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free lesson plan and resources about the sense of sight: Optical Illusions

Sense of Sight: Optical Illusions

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  • Students will be able to describe and apply to the real world, the concept of an optical illusion.

Question that encompasses the objective:

How do optical illusions occur in the natural world and what is the purpose they serve, especially for animals?

Prepare the Learner: Activating Prior Knowledge

How will students’ prior knowledge be activated?

Warm up by asking students:

  • Have you ever heard the expressions, “I can’t believe my eyes,” or “It’s playing tricks on my eyes,”?

  • When have you heard these exclamations?

  • What do they mean?

Materials and Free Resources to Download for this Lesson: 

  1. Online Prezi Presentation by Jacquelyn Lawrence 

  2. Index Cards (3 per student)

  3. Straws (1 per student)

  4. Tape

  5. Pencil and colored pencils or markers

  6. Final Assessment


What is the most important content in this lesson?

To reach the lesson’s objectives, the students need to understand:

  • Sight is the primary sense used to intake visual information.

  • The brain must then interpret what it is seeing, and at times your brain misinterprets, or is tricked, into seeing things differently than they actually appear.

  • Optical illusions occur everywhere in our world, be they created or natural.

How will the learning of this content be facilitated?

  • In this lesson, students will be initially view a series pictures depicting simple optical illusions in a Prezi presentation. A guided group discussion of each image and the illusion present will ensue. The phrase, “I can’t believe my eyes,” will be discussed.

  • In the next part of the activity, students will participate in a hands-on activity to create examples of optical illusions that involve motion. A modeled example of creating the motion sticks is provided and then student create their own examples independently. Students will then work with a partner, to reflect on their learning, as they describe and apply the concept of optical illusions.

  • Finally, the students will answer a written independent assessment question requiring students to transfer the concept of optical illusions and apply them to the real world: Explain how optical illusions occur in the natural world and identify the purpose they serve, especially for animals

3-5 minutes
Guided Introduction

Review the class/ agenda with the students:

  • Guided Mini-Lesson: Prezi Presentation, “I Can’t Believe My Eyes” (10 minutes)

  • Activity Part 1: Optical Illusions Craft, Motion Sticks (25-30 minutes)

  • Activity Part 2: Partner Work, Reflective Questions (10 minutes)

  • Independent Assessment (10 minutes)

10 minutes
Introductory Activity Mini-lesson: Prezi Presentation, “ I Can’t Believe My Eyes”

  • Students will view and discuss four pictures of optical illusions.

  • Play the presentation.

  • Allow 1-2 minutes to view each picture in silence.

  • Ask students to share the illusions they can see in each picture.

  • As a class, discuss what the subtitle, “I can’t believe my eyes,” means. Illicit responses that lead to the conclusion that optical illusions are situations where one, literally cannot believe his/her eyes. It seems as though your eyes are being tricked into seeing something that is not actually there.

25 - 30 minutes
Activity Part 1: Optical Illusions Craft, Motion Sticks

  1. Give each three index cards, three straws and ten pieces of tape. 

    • (Model steps 2-6 for students and ask them to follow along).

  2. Instruct students to fold each card in half and unfold it, so the fold line faces up.

  3. Draw a circle on each of the line.


   4. Draw a happy face in one circle and a sad face in the other.

   5. Place the straw on the backside of the card and with tape.

   6. Fold the card along the fold line, over the straw, and secure closed with tape.

   The happy face should be visible on one side and the sad face on the other.

   7. Place the straw between your hands and rub vigorously back and forth, watch as the face appears to change from happy to sad.

   8. Discuss what is being seen with students.  Explain to students that this similar to how the first cartoon movies were made, a series of still drawings moving very quickly past a camera.

   9. Ask students to create their own examples using the other two cards. Explain that simple two step ideas work best, for example in and out, on and off, over and under. Suggestions include a drawing a bird cage and a bird, the bird will appear to go into the cage. Similar ideas are goldfish and a bowl.

   10. Ask students to complete the following sentence for their favorite optical illusion creation, In this example of an optical illusion, it looks like _______________________________________________________________. (Answer        Sample, In this example of an optical illusion, it looks like the bird goes into his cage).

   10. Students can then share their sentence and creation with the class.

10 minutes


Have the students work with a partner or small group to brainstorm ideas on where optical illusions occur in the natural world and try to identify the purpose they serve, especially for animals. In other words, where do your eyes play tricks on you in the real world or nature.  

Answers will vary but a popular one is: Many animals have camouflage coats or features, which is an example of an optical illusion. As a source of protection, animals appear to become a part of, or blend into their surroundings, making them appear invisible.

Individualized Instruction/Scaffolding

English Language Learners/Students with IEPS will be supported in this lesson through written repetition of new vocabulary words, and multiple representation of vocabulary words through printed images..In addition, scaffolds such as sentence starters and note-taking graphic organizers should be implemented at the teacher’s discretion.

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