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 moon at different times of day and analyzed our data. Our data showed that the moon moves across the sky, appearing to rise and set, and also has phases.
The NGSS standards want students to be able to describe the patterns. However, they do not require specific content knowledge about the sun and moon. I think students need to be introduced to these deeper understandings about the universe. While students will not be assessed on content knowledge of the moon, today's lesson will embed this information through texts, websites, and hands-on activities.
In today's lesson, I focus on asking and answering questions about the moon. 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 prefer to use a combination of online and classroom resources. It's okay if your books are different; any age-appropriate nonfiction book about the moon 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.
To conclude this lesson, students will create a clay model of the moon and retell at least one key detail.
Throughout this unit, I send home Blast-off 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 knowledge about the moon, I include the book Rookie Read-About Science: The Moon by Carmen Bredeson. This is a fairly accessible nonfiction text with limited text on each page. It's just perfect for students to read with or to a family member!
First, I introduce a new song. This is a song that I wrote called Patterns in the Sky. Songs are such a great way to sneak in content knowledge and reinforce prior learning! We'll be singing only the first few verses, about sun and moon patterns. The tune is Farmer and the Dell.
The sun rises and sets
As the earth spins around
One side is in the light
While the other says goodnight.
The moon changes shape
Sometimes it disappears
Earth’s shadow covers up the moon,
Just wait—don’t shed a tear!
The moon rises and sets
It’s out in night and day
As it travels round the Earth
That’s it orbiting way.
Then, I activate student schema and assess what prior knowledge they have about patterns of the moon.
After this conversation, I was able to see what needs my students have.
Next, I introduce a Moon KWL chart. I ask students to write their schema (background knowledge) about the moon on about 2-3 sticky notes, and to add it to the K section. My students have sticky notes in their pencil bags, but you can pass out more or less depending on your students' writing abilities.
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 by thinking aloud. For example, "The moon goes around the earth, and the moon orbits earth go together because they both talk about the same topic." I also want to see any incorrect ideas or misconceptions (like the moon is made of cheese-- where did that idea even come from?!?), so that we can address them right away. This year, I had one post-it note that said, "The moon is a planet." I told students that we get rid of incorrect schema, in order to make room for correct facts. We recycled the incorrect post-it note and then added the question, "If the moon isn't a planet, what do we call it?"
Next, I review the purpose for nonfiction texts.
Why do we read nonfiction texts? (To learn information.)
What kinds of features are we likely to see in a nonfiction text? (photographs, diagrams, etc.)
We have studied informational text during reading, but I like to review the features of nonfiction before reading to help set our purpose. Then, I ask students what questions they have about the moon. I record these under the "W" on the KWL.
What are you wondering about the moon? 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.
Next, I introduce the text, Gail Gibbons's The Moon Book.
I chose this book because it provides interesting facts in an easy-to-access format. While we read, I ask questions to monitor comprehension like, "How does the illustration help us understand the information? Why did the author write this text with this particular illustration?" I also put a check mark on any student questions that we answer and add new learning to the KWL chart.
After reading, students make a model of the moon using gray-colored clay. I demonstrate how to form a spherical shape, and then to indent it with the end of a pencil or glue stick to create craters. We will be keeping the clay moons in class to use as models in our next lesson. This model reinforces some of the facts we will have learned about craters and the make-up of the moon.
After I play a transition song, students clean up their desks and come to the rug. They will leave the models on their nametags for the following day.
For the closing, it is important that we come back to the objective and have students answer a question about the moon. Ideally, students will choose to record a fact that answered one of their personal questions about the moon. I preface their work by saying, "Which fact did you think was most interesting? Which moon fact was a WOW fact for you?
I model putting one of our new facts from the KWL into a sentence.
Here we wrote the words, "Craters from meteors. " I want to record that as my most interesting moon fact. I will write that with a hook to draw in my reader. I will write, "Wow! Did you know that meteors hit the moon and that's what made craters?" Next, I will draw a picture that matches my words, so I will draw the moon with rocks coming at it, and I'll label the craters.
Students return to their seats and record at least one new fact they learned about the moon. You may choose to have students respond in Science Journals (my students use marbled composition notebooks), on the Moon Fact recording sheet I included, or on any lined paper.
Here's what the L section of the KWL looked like after the lesson. Any leftover questions from our KWL chart will now move to our class KLEWS chart. Students may choose to answer the question by reading space books in our research center during self-selected independent or partner reading time.
And here are some student work samples. I was impressed that so many students were drawing diagrams trying to work out spatial relations of the celestial objects!