Flashlight Investigation

Kathryn Yablonski
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



In Flashlight Investigation, the students conduct an investigation to find out how different objects affect a beam of light by recording their observations, and sharing their results.  The students discuss and plan their investigations in the complementary lesson Science of Light (http://betterlesson.com/lesson/632317/me-and-my-shadow).   These lessons are from a unit of 18 lessons called Light and Sound.  ​Flashlight Investigation when combined with Science of Light (http://betterlesson.com/lesson/632317/me-and-my-shadow) strongly support all three dimensions of NGSS according to the Performance Expectation, Practice, Disciplinary Core Idea, and Crosscutting Concepts described in this review.

Intended Audience

- none -
Educational Level
  • Elementary School
  • Grade 1
  • Early Elementary
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

1-PS4-3 Plan and conduct investigations to determine the effect of placing objects made with different materials in the path of a beam of light.

Clarification Statement: Examples of materials could include those that are transparent (such as clear plastic), translucent (such as wax paper), opaque (such as cardboard), and reflective (such as a mirror).

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the speed of light.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Allowing for ample investigation time throughout the lesson will enable students to make connections to their own, and other student's ideas. The student planned investigations in this lesson are accessible to all learners with little adjustment. Since it is a guided investigation, the teacher can utilize instructional supports when necessary and allow students to participate and respond at their own level. Students should be encouraged to conduct many trials and should record their results. If this lesson is combined with the "Science of Light" lesson (http://betterlesson.com/lesson/632317/me-and-my-shadow), the Performance Expectation will be covered in its entirety.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The lesson allows students to observe the relationships between the way light travels when different materials are placed in its path. The observations can be used as evidence when sharing results. Students are also encouraged to draw and record their observations for each material that they test. Teachers can reinforce this Practice by helping students share and compare their work with each other with the purpose of developing an answer to the question "How does light travel when materials are placed in its way?" Additionally, allowing students to identify and address discrepancies in each other's work will foster the idea of using observations as evidence for their explanations.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This lesson provides the scaffolding needed for students to conduct an investigation they have planned themselves that will help students to gather evidence of the Disciplinary Core Idea. Students may consider adding light gels of various colors to the flashlights, or perform investigations outside with sunlight to see if all types of light respond in the same way. Students must be reminded of the safety rules for use of light and looking at the sun.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
In this lesson the students conduct their investigation and then individually record their observations and share the information in a group setting. Having the students work in groups provides support for all types of learners and allows for scientific conversations, wonderings, and understandings throughout the investigation in an effort to define and observable pattern.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson addresses all three dimensions of learning as defined by the NGSS. This lesson targets the Performance Expectation by conducting an investigation, the Disciplinary Core Idea, and the Cross Cutting Concept by recording and sharing observations obtained that provide evidence for the learner to develop reasoning that defines the pattern that is noticed. It is recommended that the instructor consider adding a short video segment or a short reading passage at the end of the lesson to provide a review for the lesson concepts being taught. It is also recommended that the student carry out the planned investigation using the guidlines provided in the Science of Light lesson (http://betterlesson.com/lesson/632317/me-and-my-shadow).

  • Instructional Supports: This lesson provides many instructional supports such as: formative and summative assessment, examples of authentic student work, suggested notebook entries, and the use of a KLEWS anchor chart. It also provides a KLEWS 101 training video for instructors that have not used the KLEWS chart before. The lesson would be strengthened if it had included differentiated learning suggestions and if there was a suggestion that students could use a video/picture recording device of their observations if needed.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This lesson provides many methods to monitor student progress. It gives two samples of how students may track their observations during the investigation, student worksheets and notebook suggestions, as well as question stems. This lesson would be strengthened if the instructor developed a rubric for notebook/investigation work. It is also strengthened when the student carries out the planned investigation using the guidlines provided in this lesson’s complementary lesson: Science of Light lesson (http://betterlesson.com/lesson/632317/me-and-my-shadow).

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This lesson does not use technology. The lesson would be strengthened if it had included a differentiated learning suggestion in which students could use a video/ picture recording device to record their observations as their notebook if needed.