Five Ways to Reflect on Thanksgiving November 05 2010

The Thanksgiving holiday is a time of reflection on our lives and all for which we are thankful, but this isn't your typical self-evaluation lesson plan!

Marie, one of our readers, requested lesson plan ideas based on mirrors and reflection. After some reflection of my own, I came up with my top five ways to teach mirrors and reflection across the curriculum!


Mirrors are ideal for teaching reflection (also known as mirror) symmetry. This kind of symmetry shows a reflected figure on both sides of a line of symmetry.

The easiest example of this kind of symmetry involves two objects you carry with you everywhere - your hands. Hold them out flat, palms up, pinkies touching. The line down the middle that separates your two hands is the line of symmetry, and your hands themselves demonstrate reflective symmetry.

A fun math lesson plan that also involves Thanksgiving is the Pattern Block Turkey Math Lesson Plan. However, instead of building the entire turkey, have your kids make only half and use small classroom mirrors to see their entire turkeys. Another option is to have them trade half-turkeys, challenging classmates to build the other halves!


If you've ever played Tetris, than you know what tessellations are! The point of that popular game is to fit shapes together into cohesive lines through turning, flipping and sliding them into place.

Developed by the artist M.C. Escher, tessellations are patterns made from shapes that repeat and completely fill a flat

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plane. They are made by sliding, turning, and flipping shapes to create these patterns. There are no gaps in a piece of tessellation, and reflective symmetry is created by flipping a shape.

An easy way to demonstrate the idea is to use a pattern block - a rectangle, for instance. Trace it on the overhead or using a document camera, then flip it and trace it again. You should be able to draw a line down the center between the triangles and have them be a mirror image of one another. Add sliding and turning the shape to your demonstration.

Tessellation Art Lesson Plan

Once flipping, turning and sliding have been practiced with your students, direct them to create a tessellation piece of art.

A piece of tessellation art must meet all three criteria:

  • A pattern must repeat
  • There are no gaps or overlaps
  • They can continue on a plane (flat surface) forever

Have students choose simple pattern blocks in order to create their tessellations. They could be required to discover which pattern blocks tessellate (square, rectangle, rhombus, or hexagon) and which shapes do not before creating their piece of tessellating art.

Reflected Light Science Lesson Plan

When looking at an object in a mirror, we see light that is bouncing back. But what direction does light travel when it hits a mirror?

With the whole group, in small groups, or individually, place a small piece of masking tape in the center of a mirror. Point a flashlight at that center point, noting with your kids where the light from the flashlight travels. Track the path of the light using a second mirror.

Discuss with your students where they think the light will go if you angle the flashlight to the left, and track the light. Do the same when turning the flashlight to the right.

Have students sketch the results of this reflective experiment and explain what happened to the light in their own words.

Writing in Code

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Leonardo da Vinci wrote many of his notes in mirror writing - he wrote backwards from right to left, and those trying to read his work needed a mirror to reflect the correct messages. Some historians think he was trying to write in code to protect his work.

Have your kids start with writing their names backwards, then check their code-writing using a mirror. They can also write messages in this special code to you or to one another about what they've learned regarding mirrors and reflection. Another option is to have them write what they're thankful for in this code-writing, but only after careful reflection, of course!