The Sun, Facts and Figures

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SWBAT ask and answer questions about the sun.

Big Idea

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine! What do your students know about the sun? What questions do they have? Can we find the answers?

Instructional Notes

The NGSS Space standard in first grade calls for students to, "Use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted."  In the previous lessons, we observed the sun at different times of day and analyzed our data.  Our data showed that the sun moves across the sky, appearing to rise and set.

The NGSS standards want students to be able to describe the patterns.  However, they do not require students to explain the scientific reasoning behind the patterns-- in this case, that the Earth's rotation makes the sun appear to move when in fact, it is actually the Earth that moves. 

I think students need to be introduced to these deeper understandings about the universe.  While the concepts of rotation and revolution will not be formally assessed, they will be embedded throughout this unit through videos, texts, and hands-on activities.

In today's lesson, I focus on asking and answering questions about the sun.  Students complete a class KWL chart and record new learning in their science journals.  I use marbled composition notebooks as science journals, but you can use any lined paper or creativity tool options with your available technology for responses.

Also, I use a combination of online and classroom resources.  It's okay if your books are different; any age-appropriate nonfiction book about the sun from your library sources could work as a replacement or addition!  I pull extra library books and put them on my back table for students to grab during independent and partner reading too.  

Throughout this unit, I send home Space Backpacks.  I have 5 backpacks filled with books about space, and students take them home to read with their families for a week.  The bags also contain a telescope that we build.  Check out Frey or another science product retailer for some really cool build-it-yourself telescope kits for kids!  To reinforce patterns of the sun, I include the book Sun Up, Sun Down: The Story of Day and Night by Jacqui Bailey and Matthew Lilly.  This is a narrative nonfiction text that doesn't work well as a read aloud to the class, but is just perfect snuggled up with a family member!


  • Chart paper for a class KWL 
  • Sticky notes, 3 or so per student
  • Student Response Sheet Sun Facts, or Science Journals
  • Mr. R's Sun Poem
  • Brainpop Jr. video "The Sun" (If your district doesn't subscribe to Brainpop Jr., search Bill Nye the Science Guy's sun video on YouTube!)
  • Yellow construction paper 3" circles pre-cut (optional)

Warm-Up (The Launch!)

5 minutes

First, I introduce a KWL chart with the title, The Sun.  KWL charts are a great way to engage students in a text, because students read to seek answers to their specific questions.  KWL's are also a great way for teachers to assess prior knowledge.  If students do not know basic facts (for example, the sun is a star), teachers can focus the conversation on building the most important concepts.  Teachers can also read a smaller portion of the text and focus on having students retell the key details to a friend.  On the other hand, if students know the basics, teachers can extend their knowledge by focusing on more complex topics (like solar flares and the sun's temperature, etc.).

Before we read, let's see what you already know about the sun.  For the next 2-3 minutes, you can write key words or facts on sticky notes.  Then, when I play the clean-up song, put your sticky notes here under the "K."  The "K" stands for what we already "k"now.

I like to use sticky notes because students can write as many or as few as they are able.  While they are writing, I circulate and assist any struggling writers by having them verbalize their knowledge.  I sometimes write a struggling student's fact in highlighter for him/her to copy.

I also like sticky notes because when we go over them, I can group alike ones together.  For example, if 4 students write that the sun is a star, I'll stick those notes all together.

To differentiate this activity, here are some other options.  Students can record on their own copy of a KWL (instead of a shared writing experience).  Or, you can limit the number of post-it notes to 2 per student.

After 2-3 minutes, I play a transition song.  Students put their sticky notes under the "K" and come to the rug.

Exploration (The Space Walk!)

20 minutes

When we are on the rug, I first go over the student's schema.  I read the sticky notes aloud and group any similar ones.  For example, "The sun is round and the sun is shaped like a ball go together because they both talk about what the shape the sun is."

Next, I review the purpose for nonfiction texts.

Why do we read nonfiction texts?  (To learn information.)

We have studied informational text throughout the year during reading, but I like to review the features of nonfiction before reading to help set our purpose.  

If your students recorded only schema, and not their questions during the warm-up, ask them here what questions they have about the sun.  Record these under the "W" on the KWL.

What are you wondering about the sun?  What facts do you hope to learn today?  I will record your questions under the "W"-- what you "W"ant to learn.  As we read today, we will put a check mark next to any questions that we answer.  We'll write those answers, and any other interesting facts we find under the "L"-- what you "L"earned.

I read all questions and group any that are alike.  I read them all because I want to use the questions as our purpose for reading today.  We read to answer our questions!

Next I tell students that instead of reading an informational book today, we'll be reading an informational poem!  I display Mr. R's The Sun poem.  This is a great website to check out for all of your science units!

I display the poem digitally on my Whiteboard.  This allows me to highlight new information and also write a check next to information in the poem that we already knew.  First, I read the poem all the way through so that students hear the rhyming words and rhythm.  Then, we do a second, close read.  While reading, I stop after every rhyme and ask questions like:

Does this poem answer any of your questions about the sun?  What do you think the author means by "Because of me, there's night and day?"  What new learning do you have?  What confused you in this poem?

Then, I give students a copy of the poem to put in the "Songs and Poems" section of their Study Buddy binders.  This is a binder that goes home each night, and comes back each day.  That way, students can reread the poem in the coming days.

While we read the poem, I am modeling writing key words and ideas on the "L" section of the KWL.  I also draw pictures when necessary to help explain the concepts.  In this poem, I have a student become the planets and orbit around my "girth" to help explain the vocabulary word too.

KWL chart after reading the poem

Finally, I tell students that we will be watching a Brainpop Jr. movie about the sun.  I always put on the closed-captions while watching Brainpop movies, to support reading skills.  While we watch, I periodically pause the movie to ask questions that monitor comprehension and add new learning to the KWL chart.

I chose to have students record today while watching the movie, rather than writing facts afterwards.  This way, they could copy the numbers and exact spelling of terminology straight from the closed captions.

Here are some student samples:

Closing (Prepare for Landing)

5 minutes

As a formative assessment, I ask students to turn-and-talk and tell a friend one "WOW" fact they learned about the sun today.  

If your students did not record during the video, now is the time for them to retell and then write at least one new fact in their Science Journals.  I use marbled composition notebooks as Science Journals, but you can also use the Student Response Sheet I included or any lined paper with space to draw.  Today, I have also pre-cut yellow construction paper circles for students to write their facts on-- just for a cutesy touch!  I also encourage students to draw a picture related to their fact.  

As an extension activity, consider placing blank acrostic poems with the word SUN in your classroom writing center.  I also have now created a Space Research Center, where students may read with one another or individually.  And, our county subscribes to an online database for emergent readers called Pebble Go.  There are a lot of space videos and easy text that will read along when students press the speaker button.  At both stations, students record additional facts or pictures in their Science Journals.

Finally, we return to the KWL chart.  After watching the video, we assess whether any of our schema was incorrect (the sun spins and the sun absorbs energy from other stars are incorrect for us today).  We take those post-its off and put them in the recycle bin.  I say that we are now replacing them with new ideas!  Then, we review our questions section.  Any questions we answered get a check mark.  Any unanswered questions will move to our classroom KLEWS chart for students to research during independent choice time (reading small group time).