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Reflect, Observe, Reflect

Constructivist learning requires that students have experiences and draw connections between them. Making observations and reflecting on what we learn are central practices at the Sycamore School. Brie Tompkins gives her students many opportunities to interact with their world and to construct meaning based on those experiences.


How can you bend light? Brie’s students played with mirrors and water this week to make predictions and observations about how light bends.

K.A. - “I made many monsters in the mirrors! The light is making me see all of them.”

After experimenting with tubs of water and flashlights in a dark space, students made thoughtful observations about how light was bending while looking at this photograph of D.P.

B.D. - “He is shining the light on the tub of water. The light is reflecting on the water up on the wall.”

G.A. - “The light coming from the flashlight is reflecting off the water on the wall.”

D.P. - “I am holding a flashlight and it is reflecting into the water and making light on the wall.”

What happened to half of your face? “The mirror shows the sky and blocks out my face!” - G.A.

Using a cardboard roll, reflective mylar paper, an artistically designed “spinny thing,” and a straw, students designed their own kaleidoscopes! They made predictions about what would happen when they look through their kaleidoscopes. “The light will bounce around and make me see many designs.” - E.B.

While experimenting, students made observations about what light is doing inside their kaleidoscopes!

B.D. - “It’s hitting the paper and then going into the shiny stuff. It’s going side to side, side to side until it gets to the picture.”

D.P. - “I notice something really cool! When I spin the wheel it’s like light is going in and out. Light is shining in the triangle and onto the paper and it’s making the drawing spread out.”

G.A. - “It’s really cool if you reverse it. What if you missed your favorite part? You can spin backwards and reverse it.”

E.B. - “It’s reflecting! It is shining on the mirror.”

K.A. - “It makes shapes!”

Periscopes bend light. “It’s what spies do!” - B.D.

What have you learned about reflection this week?

B.D. - “Reflection is light bouncing off something! That's called reflecting.”

G.A. - “Reflection is where you shine a light on an object and it either reflects or doesn’t reflect. If it’s shiny it will reflect.”

D.P. - “Reflection is when light bounces off something.”

Questions for home:

  • How can you bend light?

  • What is reflection?

  • Why do you see more than one reflection when several mirrors are connected?

Brie’s group’s Week at a Glance

Communication Literacy

Reading -

  • introduction to folktales

  • making predictions in group text

  • identifying beginning, middle, and end

  • retelling stories

  • silent reading and read aloud

Word study -

  • adding new ending sounds to short a words

  • studying digraphs (sh, ch, th)

  • exploring beginning blends (sc, sn, sw)

Writing -

  • journal writing

  • illustrating beginning

  • middle, and end of folktales

  • writing observations from light experiment

Patterns and Modeling

  • Parallel lines

  • Comparison between rectangles and parallelograms, squares and rhombuses

  • Using a square to make rectangle, parallelogram, and rhombus shadows

  • Parallelogram art!

  • Baking brownies to discover how to slice into parallelograms…and eat!

  • Place value game


  • Reflection experiments

  • Playing with mirrors and water to bend light

  • Making predictions, observations, and sharing conclusions about reflection

  • Building tools/toys to reflect light

  • Kaleidoscopes

  • Periscopes

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