Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Flicker Flash

Many children associate the concept of light with the simple action of flicking a light switch and are unaware of the various forms of light that are used everyday. Joan Bransfield Graham and illustrator Nancy Davis compiled a series of poems, that illustrates and explains the different types of light, in the book Flicker Flash which can help broaden a young child’s idea of light or to reinforce ideas before the start of an unit.

In Flicker Flash, Graham describes various forms of light used in household appliances (such as a light bulb, porch light, television, and a refrigerator light), light in the night sky (including fireworks, lighthouses, a lightening bolt, and the moon), and light used during special occasions (such as birthday candles, camera light and a spotlight). The  poems explain how light is used in many aspects of the day and helps to broaden a child’s idea of light.

Light Oh, Light
Captain of the midnight sky,
You stretch your arms and flash your eye across the waves and churning foam to steer me,
Guide me,
Safely Home.
Light House

Along with the text, Davis’ pictures helps to clarify the distinctions between the types of light by organizing the text to support how the light is used. For example, in the poem above, Davis supports the text by arranging the words into a lighthouse with some of the words extending away from the light house text simulating the search lights on the top of lighthouses. Between the content of Graham’s writing in addition to the reinforcement provided through Davis’ pictures, children will expand their knowledge on the multiple sources of light.

Curriculum Connections
This book can be used to help expand young students’ knowledge to recognize different sources of light. For older grades Flicker Flash can be used to remind students of various light sources as an introduction before moving onto addressing additional characteristics of electricity (In Virginia this corresponds with standard 4.3).

Additional Resources

  • Joan Graham’s website provides extension activities for language arts, music, social studies, art, science, and math to further investigate how light plays a role in our lives.
  • Star Light, Star Bright has activities and additional information for students explaining the relationship between light and stars. This site also provides lesson plans and ideas for teachers.
  • This site provides opportunities for additional exploration on light with demonstrations of making lightening, along with interactive sites for kids, worksheets, and lesson plans for teachers.

Title: Flicker Flash
Author: Joan Bransfield Graham
Illustrator: Nancy Davis
Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: 2003
32 pages

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