What is in the sky?

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SWBAT describe the sun, moon, and stars.

Big Idea

Begin a unit observing patterns by describing distinguishing features of the sun, moon, and stars.

Lesson Overview

Next Generation Science Standard Connection

This is the first lesson in a series of lessons where students use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted. In this lesson I allow my students to make observations of the sun, moon, and stars. Before we begin any predicting, or analyzing patterns I feel the students need to develop some prior knowledge. They must know what the sun, moon, and stars looks like and some of the distinguishing features of each.

In this lesson I am using literature and pictures to teach the students, and then they are going to apply their knowledge to create an informational poster labeling the sun, moon, and stars. The students must also provide a brief description of each on the poster. I am giving the students an opportunity apply the knowledge they learn from reading and observing the pictures. It seems that students really retain the knowledge presented when they are given a fun application activity, and students love making posters.

Lesson Overview

This lesson begins in the lounge where I engage the class. We move to the center of the room to the desks for the students to explore, explain, and elaborate on their understanding. Finally, the lesson ends in the lounge where they present their poster. Keeping the transitions consistent throughout every lesson really helps my students persevere through complex tasks, because they know what to expect.


10 minutes

This is the beginning of the lesson and I usually assess my students knowledge, and use some technology to excite them. So, I project an image of the sun, moon, and stars on the Smart Board. Then I ask, "Will you please tell your partner everything you know about the sun, moon, and stars?" Then I listen, because this knowledge helps me determine how much support I am going to need to provide to my students throughout the lesson. Also, if I have a student who knows a lot about the content I want to allow them to share their knowledge, because students find learning from their peers much more meaningful. Plus, allowing students to share what they know makes them feel special. After the discussion, I share some of the conversations, and ask for volunteers to share their conversation. 

Last, I tell the class the plan for the lesson, because it sets them at ease when they know what is going to be expected in the lesson. So, I say, "Today we are going to  read about the sun, moon, and stars. Then you are going to illustrate each and describe them on a poster."


15 minutes

In this section I present the content to the class. First, I show the class an image of the sun. Then I project the image on the Smart Board and read a selection from  National Geographic describing the sun. I read the text three times as the students follow along. On the third reading I ask, "Please highlight any information that you think describes the sun while I am reading." After highlighting, I ask, "Please write down any notes that you think really help you describe the sun. These will be helpful when you add your description of the sun on your poster."

Next, I show the class an image of the moon and read a modified version of this text. I like the content, but it is too hard for my class. So, I rewrite it deleting sections, changing words, and shortening sentences. Then I ask them to write "moon" in their journal. I say, "Please describe the moon in your notes." After they make notes, I read the text about the moon three times. Before the third reading I say, "Please highlight any information you want that might help you add your description of the moon." After reading I say, "Go ahead and write down any notes you think that will help you describe the moon on your poster."

Now we move on to the stars, and I project an image of the stars on the Smart Board and read a modified version of this text. Once again I copied the text into a word document, changed words, sentences, and deleted a lot of information. So, I ask, "Write "stars" in your journal. Add any describing words that you think you might need to help you create your poster." Then I read the text about the stars three times. Before the third reading I ask, "Please highlight  anything you think describes the stars." When I finish reading I say, "Now record your notes or what you highlighted in your science journal."



10 minutes

At this point in the lesson I want to engage the class in some scientific discourse. Basically, I am teaching my students to bounce ideas off each other, and they are learning to build upon the ideas of their peers. This is a foundational skill for students to learn as they develop their collaboration skills, and improve their ability to communicate. When students really master building upon their peers comments they are creating much more complex ideas, learning from each other, and really engaging in a higher order thinking experience. 

So, I say, "Please tell your partner what you recorded when you described the sun in your science journal." Then I listen, and if I see a group just sitting there I stop and chat with them. I usually say, "What did you record in your journal? What did you highlight in the text? Tell your partner this." Next, I tell the class, "Please add anything your partner mentioned that you did not have in your journal." They are building upon their peers' ideas. Now we engage in an entire class discourse and I say, "Please tell the class what you added or any notes you recorded." Then I ask, "If something is mentioned that you do not have, go ahead and add it to your notes."

We go through the same procedures to describe the moon, and the stars. First, I ask the students to talk to their partner. Then they add notes that they did not have. Next, the students share with the class. After they share in the whole group setting the students add anything else to their notes that help them describe the moon or stars.


15 minutes

Now, I am going to allow the students to apply their new knowledge to create a poster. They do have choices. I allow each child to choose whether they write with a crayon or marker. In addition, I encourage them to add their description with a dark color, so we can read it easily. The criteria is that the poster must have the sun, moon, and stars. In addition, it must have a description beside each. 

This is a great opportunity to walk around and a make sure the students understand the sun, moon, and stars. I am assessing their understanding as I walk around and see what they are writing, and observe the colors they are using to design their poster. If I notice somebody headed in the wrong direction I just say, "Are you sure that is the correct color? What do your notes say? Do you want me to reread the text to you?" 

I made a video: student work and I have an image of proficient student work that really connects the parts of the lesson.


10 minutes

As the lesson comes to an end the I select three students to present their poster.  After each presentation I ask the students to give a peer evaluation. I do have a rotating chart where I check off who has presented, so I know that each child gets the same amount of turns sharing. 

In addition, I use some positive behavior support to get the students to sit and listen, because this can be a challenge for younger students. We chant, "Criss cross apple sauce pockets on the floor. Hands in your laps talking no more." Then I remind the students, "The poster shows your knowledge and understanding of the sun, moon, and stars." 

When I look at my assessment for this lesson I use a rubric. It's simple and has a place to put a check or minus under each standard I am addressing. There is a column for 1-SL1-1 Common Core Standard Speaking and Listening, and one for 1-EES1-1Earth's Place in the Universe. For 1-EES1-1, I am looking to see that the information is correct. When I think about speaking and listening I just want students to speak loud enough to be heard and communicate their information with confidence. I use the assessment information to see who needs more practice in each area, and I can plan specific small group instruction to help meet my students' individual needs.