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Ministry of Education.

Learning task 3

Language and literacy intention(s) We are learning to use scientific words explaining and demonstrating what they mean.
Opportunities for Key competencies development Thinking
Using Language Symbols & Texts
Relating to Others
Managing Self
Principles and values coherence High Expectations
Learning to Learn

Big Idea - A shadow is a relevant absence of light

The teacher begins the session with the words Prenumbra and Numbra displayed and explains the meaning of each word.

Prenumbra: the blurred, lighter part on the edge of a shadow

Umbra: the darkest central part of a shadow
Students are given an opportunity to think and share ideas of where and when they may have seen Prenumbra and Numbra.

After the two science investigations exploring Overlapping Shadows and More Than One

Shadow students will then use the definitions provided to match the scientific vocabulary.

When the scientific words and definitions are matched the students will illustrate their understanding of these terms in the world around them.

Shadows Definition Match Template (PDF 239KB)
Shadows Definition Match Teacher Notes (PDF 126KB)

(A Picture Book that serves as a catalyst and means for discussing this concept is The Boy With Two Shadows by Margaret Mahy)

Investigative activities


What You Need

  • Sunny day
  • Digital camera to record shadows and overlapping shadows (optional)

What You Do

Get students standing on an asphalt surface to observe and talk about their shadow?

Go and stand in the shadow of a tree or building. Why can you no longer see your shadow?

Can you see your shadow on a cloudy day? What is different about your shadow? Can you explain why it is different?

What To Look For

Make sure the students understand that the brighter the light source, the more definite the shadow is.

Opportunities to explore

What are shadows like when they overlap?
Find some shadows that do overlap around your school and decide if the overlapped shadow is darker.


What You Need

  • Four torches per group (options could include desk lamps)
  • A plastic figure or object that that will cast a shadow
  • Digital camera to record shadows an overlapping shadows (optional)

What You Do

Discuss with the students how many different shadows an object can have?

Working in groups of four place the plastic figure/object on the table in the centre of a 20cm square.

Get a student to hold the torch behind the plastic figure/object so that a shadow is cast that reaches the far side of the square. [Consider light source and position in order to make the shadow reach the other side of the square].

Get a second student to hold a second torch aimed at the side of the plastic figure/object until a shadow is formed the same length as the first shadow.

Get two other students to try and cast two more shadows by aiming the torch at the front and other side of the plastic figure/object.

Ask if the students have experienced multiple shadows before. E.g. at night sporting events such as cricket or rugby.

Multiple Shadows Sport Images (PDF 83KB)

What To Look For

Make sure that the students understand that each light source can cast a shadow of the same thing.

Opportunities to explore

Can you make more than four shadows? How?

If you hold coloured cellophane over the front of the torch, can you make coloured shadows?

Assessment opportunities by the teacher using the teaching as inquiry framework

Observation of students’ conversations and working in groups

  1. What information about the student’s learning and knowledge have I gained?
  2. What are the implications for my teaching
  3. What are the next learning steps - conceptual understanding, vocabulary, learner needs?

Students’ opportunity to assess their learning

  1. Students are able to orally explain and demonstrate their understanding that a shadow is the absence of light.
  2. Students will be able to explain what the terms preumbra and umbra mean in relation to shadows giving real life examples.

Published on: 24 Jan 2011