Analyzing the Sun Data

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SWBAT analyze data in order to describe patterns of the sun.

Big Idea

It's time to analyze data today, and draw some conclusions. Just what do our data and observations tell us about the sun? Rise and shine, let's get started!

Instructional Notes

In the previous lesson, we went out at three times to measure both the sun's position in the sky and the effect on shadows.  Today, we need to organize our data and analyze it.  What does the data show?

Throughout this unit, I use a KLEWS anchor chart to record our new learning.  This is a science-specific type of KWL chart designed with primary students in mind!  Check out this video I like to call KLEWS chart 101:


We will record our evidence and observations under the "E" today.

Next, I give students a chance to analyze their data with some guiding questions.  Then, I will call them back together to analyze the data as we add it to the KLEWS chart.  I guide students to the big understandings for today:

  • The sun has a pattern of movement across the sky as it appears to rise and set.  
  • Shadow lengths change as the sun moves; shadows lengthen in the morning and evening as the sun’s position changes.

Finally today, students will draw a diagram in their Science Journals to show the sun's movement.  I use marbled composition notebooks as Science Journals, but if your students don't have science journals, you can use the 3-door foldable sheet I included!


  • KLEWS Anchor Chart (on large bulletin board paper)
  • Student data recording sheets from the previous lesson
  • Science Notebooks (optional)
  • Data Analysis guiding questions
  • 3 door foldable for the sun diagram

Warm-Up (The Launch!)

10 minutes

First I orient students to the KLEWS chart.

Friends, in this science unit, we're going to record our thinking on this anchor chart which is called a KLEWS chart.  At the top, I have written our Essential Question for this unit: How can patterns we observe in the sky help us make predictions?

In the first lesson of this unit, we discussed as a class two questions, What is a pattern? and What objects are in the sky?  We came to a conclusion as a class that a pattern is a repeating set, and we narrowed our focus about objects to those in space-- the sun, moon, and stars. 

Next, look at this column "K."  The K stands for what we already Know.  Here I put what we know already about patterns and objects in nature in the sky.

Next, I give students time to try to figure out on their own what the data shows.  The Science and Engineering Practices calls for *students* to analyze data.  I want to give them a chance to figure it out, and then we'll come back together as a class to analyze and fix any wrong conclusions.  

Here is our evidence on the KLEWS chart.

While students are working with the person next to them, I look for students who are struggling to analyze or have poor number sense.  I support them, and also make note that tomorrow during science, I can pull them in a small group for extra practice.

Today, we are going to look at the observations and data we recorded outside yesterday.  I have some questions to help you figure out what the data means.  Then, we'll come back together and write it on our KLEWS chart.

Here are the four guiding questions to assist students:

  1. Based on your data, does the sun appear to move in the sky?  Yes/No  
  2. Based on your data, what time is the sun highest?  ___ 
  3. Based on your data, so the shadow lengths change?  Yes/No  
  4. Based on your data, what time are shadows the shortest?  ____  

These questions lead us directly to today's two patterns-- the sun changes position as it appears to move across the sky, and when the sun moves, shadow position and lengths change!  The big ideas link straight to the NGSS standard 1-ESS1-1.

Here are two pairs discussing that I checked in with and what they had to say!

As you can tell from the second check-in, it is important that we describe the spatial relationships between celestial bodies.  We'll be getting to these concepts in the subsequent lesson.

Exploration (The Space Walk!)

15 minutes

While I play a transition song, students bring their data and answers to the analysis questions to the rug.  I post the KLEWS chart in the front of the room so that we can add to it.

First, I add our data to the KLEWS chart under E, Evidence.  

Friends, scientists always record their data, just like we did yesterday.  Our data and observations go here on the KLEWS chart under Evidence because when people ask how we know we are right, we'll say, "Just look at this evidence!"  Let's fill in our data."

  • 9 am Sun is ___ handspans above the horizon
  • 12pm Sun is ___ handspans above the horizon
  • 3pm Sun is ___ handspans above the horizon

You can take the mode (the most popular number) of the class measurements.

Based on this data, did the sun stay in the same place or did it move across the sky?  Right, it moved.  So for question one, make sure you circle YES.  Have you noticed that the sun moves across the sky every day?  Right, it does!  

This is a pattern.  Our evidence shows that the sun's position appears to change as it rises in the morning and then sets in the evening.  We'll write the pattern under L-- Our Learning.  When people don't believe us that the sun moves, we'll show them the evidence!  I know the sun moved because my handspans changed.

Next, I record the shadow data and see what students figured out. 

  • 9am Shadow length ___
  • 12pm Shadow length ___
  • 3pm Shadow length ___

Based on the data, do the shadow lengths change?  Yes!  When are shadows the shortest?  At 12pm, in the middle of the day.  Hmm, so the shadows are the shortest when the sun is the highest.  And the sun moves every day.  Do shadows move every day?  Right!  

This is a pattern.  Our evidence shows that the shadows are shortest when the sun is high and longer when the sun is rising or setting.  Let's write the pattern under L-- Our Learning.

The KLEWS chart is a little funky, since you fill out the "E" and then reach your conclusions/ new learning "L."  It doesn't go neatly from left to right.  That's because KLEWS is based on the intermediate elementary science graphic organizer called a CER (Claims, Evidence, Reasoning) which is also a little funky and non-linear!  To help students see the relationship between the "L" and "E," most teachers draw an arrow from the "E's" to the "L's."  I do that next.

Closing (Prepare for Landing)

5 minutes

Finally today, I want students to draw a diagram showing how the sun moves across the sky.  A diagram is a form of a scientific model, and drawing a diagram meets Science & Engineering Practice #2.  

First, I show this short video clip to help students visualize.

You can choose to do a labeled diagram, or try out a 3 door foldable!  A 3-door foldable is a normal size sheet of paper, folded in half to make 2 long rectangles.  Then, students cut the top rectangle and make 3 flaps (the directions are on the resource sheet I included).  This is a shared writing experience.  I model it using the projector, and students draw the same diagram.  

Then, students will turn-and-talk with a friend to answer the question:

What pattern in the sky does the diagram show?

Discussion is so important!  It gives *all* students the chance to process the question, get their ideas together, and practice listening and speaking skills.  Discussion also works wonders for your shy students!  Plus, if there isn't a lot of excited discussion, that's a clue to me that I need to provide some guidance.  I have students turn-and-talk, and then I call on a few to share with the larger group. 

I also circulated while students were finishing in order to have selected students retell the sequence to me.  I circulated to students who have difficulty with verbalization and also to an ELL student who I knew could use additional help with the vocabulary.

The diagram of the sun moving across the sky shows a daily pattern (1-ESS1-1).  By drawing the sun's movement, students are constructing an explanation of the phenomena (SP6).  Science explanations don't always need to be elaborately written out, especially by first graders!  A good illustration or diagram can be a very powerful tool in nonfiction text and writing.


Data Analysis

  • Was the student able to synthesize the data, compare the numbers, and reach a conclusion?  If not, pull the student tomorrow in a data-analysis small group.