The Center of Our Solar System- The Sun- Part 1

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SWBAT complete a pre-assessment to show what they already know about the Sun, Earth, and Moon.

Big Idea

Having students complete a pre-assessement will help the teacher see any misconceptions that students may have about the solar system.

Unit and Lesson Overview

5 minutes

This is the first lesson in the Unit: "The Sun-Earth Connection"

Lesson 1: The Center of the Solar System, The Sun- Pre-Assessment

5E Lesson Planning:

I plan most of my science lessons using the BSCS 5E Lesson Model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.For a quick overview of the model, take a look at this video.

I use this lesson model because it peaks the students' interest in the beginning during the "Engage" portion and allows for the students to actively participate in the investigations throughout the subsequent steps. The “Evaluate” component of the 5E Lesson Model can be used in many ways by the teacher and by the students.

A great resource for lesson plan frameworks and explanations is the Community Resources for Science.The 5E Lesson Planning Template and 5E Lesson Planning Prompts come from this website. 

Unit Overview:

In this Unit students will learn about the solar system by studying the sun, the moon, planets and stars. In the first three lessons the students will learn about the Sun. Lessons 4 through 7 focus on the movement of the Earth around the Sun. Lessons 8 is about Orreries, lessons 9 and 10 cover solar eclipses, lessons 11 and 12 are about the moon, lesson 13 discusses the other planets in the Solar System, and the last 3 lessons (14-16) are about stars and constellations.  

Lesson Overview:

For the first lesson of the unit, I give the students a pre-assessment to find out what they already know about the Solar System and to give them an opportunity to ask any questions they may have about the Solar System. Since this is a pre-assessment, it's a very short lesson (it should only take 20-30 minutes). It's also a great place to start recording questions that the students may have about the solar system (because there are always several questions that arise). I will describe how I address these questions in the "Unanswered Questions" section of this lesson.

In this lesson and a few others in this unit, the NGSS standards may not be directly covered, but it's important for the students to have some background information so that they can better understand the specific standards. Learning about the Solar System can be difficult without concrete models and explanations about this abstract topic. These lessons do cover some of the Crosscutting Concepts and Disciplinary Core Ideas as explained below that are part of the Next Generation Science Standards Matrix. 

Next Generation Science Standards:

The NGSS standards that will be covered in this unit are:


Support an argument that differences in the apparent brightness of the sun compared to other stars is due to their relative distances from the Earth.


Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky.

Disciplinary Core Ideas:  

This unit/ lesson aligns to the Disciplinary Core Ideas from the Earth and Space Science:

ESS1.A: The Universe and Its Stars: Stars range greatly in size and distance from Earth and this can explain their relative brightness.

ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System. The Earth’s orbit and rotation around the Sun,and the orbit of the moon around the Earth cause observable patterns. 

Crosscutting Concepts:


  • Similarities and differences in patterns can be used to sort, classify, communicate and analyze simple rates of change for natural phenomena. (5-ESS1-2)

Scale, Proportion, and Quantity

  • Natural objects exist from the very small to the immensely large. (5-ESS1-1)

Science and Engineering Practices  Almost all of the Science and Engineering Practice are covered in this unit. Click the link to see them listed. 

The "Sun-Earth Connection Unit" also connects to other 5th grade science units about Earth's Systems, Gravity, and Matter and Energy in Organisms.  

I was first introduced to many of the resources in this unit during a workshop presented by the National Park Service called "The Sun-Earth Connection"- I decided to also borrow this title for my unit. These resources can be found here.  



30 minutes

I explain to the students that we are going to start a new unit about the Solar System and that I want to find out what they know. I tell them that I want them to think about the Sun, Earth, and Moon. The first part of the pre-assessment is for the students to draw the Sun on the Sun Pre-Assessment Drawing worksheet I give them. I also give them another Solar System Pre-assessment.written reponse so they can write a few sentences and answer some questions about the Solar System.

The students will complete this individually and I will provide colored pencils and crayons for their pictures. Here is a Student drawing #1 , a Student written response page 1, and a Student written response page 2 to show some examples of student responses.

When the students complete their pre-assessments I collect them and look over their responses to see what concepts I will need to cover more in depth and I copy down their questions on our "Unanswered Questions Poster I will then have them keep these worksheets in their Science Notebooks so they can go back an reflect on their ideas and questions as we progress through the Unit. I will use these same worksheets as part of the post-assessment.



Unanswered Questions

5 minutes

After completing the pre-assessments and gathering some unanswered questions, I tell the students that we will work together throughout the unit to answer these questions and that the pre-assessments will help me see what they will have learned at the end of the unit. 

Here is the Unanswered Questions Poster that is posted in the Science Room.