Next Generation Science Standard Connection
I am moving into the second lesson in a series of lessons where students use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted. In the previous lesson the students described the sun, moon, and stars. Students need at least one lesson to introduce the content and allow them to really develop an understanding of the sun, moon, and stars before analyzing or predicting any patterns. But, in this lesson I am going to allow my students to make predictions based on their observations of the sun. Today we are only going to learn about how the sun determine the amount of daylight and dark. The next four lessons are going to be about how the position of the earth and the sun determine the seasons.
I find it helpful to use literature and pictures to teach the students, and then I engage them in an application activity to help them further their understanding of patterns in the earth's rotation. So, the students create a prediction and diagram in their science journal. Then they design a little book showing their prediction and the pattern of the sun. In my experience students remember the content by doing an application activity, and students love making books they can share with the class.
Now, I did study a really helpful video before teaching this lesson, because I felt I needed a refresher on all the specific details related to the angles of the sun's rays on earth. I really don't think the video is appropriate for first graders, because it is very complex. But, I watched it, so I could take the content and make it age appropriate. I actually made a video of what I am going to model in my class, so first graders really develop the concept of how the sun determines the amount of daylight and dark.
Like most of my lessons we begin in the lounge. Then we move to the center of the room to the desks for the students to explore, explain, and elaborate on their understanding. Last, the lesson ends in the lounge where they present their books. Keeping the transitions consistent throughout every lesson really helps my students persevere through complex tasks, because they know what to expect.
Now I am going to engage the class and assess their current knowledge while the class is seated in the lounge. I first say to the students, "Please tell your partner how the spinning of the earth around the sun affects our day time and night time." Now, I am predicting my students tell each other that that when the sun goes down it gets night, or when the sun comes up it becomes day. But, it is important to allow them to share their current knowledge with their peers, because it lets me know what they know. When I know what the students know I can determine how much extra explanations I am going to need to provide throughout the lesson. In addition, if I do have a student that knows a lot about the content I want to allow them to share, and I am going to be sure to recognize them throughout the lesson. Students find it more meaningful when they learn from their peers rather than when I tell them information.
Now that I have assessed their knowledge I need to tell the students the plan for the lesson. Sharing the plan allows them to understand my expectations which really helps the students persevere through very complex task. So, I say, "Today you are going to watch me create a model of how the earth orbits around the sun, and you are going to make predictions based on your observations. Then you are going to create a diagram in your science journal that shows your understanding of the pattern created by the earth spinning around the sun. Last, you will create an informational booklet explaining how the rotation of the earth around the sun."
In this section I read the class the paragraphs in this text. The students take notes throughout this section to show the rotation throughout one day. I create a model and the students copy it in their science journal, because I want them to remember the pattern. So, they create an illustration for 6AM, Noon, 6 PM, and Midnight.
Then I show the class my model and explain how the earth orbits around the sun. As I spin the model I ask, "Will you tell your partner what you predict will happen the next day?" This engages the students in thinking about the pattern. I listen, and then I show the class by spinning the globe one full turn and asking, "What is happening as the marker for our location approaches the sunlight." Then I move it to where it is in the middle of the day and ask, "Is it daylight or dark here?" Next, I say move the marker for our location away from the light and ask, "What time of day is it here?" I listen, and finally I ask, "So, what pattern do you see?" I expect the students to say, "The earth orbits and this gives us day and night. Each day we will have a dark time and a day light time based on the sunlight on earth."
During this part of the lesson I try to engage the class in some scientific discourse. Really, I am teaching my students to bounce ideas off each other, and they are learning to build upon the ideas of other students. Building upon others ideas is a skill students need to learn as they develop their collaboration skills, and improve their ability to communicate. I find 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 illustrated the sun and earth in for each time of day 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 predictions can you make about the length of day tomorrow?" I listen and then ask, "What patterns do you see?" Then I listen again. If I hear incorrect answers I ask a student who said the correct information to share their thoughts and why. Next, I tell the class, "Please add anything your partner mentioned that you did not have in your journal."
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."
Now I want the class to engage in an application activity. So, I say, "You are going to create a booklet that you can share with a kindergartener." Sharing with another class makes students very excited, and it allows them to take pride in their work. It also gives them a purpose to do an extra good job. Then I plan a time time for my students to actually read their book to a class. I say, "Your booklet needs to show the earth's rotational pattern at day and night. It should have a cover that connects to the title and a sentence at the bottom of each page." Now, I do show them an example: model of the cover and model of the middle, because they have never done anything like this. But, I do not leave the example: cover and middle; I leave each group with a model. If I leave the example the class may just copy my work, and I want to see my students knowledge in their work.
So, I walk around and check in with students. I help them create complete sentences, make sure their illustration shows the day and night. Basically, I just walk around and help the students complete the task: student work cover and student work inside pages. If students struggle I write our sentences they say on the table, so they can copy them down. I engage them with leading questions that cause them to tell me the answer. I may say, "So, what does the earth look like in the day? How can you show that? What might you want to write on your page to show the kindergarteners?"
Now, the lesson has come to a closing point, and I ask about three students to read their book to the class. Then students evaluate their work and give them academic feedback. This is a higher order thinking activity that really allows the students to evaluate what their peers say and think critically about the information they say as they read their book.
Using positive behavior support really helps me encourage my students to meet my behavioral expectations. I like to get the class to chant, "Criss cross apple sauce pockets on the floor, hands in your laps talking no more." Then I say, "Keep your eyes on the speaker and think about what they are saying." I am telling my students what I want them to do instead of telling them what they are doing wrong.
As far a the assessment piece goes I am expecting my students to speak loud and clear so they can be understood. They also need to present the sun on the earth for the day, and show the United States dot away from the sun for the night. Last, I expect each child to provide verbal feedback to their peers. I have a spreadsheet I use to document student achievement, and I do plan instruction to meet the needs of the students that do not meet my expectations.