The Sun's Energy

10 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT identify the sun as the heat source that warms the Earth each day in a predictable pattern.

Big Idea

Come and learn all about temperature! Students will learn how to use a thermometer and use that information to investigate the daily pattern of the sun's solar energy!

Setting the Stage:

National Science Education Science Standards Connection:

The National Science Education Standards has said that making observations is key to inquiry-based and discovery-focused learning in science instruction. In order to do this students participate in inquiry-based learning that allows them to solve a problem in science through observation, discourse and using a science journal. Students will then be give a chance to share their findings with their peers and then reflect on their own understanding.

Next Generation Science Standards Connection:

In this lesson students will investigate temperature to determine that the sun warms the earth. This is a predictable pattern of the sun that can be observed by students and therefore supports 1-ESS1-1.

2-Day Lesson

This lesson can be taught in 1 day however you may feel more comfortable teaching it in 2 days. I was able to teach this lesson in one day because the structure of my day provided the time for graphing throughout the day and a science lesson at the end of the day.

Home to School Connection:

We will be learning about the sun, the stars and moon. The NGSS asks that students to observe, describe and predict how the sun and moon changes over a period of time. I send home two science bags that will allow students to observe the night sky.

The Sun Bag: In order for students to observe the changes of our sunset, each day a different student takes home our Sun Bag that includes a Sunset Observations sheet, The Sun: Our Nearest Star by Franklyn M. Branley, a box of crayons and a parent letter. Students record his/her findings on our class Sunset Calendar. We observe the sun for a full month so that we can observe, describe and predict the sunset changes.

The Moon Bag: In order for students to observe the change of the moon, each day a different student takes home our Moon Bag which includes black paper, The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons, white crayons and a parent letter. Then students record his/her findings on our class Moon Calendar. We observe the moon for a full month so that we can observe, describe and predict the changes it goes through in one full cycle. If the moon is not visible that student will record the night sky and then the next day we will predict what it would have looked like had it been seen.

Classroom Structures:

In order to support a high level of student discourse within my science lessons I have assigned two different student partnerships.  Turn and Talk Partners are discourse partners that work together to share the deep thinking that happens throughout the day.  Workshop Partners are partners who are matched together for the purpose of working during our independent times.  In this lesson students will be engaged in both partnerships.

Science Journal:

I make my own science journals with blank 8.5x11 copy paper however many teachers prefer to use composition notebooks. Another idea is to use a folder with writing paper placed within the fasteners. My students glue the "science prompt" or "science question" at the top of their new page and then write the date for each entry. 


KLEWS Chart - Does the SUN have predictable patterns?


3 Bowls - Oatmeal, ice cubes, water

Weather graph

Book: Sun by Steve Tomecek

Science Journal Prompt: What part of the day is the warmest?


15 minutes

I begin this lesson by introducing our new science tool: The thermometer.  I have a thermometer drawn on an anchor chart and together we mark the freezing line (32 degrees) and boiling point (212 degrees).  

Boys and girls, we are going to study more predictable patterns of the sun.  Today we are going to observe how the temperature changes throughout the day.  Since the beginning of the school year we have been measuring morning temperatures by reading the temperature on the thermostat in our classroom and graphing our data. Today you are going to learn how to use a different thermometer.  A thermometer is a special tool that helps use to measure the temperature. The temperature is how hot or cold something is.

On the counter I have three different bowls: One has water that is at room temperature, the second bowl has water and Ice cubes.  The last bowl has steaming hot oatmeal.  

Boys and girls, this bowl has water that is very, very cold.  What do you think will happen to the thermometer when I place it inside of the bowl.  I allow my students to share their predictions with their partners.  I record their predictions on our anchor chart. After placing the thermometer in the bowl we observe the line move down.  We record that on our anchor chart.  We do the same thing for the hot oatmeal and the room temperature water.  After completing the observations and recording our findings, I ask my students to share what they learned.  I record their conclusions on our anchor chart.

Boys and girls, you discovered that when the temperature is cold the line on the thermometer goes down and when the temperature is hot the line on the thermometer goes up.  Where the line stops is a number that number tells us how many degrees something is.  Today we are going to use this information to help us learn about Earth's temperature. With your turn and talk partner I want you to talk about following questions.  Is it warmer during the day or during the night? Is it usually warmer in the morning when you go to school or in the afternoon when you go home? I allow my students to share their thinking. Most students share that it is colder during morning and night. I ask my students,  What part of the day is the warmest? Why? Do you think this is a pattern? I listen in on responses and use this information as a pre-assessment. Today we will discover the answer to this question.


25 minutes

The Common Core math standards asks that students use graphs to record data. In this lesson students will be using Weather graphs to record temperature data throughout the school day.

Students use a thermometer to investigate how temperature changes throughout the school day and graph their findings. Outside of our classroom window I have taped 2 classroom thermometers with the temperature facing into the classroom.  I have my students read the thermometers and graph their data on their own Weather Graphs periodically throughout the day.  My students record the weather at 9am, 10:15am, 12:30pm, and 2:00pm. Be sure to schedule times throughout your school day that will allow you to observe the weather 3-4 times. 


15 minutes

I was able to teach this lesson in one day, but you may find that you may need another day to teach the Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate section of this lesson.

In this section I bring my students to the carpet to have a discussion.  I ask my students about the observations the day before. We pull out our graphs and have a whole group discussion about our findings. 

Today you used a graph to record the temperature today.  This is called data.  Each time you colored in your graph you recorded new data.  When you look at this data do you notice anything interesting? I want you to look at your data and when you notice something, please give me a thumbs up.  I give my students a good amount of think time while prompting them to think about our big question, What part of the day is the warmest?" I then ask my students to share their thinking.  Please turn and share your data with your turn and talk - partner.

After allowing students to share I bring them back together. You have observed how the temperature changes throughout the day. What do you think is causing this change? Students all yell, "THE SUN!!"Do you think the sun will heat the earth the same way tomorrow? Do you think this is a predictable pattern? Why? I want my students to recognize that the sun rises each day and that sun causes the earth to warm up. Boys and girls everyday the sun heats the earth during the day even when it is hiding behind the clouds. That is why the day continues to get warmer and warmer. That sun heats up our earth each and every day. It is a pattern. During the daytime our side of the earth faces the sun and the sun warms us up!

We have now concluded that is in fact the sun that warms the day and that this pattern will continue from day to day.  I tell my students that this pattern is very important to life on earth.  I ask my students, "Why do you think this pattern is important for living things?"

I allow my students a few moments of think time and then ask them to turn and share their ideas with their turn and talk partners.

I bring the class back together and we share some of their ideas with the whole group.


15 minutes

I read a nonfiction text to build upon student knowledge of our sun: SUN by Steve Tomecek

An interactive read aloud is a great tool for elaborating on student learning. As I read the book the children will be introduced to new vocabulary.  I will write each new word on a card and add that vocabulary to science bulletin board: solar energy, star, gas, hot gas, sunspots, spinning - rotating, day, night, year, long days, short days.



10 minutes

The Science and Engineering Practice 4 asks students to analyze data. At the K-2 level this involves students collecting, recording, and sharing observations. In this lesson the students are recording information, thoughts and ideas in their science journals. I send my students back to their science journals and ask them to write what they learned from today's investigation.