Level 1: Light, Shadows + Rainbows Unit

Our activities this week are full of bright ideas! 💡 We will learn about light, the shadows that are created when it is blocked, and the beautiful colors that are seen when we send it through a prism. 🌈 As you move through the lessons, look for opportunities to make great connections to previous units, too, like the Outer Space Unit (the sun and the moon), the Weather Unit (water droplets causing rainbows), and the Native Peoples Unit (where we first learned about the Aurora Borealis). Track your progress along the way with our printable tracking document, available here.

Note: Occasionally we include project upgrades (for kids ready for more) and modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings). We’ll mark those with the plus (+) or minus (-) symbols.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Optional additional reading:

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Letter of the week: R

New to the letter of the week? Start here! Ready for a really righteous letter of the week? Print your letter R coloring sheet and Letter Guide. Let your child color the coloring sheet as you work through the next part of the lesson.

The letter R makes one sounds: /r/ as in rainbow. It can sometimes be tricky to teach. Say ‘ring’ without the ‘ing.’ Say ‘run’ without the ‘un.’ Once you have isolated the sound a few times, reinforce the sounds with our Letter of the Week Song.

Remember, the guide isn’t a worksheet! The first page is for you, the grown-up. Use it to introduce the letter name, the sounds it makes, and to demonstrate how to draw each letter. Display the Letter Guide in your school area along with the completed coloring sheet to reinforce the lesson throughout the week.

Next, use the second sheet to create a page for your child’s phonics book. Review the book a few times each week until your child has mastered these phonics.

Lesson 1:

Let your light shine today! ☀️ Today is all about light. All light comes from an energy source, either natural or man-made. The light we get from the sun is natural light; the light we get from a lamp is man-made. Begin by reading from the book Light: Shadows, Mirrors, and Rainbows. Read the first section only, entitled Delighted Light on page 4 of this book. You will be reviewing Earth’s natural light sources like the sun, other stars in the night sky, or lightning, and also discussing other sources of light, such as light bulbs. Next, read the book Day Light, Night Light to explore this topic in more detail. Help your child to see the important connection between light and energy.

Activity 1: Light grab. Play with your child (you can also include younger siblings, and even a pet!) with a flashlight. Talk about how the light from your flashlight can be pointed toward an object to shine light to a specific spot. Use the flashlight in a well lit room and then in a dark space like a closet. Make observations together and point out to your child that:

  • Light can shine.
  • Light travels in a straight line.
  • It can be blocked with your hand or other objects.
  • It can’t be grabbed.

(+) While you have the flashlight out, grab a mirror and try this light play activity to discuss how light reacts to mirrored glass.

Activity 2: Print out 2-5 sheets of this light bulb template. On each bulb, write whatever you are currently working on with your child, whether it be letters or letter sounds, numbers, sight words, shapes, or colors. (If possible, laminate the bulbs first and write on them with dry erase markers so you can reuse later.) Cut out the light bulbs and spread them out on the floor (make sure you put them at least a foot away from each other). Give your child a flashlight. Call out what’s on the bulbs, and ask your child to point the light towards the correct lightbulb. 

Activity 3: Light scavenger hunt and journal. Find as many light sources in your home and have your child journal them (draw them) on a sheet of paper. Examples to look for: flashlights, lamps, light fixtures, lava lamps, clock light, computer screen, cell phone screen, smart watches, toys that light up, the tv screen, etc. If your child writes freely, have them label each drawing. If not, you can act as they scribe while they watch you write the words.

Activity 4: Want to know more about man made harnessed energy? This short video about Thomas Edison tells us about the invention of the light bulb. 

Bonus activity: You can review everything we learned today with this episode of Sid the Science Kid.

Lesson 2:

Where there is light…there will be shadows! Today, we’re focusing on the darker side of light. Let’s start by reading My Shadow or Nothing Sticks Like a Shadow. You can also review the pages about shadows in in the book Light, Shadows, Mirrors and Rainbows or the book What Makes a Shadow?

Activity 1: Make your own shadows. Prepare to do this activity at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. to best see your shadows move throughout the day. Using chalk, stand on the sidewalk or driveway and ask your child to draw your outline. If they aren’t able to trace your shadow, ask them to stand still and you outline their shadow. (This is also a great activity to do with siblings!) Use a measuring tape, measure the length of the shadow. As you draw your first shadow in the morning, ask your child to make predictions about what the shadow will be like when you come out again at lunchtime. Will it be in the same place? Will it be the same length? Once you have all three shadows on the ground, discuss their differences. 
(+) This is also a good time to discuss what a shadow shows us and what it doesn’t. If you raise your hands, does your shadow change? What happens when you smile? What if you stick out your tongue? Make observations and discuss them.

Activity 2: Japanese shadow art. Take a look at the images by Kumi Yamashita with your child. Yamashita is an artist that is fascinated with shadows. Scroll down to the image of a head silhouette with numbers. Ask your child what they see. Ask them to point to the numbers they see and name them if possible. What do you think the artist is trying to tell us with this photograph?

And, yes, photography is art! This blogger writes: “In my opinion, what makes photography art is the imagination, dedication, and time that you pour into your work….Many photographers agree that what makes photography art is something anyone would want to exhibit in a gallery. It’s a work of art that would make almost anyone feel something.”

Activity 3: Now it’s time for you and your child to go on your own shadow scavenger hunt. Take a walk in your neighborhood or around your home and look for shadows that appear to make art. Ask your child to photograph these shadows. You’ll be surprised at what you see in the shadows when you start looking!
(+) Print the photograph and ask your child to write a story about the art they have created. It could be a sentence or a paragraph, and you can scribe for your child if their imaginations are bigger than their writing ability. Remember, this is a creative assignment, not a handwriting one.

Activity 4: Imagination play will light up your day! Create your own shadow puppet story with this activity. Download the animal silhouettes. Print on cardstock. Gather some skewers, tape, scissors and a flashlight. Cut out the silhouettes and tape them to skewers. You use them in a dark room or wait until it gets dark outside and use them anywhere. Take the flashlight and shine it on the paper silhouette. You will see the silhouette displayed on the wall. The further away the bigger it gets.

Lesson 3:

Today, we’re combining light and shadows for some scientific play!

Activity 1: Before we had clocks, we used sunlight and some structures on the ground to tell time. This special tool is called a sundial. Learn about sundials in this video. Today, let’s make a homemade sundial together. Be sure to position your sundial with ’12’ facing North to determine the current time. Use the sundial all week to help your child know when it’s lunchtime, nap time, snack time, and more!

Ask your child these questions to discuss and review the experiment:

  • Do you think the sundial will work at night?
  • How is a shadow made?
  • How does the shadow of the pencil change throughout the day?

(+) Upgrade this activity with a log sheet to track your observations. Scribe for your child if they are ready to make these observations but not ready to write on their own.

Activity 2: What color is light? Let’s investigate light with the use of a prism.

What is happening here? Kids Britannica explains

Certain objects, such as triangular pieces of glass called prisms, can separate white light into the individual colors. When light travels through a prism, waves of different wavelengths bend by different amounts. The color of each wavelength then appears separately. This effect is called a spectrum.

Activity 3: Let’s now mix the colors of light to make white light with this experiment. You will need three flashlights; colored sharpies in red, blue, and green; tape; a white backdrop; and any little toys that can create shadows. (Free-standing toys work best.)

Activity 4: Shadow play time!

Lesson 4:

What makes a rainbow? Let’s read about them in our book, Light: Shadows, Mirrors, and Rainbows. Focus on the section about rainbows . If you were with us during our Weather Unit, we learned that dust particles in the atmosphere are responsible for clouds and snowflakes. Now, introduce how dust particles and water droplets help create rainbows.

Activity 1: Using your prism from Lesson 3, demonstrate how a rainbow can be made. This time, focus on the colors of the rainbow. (This print out can be helpful in your discussion.) Next, make your own rainbow with this fun craft. Review the colors you will need to make your rainbow an accurate representation of what real rainbow colors are.

Activity 2: Rainbow math game.
(+) Try this upgrade for a little rainbow arithmetic.
(-) Need to modify? Younger children will love this simple rainbow puzzle.

Activity 3: Here’s a simple song that will help your child learn the rainbow colors in order. Repeat it throughout the day and tomorrow until your child memorizes it. Want more music? Here’s one of our favorite songs about rainbows. 🌈

Activity 4: Practice the rainbow song as you work on this rainbow measurement craft.

Lesson 5:

We could never fit all the rainbow fun into one day! Let’s continue with the last day of our week.

Activity 1: Have you heard the story of finding gold at the end of the rainbow? It’s a legend of course, but it’s also the inspiration for our next activity. Let’s practice money values with a money-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow activity. Print-out this sheet and follow the instructions below to complete the activity.

Color the rainbow and the of pot of gold. (Laminate the sheet so you can write on it.) Place various coins of different values on the rainbow. Provide your child with pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters and explain that each coin has a name and a different value. Begin by practicing the coin names by asking your child to put all the dimes into the pot. Do the same with the nickels, pennies and quarters.

Next, work on values. Write in a money amount into the pot and have your child find the coins to match that value. For example write: 1ȼ, 5ȼ, 10ȼ, or 25ȼ. Repeat the activity until your child can correctly identify the coin name and its value on their own.
(+) Increase the challenge by writing in amounts that will require more than one coin. For example: 50ȼ, 75ȼ, 35ȼ, 45ȼ. Help your child to add coins together.
(-) Not ready for money yet? Instead, print out this page and fill the rainbow with pompoms in the correct rainbow colors. 

Activity 2: Let’s work on writing numbers as tally marks–with a rainbow twist! First, print these rainbow number cards. (We have also included some blank cards so you can write any additional numbers you wish to build.) You will also need popsicle sticks (we love these rainbow ones for this activity!). Begin presenting your child with one card at a time and then demonstrating how to write that number with tally marks. Practice until your child grasps the concept or is ready to move on.

Activity 3: R is for Rainbow writing practice. (You only need page 1 unless you are trying the upgrade as well.)
(+) For a bit more copywork, print the second page as well.

Activity 4: Shaving cream rainbow craft.

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.

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