Lighting Functions


Students will demonstrate an understanding of 4 functions of lighting by using flashlights to light a student on stage in different ways.


Materials Needed

As many flashlights as you can get, preferably one for each student; about 10 small objects or action figures; colored lighting gels


Lesson Directions

Students will enter a completely dark classroom, but they will be handed a cheap flashlight as they enter. Ask two students to go to the front of the room and perform a scene with no speaking (like a silent film). As soon as the performers are up on stage, ask the other students to turn off their flashlights. The performers will act in darkness.


Step 1 (discussion): Transition: Still in the dark, discuss with the students what was wrong with watching a performance in the dark. If the students have a comment they can turn on their flashlight rather than raising their hands. Call on those with their lights on. After the discussion, ask the same performers to go up on stage and perform again with all of the flashlights turned on and pointed at them.


Step 2 (Instruction and Modeling): Introduce four main functions of lighting, giving examples of each with the flashlights and a few colored gels:


Visibility – clear or foggy, visible or not visible

Selected Focus – Certain people or objects stand out, with color or more light etc.

Modeling – Where are the shadows? Where objects and people are lighted from.

Mood – Using color, softness, starkness, brightness, dimness etc.


Using a flashlight and some colored gels, light a small object like a Barbie or GI Joe to demonstrate the various functions, asking for suggestions from the students as well.


Step 3 (Check for Understanding/Guided Practice): Split the class into groups of about 5 people. Have each group demonstrate with their flashlights the four functions of lighting by shining their lights beneath, beside or above a person in their group. (There will probably be two flashlights per group while the practice, but tell them to prepare using a flashlight for everyone in their group.) They can use the colored gels as well. Once prepared, they will present their lighting ideas to the entire class so everyone can observe the difference modeling and light direction makes on the viewed object.


Step 4 (Guided Practice): As the students perform ask the students what they observe.  Also point out highlights on head/body & deep shadows on face, sides’ straight angle (highlights & deep shadows), front light (flattens & compresses, unflattering), backlight (shadows, uncomfortable for audience), low angle/under light etc. as they happen.



In the same groups, have them go to the “Barbie Stage” (a desk with an action figure on it, or a diorama of a set) and use their flashlights and colored gels to light the Barbie or other objects as you call them out including visibility, selected focus on an object next to the Barbie, selected focus on the Barbie, a sad mood scene, a disco party mood scene, a scary mood scene, the Barbie is next to a car’s headlights etc. Check for understanding as they go. This is a graded group assignment.


They will receive two points for each lighting example they can display accurately. Immediate feedback from the teacher should follow each example.