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20 October 2014
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How we see things - lesson plan

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Reflecting light

  1. To understand that mirrors reflect light.
  2. To learn that when a beam of light is reflected from a surface, its direction changes.

National Curriculum

Sc1, 2g; Sc4, 3a, 3c.


You will need Adobe Acrobat reader to access the PDF files. BBC Webwise has a complete guide to downloading and installing Adobe Acrobat reader.

Teaching activities


  1. Watch Light montage.
  2. Ask the children to get into pairs and list as many different light sources as possible. Record these on display. If they suggest objects that reflect light, display these in a separate list.
  3. Ask the children if they know why you have asked them to put their suggestions into two groups. Ensure that they understand the difference between a light source that emits its own light and an object that reflects light from a light source.
  4. Ask the children how we can see objects that do not emit light. Lead them to point out that most surfaces reflect light that shines on them and that this reflected light enters our eyes.
  5. Illustrate this by drawing a diagram of a light source, a mirror and an eye on the board.
  6. Use this diagram to show that flat mirrors reflect a true likeness of objects. Explain that this is because light falling on a mirror at a certain angle (the angle of incidence) will be reflected at an equal angle (the angle of reflection).
  7. Use the How we see things worksheet (PDF 809KB) to reinforce this learning point. Ask the children to draw arrows on each picture to show how we see things.


  1. Explain to the children that they are going to complete an activity to investigate how flat mirrors reflect light from a light source.
  2. Open the Bitesize how we see things activity on an interactive whiteboard.
  3. Explain to the children how to select an angled mirror and place it on the screen in the path of the light. How does the light change direction when it hits the mirror? Explain to the children that they must drag mirrors onto the screen to illuminate each of the objects around the edge of the activity area.
  4. Divide the children into groups with a computer for each group. Ask each group to work through the activity, following the tasks written (and read aloud) at the top of the screen.


  1. Draw an example on the board of the set-up of mirrors needed in the online activity to illuminate the tent.
  2. Annotate the drawing with the angles of incidence and the angles of reflection.
  3. Ask the children to draw a picture that shows how a mirror reflects light into an eye. Ensure that they label the light source, mirror, eye, angle of incidence and angle of reflection.


  1. Ask the children to attempt the Bitesize how we see things quiz.
  2. Watch The eye and how it works. List two key learning points from the clip.


  1. Ask the children to make a list of objects in the home that are light sources and a list of objects that reflect light.
  2. Ask the children to list which properties of materials reflect light best (e.g. shiny, smooth).

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