MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > The Reflection of Light

The Reflection of Light

Karinda Groothuis
Ramsey Elementary School
Montevideo, MN

This activity is based on the original activities from:
Integrating Science with Reading Instruction by Creative Teaching Press ???2002,
NASA Optics: An Educator's Guide with Activities in Science and Math (,
Grade 4 Science Saskatchewan Education (
Author Profile


In this science lab, students experiment with reflection using plane mirrors. Students work with a partner and complete four investigation activities.

1. Students write their names and hold them up to the mirror. Students record observations and try to write their name so it can be read in the mirror.
2. Students hold one mirror in front of their chins and a second mirror at arm's length. Students record observations.
3. Students place a small object between two mirrors which face one another. Students move mirrors at different angles and distances to see multiple images. Students record observations.
4. Students trace patterns with their finger while looking at the reflection in the mirror. Students record observations.

In a group of four, students discuss what they have learned about reflection. Each group writes their ideas on a paper. These are posted in the classroom and discussed together as a class. Expected observations include image reversal, repeated images, and difficulty tracing while looking in a mirror.

Learning Goals

Students learn that the images seen reflected in a mirror are reversed left to right. When using more than one mirror, multiple images are reflected depending upon how parallel they hold the mirrors.

Application and analysis skills are learned from this activity. Students will observe, interpret, question, investigate, communicate, and manipulate.

Vocabulary words for this lesson are plane mirror, reflection, image reversal, and repeated image.

Context for Use

This activity will be used with third and fourth graders in a regular classroom setting of 20-24 students. This is an investigation activity and students will be working with a partner to complete the four activities during two class periods. On the third day, students will be placed in groups of four to discuss their observations followed by a whole class discussion. Prior to this activity, students will have experimented with reflection using aluminum foil and spoons. They will have learned that all objects reflect light. Smooth surfaces reflect light that produces a clear image and rough surfaces reflect light that scatters in many directions. This activity could be used as a stand alone lesson or during a unit on light.

Subject: Physics:Optics
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5)

Description and Teaching Materials

This activity will be introduced by the teacher asking, "How many of you looked in the mirror this morning?" "How important are mirrors in our life?" The teacher will then explain that the students will be working with a partner to discover new things about reflection using mirrors. Each student will be given a sheet with directions and blanks for them to write their observations (see attachments).

Materials needed—2 mirrors per group, index cards, 2 wooden blocks 8 inches long, 1 piece of cardboard 8x5 inches, tracing patterns (see attachments).

After a whole class discussion of group observations, the teacher will have the class determine the main concepts they learned from the activity. Vocabulary words will be discussed, and students will write them in their science notebook.

assignment handout (Microsoft Word 22kB May20 11) Tracing patterns (Acrobat (PDF) 127kB Sep25 07)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Since this lesson has not been taught before, I would like to add notes after using the lesson with my students. This lesson was designed from activities I found in book sources and online. I experimented with many activities before selecting the four in this lesson that I felt were grade appropriate and valuable.


Each student would be responsible for completing the activities and the written sheet. At the end of the week, students would be asked to write what they learned about mirrors and describe the vocabulary in their own words.


Grade3.II.C2—Properties of light

References and Resources

See more MnSTEP Activities »

« Alternative Energy Debate       Investigating Electricity: Testing for Electrical Conductivity (Conductors and Insulators) Using a Variety of Materials »