

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Words give us the power to describe our world and how we experience it. Any time we classify something, we give it a name to distinguish it from all others of its kind. Like the buttons on a kitchen blender which says “mix” in five or six different ways, there is more than one word to describe if or how light travels through a material. Opaque, translucent, and transparent are appropriate for young children because they can be distinguished by observation and without measuring. In this following activity, children test the opacity of various materials and learn about light, part of National Science Education Content Standard B: Physical Science.

  • Elementary
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Reviews (3)
  • on Thu Aug 25, 2011 11:41 AM

The activity provided in this article allows young children to classify light transmission as none, some and all and translate those ideas to vocabulary works such as opaque, translucent and transparent. Students learn to make predictions and test them out. They learn to make observations and record information and group observations.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Thu May 05, 2011 2:37 PM

This article is for teachers of PreK to 2nd grade students. Teachers are introduced to shadow puppetry to help children understand terms like opaque, transparent, and translucent. The author offers three trade books that can also be used during a unit on light and shadows for younger students. The end of the article provides an Internet document that can be downloaded. It contains additional Internet resources about puppets from around the world.

Carolyn Mohr  (Buffalo Grove, IL)
Carolyn Mohr (Buffalo Grove, IL)

  • on Mon Jan 23, 2017 8:44 PM

Does Light Go Through It, by Peggy Ashbrook, related directly to my topic about teaching opaque, translucent, and transparent light. When I was assigned this topic I had many fears and apprehensions. The main reason for this, is because, for first graders science will be a challenging topic to understand. In regard to language in particular, I need to explain very simplistically what specific definitions are. This article helped me put focus on how to address first graders, and speak on a level in which they understand. Instead of giving the students multiple definitions to memorize, it is more effective to reiterate definitions throughout the lesson/days following. What I took from this article, which I believe will be very helpful for me, is to use the definitions during the experiment. “New vocabulary words only become important if we need to use them. A student might ask; ‘What is a word for when you can’t see through something, but it lets some light through?” (Ashbrook 16). When students ask direct questions similar to the one provide above, they are more likely to remember the definition(s) if they are doing the experiment themselves. I know for me during my schooling, I needed an example or a physical activity in order to process the information being taught. Most students, especially first graders, need an activity to go along with what is being taught. Their attention span is naturally lower, and will develop with maturity and age. For now, the way to gain their attention and interest, will be by providing a fun activity to follow up! Pertaining to this specific experiment, for example, if the light passes through a given material I can share with the student that this reflects translucent/ transparency. Using the example for the experiment given by Ashbrook, I need to also ask follow up questions relating to the definitions provided. Asking follow-up questions is also a vital part of developing understanding. Some good questions might be; Which material did the light pass through the best? Which material did the light pass through the least? What other materials do you think light could go through? Are there things outside or in your house light can pass through? Do you have a guess why the light isn’t going through the material given? Expansive questions like these, force the student to think further and deeper about the subject, and make connections to their daily lives and experiences. When there is an opportunity for a teacher to make connections which students can see and look for every day, it needs to be utterly acted on. Overall, this article was very relevant, easy to read, and specific to my topic. There is also a step by step activity about light, which I will expand upon for my own classroom, however, this is definitely an experiment I will reference.

Lauren Romano  (West Hartford, CT)
Lauren Romano (West Hartford, CT)

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