Assessing Light Knowledge - two lessons

Thomas Young
Type Category
Assessment Materials Instructional Materials
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 these lessons the students work as partners planning and designing a communication device that will signal across the gym or hallway from one partner to the other partner.  The communication device must only use light and objects that block or change the light.  These lessons are the last ones that are part of a 20 lesson unit called:  Sound and Light Waves.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Early Elementary
  • Grade 1
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

1-PS4-4 Use tools and materials to design and build a device that uses light or sound to solve the problem of communicating over a distance.

Clarification Statement: Examples of devices could include a light source to send signals, paper cup and string “telephones,” and a pattern of drum beats.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include technological details for how communication devices work.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
In this lesson the student movement is always forward and backward which allows the students to turn the flashlight on and off. Although this solved the problem presented, it did not fully address the performance expectation. When the teacher shares the communication of movement problem the tag should be provided in a more random manner i.e: 1 - move forward, stop, move forward, stop, move backwards or 2 - move forward, stop, move backwards, stop, move forward again. The students should not know the order of the movement that they will communicate ahead of time.

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
Students work with a partner to plan, build, and test their communication device. Students will need prior knowledge about how light travels and what happens to light when different materials are placed in front of it for this lesson to be successful.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Care should be taken to guide students toward using the Core Idea information about materials and what happens to the light when it passes through the materials to engineer a solution to the problem. The instructor also needs to be clear when communicating the problem so that the student is encouraged to use different types of materials and light to communicate movement.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
This lesson takes the student through the Engineering Design Process. The teacher should recall prior knowledge that the students have about the shape and properties of the materials they use and how it affects light that is shined through it so that the device they design successfully communicates the intended message over the given distance.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts work together to support students in designing a solution to the problem of using light to communicate over the distance of the gym or the hallway. The instructor needs to be careful to include limitations to the solution so that the students do not just turn the flashlight on and off.

  • Instructional Supports: The instructional support and engineering performance expectations for this lesson include video clips of real student work and explanations of the designed device and of the solution. This lesson is the culmination lesson for a whole unit of study. The instructor should become familiar with lessons throughout this unit. The engineered device provides the student an opportunity to express, clarify, and represent his/her ideas orally, in written form, and as created device which is appropriate to support the student's three-dimensional learning.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This lesson provides suggested questions, informal assessment suggestions, and a rubric for the Performance Expectation. The rubric would be strengthened if it provided guidance for interpreting student performance along three-dimensional learning of NGSS during the planning, designing, testing, and sharing parts of the investigation.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The lesson suggests that a tablet is used to record each group of students when presenting their device. This provides the students multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding and affords them a chance to reflect on their own solutions. and how scientifically accurate they are.